Tracking Animals, Tracking God

I dabbled with animal tracking some years ago. I read a bit and hung out with some amateur trackers. It was a fascinating study.

Animal tracking

Like any art that takes years to master, tracking can look like magic to an outsider. Imagine following an experienced tracker through the woods. They might say, “A deer came through here, going in that direction. A mature doe. About two hours ago.” You might look at the uniform foliage and wonder how they did that. Could they be making it up, having a little fun with the tenderfoot?

But ask them to show you the clues, and they might point out the twisted leaves or broken twig that you missed. Maybe the clue was grains of sand on moss, the vaguest hint of a footstep. You’d never have noticed it—unless you knew where to look.

Hmm—maybe there’s something to this after all.

Initially, it looks like magic, but what puts this squarely in the domain of the real is when it delivers. The tracker says there’s a deer over there . . . and indeed, when you get there, there’s a deer. Or a raccoon or a bear or whatever you were tracking. Over and over, the tracker delivers. What cements this conclusion is when you put the effort in to become a decent tracker yourself.

God tracking

Like a forest animal, God is also elusive. And as with forest animals, God has trackers as well. These are Christians who assure you that they’ve experienced God, and you can reliably do the same. They can show you how to pray, how to act, and how to think. They can show you the Bible passages that back up their statements. They’re certain that, with some effort, you can track God as well as they can.

But do they deliver? There are lots of Christians in the world, but most are simply reflections of their environment. Few of them became Christians through anything analogous to tracking, where evidence led them to God.

Maybe the problem is that, like animal trackers, there are good ones and bad ones. That might excuse the poor results from some Christians. That might explain the Christians who handwave away bad results by making God an unfalsifiable hypothesis. For example, these Christians might say that an answered prayer proves God and that an unanswered prayer also proves God (here, God is obviously telling you that that request was inappropriate). Or that good things are God’s gifts to you and bad things are God testing you.

All right, but then where are the reliable God trackers? Show us the Christians who pray nontrivial requests that are reliably answered and who can show the rest of us how to do the same. Show us the Christians who, like the animal tracker, can convince any patient skeptic that God exists.

What makes God trackers’ poor results even more baffling is that, unlike a shy forest animal, God is supposedly eager to be known. And yet many atheists will tell of their final months as Christians, pleading with God to make his existence known. They clearly met God more than halfway, but God might as well have been nonexistent.

To muddy the waters further, there are schools of god trackers that teach incompatible rules of discovery. Some will say that speaking in tongues is what’s required. Others, that silent meditation is the way. Ask religious sages outside of Christianity in addition, and any pretense of a single, reliable route to God is gone.

The animal tracker silently points, and, as promised, there’s the deer. The Christian evangelist talks a good story but can’t deliver.

One man’s theology 
is another man’s belly laugh. 
— Robert A. Heinlein

.

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 9/15/14.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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  • Animal tracking is an excellent analogy to think about. Another similar analogy is that of a detective searching for clues to identify a killer.

    Animals and people leave evidence of their activities. Detectives look for hairs, fingerprints, fibers from clothing, footprints, blood, urine, semen, saliva, weapons, shell casings, slugs, signs of break-in, video surveillance tapes, eye-witnesses, ear-witnesses, witnesses who saw people coming and going near the scene of the crime, etc.

    But God has no fingers, so he leaves no finger prints. God has no feet, so he leaves no footprints. God has no clothing, so he does not leave fibers. God has no body, so he has no bodily fluids to leave behind. God is invisible and intangible, so video cameras and potential eye- and ear- witnesses cannot record or witness God in action. A detective attempting to identify God as the person who did such-and-such has none of the usual physical evidence or observations to use to draw inferences and conclusions about the activities of God.

    Furthermore, people often use tools to perform a crime, like a gun, a knife, or a club. God, however, does not ever need to use any tool. God is omnipotent, by definition, so God can perform just about any action without using any tools. If God wants to “crack a safe”, God does not need a stethoscope, because (a) God “hears” every noise ever made, no matter how small, and (b) God already knows the combination to every safe ever made. If God wants to kill someone, God does not need a gun or a knife. God can simply command that the person die, and that person will instantly die. Even if God wants to shoot someone, God does not need a gun. God can create a bullet instantly from nothing, and command the bullet to rocket through a person’s chest and pass through that person’s heart, killing the person. If God wants to leave no bullet behind, God can simply command the bullet to cease to exist, and it will vanish into nothingness.

    About the only thing that a detective has to work with, concerning an alleged action of God, is MOTIVE. God, if God exists, is a perfectly morally good person, so to the extent that we can figure out what a perfectly morally good person would be likely to do, we can try to make inferences about what God might do or might have done. But this is rather vague information about God’s motivations. Usually detectives have much more specific information about various suspects and their motivations. First of all, people have in common lots of specific motivations and purposes: survival needs (food, clothing, shelter), desire for money, love, power, fame, comfort, pleasure, etc. God, however, has no needs and no desires, at least no physical and emotional desires. Secondly, people have personal histories, histories that show what makes them tick, what motivates their choices and decisions, what floats their boat. But God’s personal history is unknown. The Bible makes lots of claims about what God has done in the past, but it is question begging to assume the Bible to be correct on such matters, especially given that God is invisible and intangible and has no observable physical body.

    In short, a detective has no real chance of identifying God as the person who did such-and-such. God leaves no traces. God is invisible and intangible, and we only have a very vague notion of God’s motivations and purposes, if there is a God.

    • That’s odd–Disqus in its infinite wisdom called that comment spam. I’ve fixed it so that won’t happen again.

      • epicurus

        It’s been playing havoc with my ipad air 2 the last couple months (which still works fine ortherwise) , herky jerky when typing and I have to endlessly hit the post button, sometimes giving up and resending from my laptop.

        • Technology …

        • Jim Jones

          1950: “In the future, giant computers will run everything and nothing will ever go wrong”.

          And we’ll have flying Uber.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/67954207adfa08bcd995cc8277ff3ed3cb4abcbb796405cb414d5ec47344e40b.jpg

        • Greg G.

          That’s the way it was 18 years ago. Don’t you remember how the lawyers made all of that impossible? Remember how they would do funny recordings of a newsman doing an interview and the answer would be a line from a popular song? We don’t have those anymore. I blame lawyers.

        • Greg G.

          That happens on my Android phone. Eventually the window crashes and reopens. Usually all but the last few characters typed are there when I hit reply. Then it seems happy and works with a good attitude.

    • God is the perfect criminal.

    • Castilliano

      That’s an interesting point about how gods don’t need to use tools.

      Many apologists use arguments that involve naturalistic mechanisms (from human actions & long odds up to and including evolution & the fundamental forces of nature) which their god simply should not need to use.
      “God used X to do Y” should be called out as a non-starter when used by theists that believe in an omnipotent god. I’d even toss the Bible into this mix.

      I can see an argument that the invisible god using detectable tools is a way for god to show itself, but that demonstrates such poor communication skills on the part of god that it’s laughable.
      Cheers

      • Richard Swinburne has a teleological argument for the existence of God that assumes that God designed the universe so that intelligent beings would be likely to evolve. But an omniscient and omnipotent person would have no need to use the long and random and pain-filled process of evolution to make intelligent creatures. God could have designed and produced a universe filled with billions of galaxies filled with billions of solar systems with dozens of planets in each solar system populated by billions of intelligent beings on each planet and God could do this in the blink of an eye. The idea that God would use the process of evolution to bring about humans or intelligent beings is absurd.

        • Otto

          Sean Carrol made the same point with the fine tuning argument…why would God need to fine tune anything?

        • Greg G.

          Augustine thought the six day creation was silly as God could have done it instantly. Heck, God could have done it last Thursday with fake memories of last Wednesday.

        • Kevin K

          I love Last Thursdayism.

          Of course, it doesn’t account for why a god would create a universe and then have a substantial proportion of its special creation be in cancer wards.

        • Greg G.

          I have loved Last Thursdayism since last Thursday.

        • Kevin K

          Except now that it’s Thursday, Last Thursday is actually the Thursday Before Last.

        • Jim Jones

          > Richard Swinburne has a teleological argument for the existence of God that assumes that God designed the universe so that intelligent beings would be likely to evolve.

          And we’re still waiting for that to happen! ;P

          A better claim is that humans are god’s attempt to get DNA off this planet and to some other places.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Not forgetting God’s immateriality, that’s outside space and time….when it it’s not of course…obviously.

      • Zeropoint

        You also can’t justify both believing in an omnipotent god AND ALSO believing that this god allows bad things to happen in order to secure some greater good in the future. That kind of planning and being constrained by cause and effect is exclusive to the finitely potent. I make my cat “suffer” through being force-fed pills because with my limited human faculties I cannot simply wish her medical problems away, nor even teleport the pill directly into her stomach. To say that some god needs to allow something bad to happen in order to get something good to happen latter is logically equivalent to saying that this god cannot get the good thing without the bad thing . . . and when you say “god can’t” then you’re not talking about an omnipotent god.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ah, but holy rollers don’t say “god can’t”…the religious chancers say “god doesn’t want to” and then there is usually some variation of a “because” apologetic that follows.

        • Greg G.

          That’s how I argue it. The bad is either necessary or unnecessary. If it is unnecessary, then God is not benevolent for allowing it to happen. If it is necessary, then it must do something that is logically possible to do. If God cannot do something that is logically possible to do, then God is not omnipotent. If God can do that logically possible thing, then it is unnecessary for it to be done by the bad thing which means God is not benevolent.

    • Ficino

      It’s metaphysics, not science, ya dummies!

      /s

      And metaphysicians have failed to arrive at a common, workable paradigm for what, 2500 years now?

      • Kevin K

        As ever, I offer my authoritative, never-overturned definition of what metaphysics is.

        Metaphysics (n): Not physics.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Metaphysics: how to sound sciency while talking about bullshit.

    • Greg G.

      God can create a bullet instantly from nothing, and command the bullet to rocket through a person’s chest and pass through that person’s heart, killing the person.

      Or just command the bullet hole to appear without the need of a bullet.

      • Jim Jones

        Or replace the heart with a lost Barbie head and confuse the doctors for fun.

    • Doubting Thomas

      God, if God exists, is a perfectly morally good person, so to the extent
      that we can figure out what a perfectly morally good person would be
      likely to do, we can try to make inferences about what God might do or
      might have done.

      A morally good person would save a starving child if they could. Children starve. There is no god.

      • Yes.

        Christian thinkers, of course, have various responses to such objections.

        The problem is that IF they are right that “a perfectly morally good person” could be justified in allowing a little child to starve to death, or in allowing the Nazis to abuse, enslave, and murder millions of innocent men, women, and children, THEN the characteristic of being “a perfectly morally good person” doesn’t have much significance, and doesn’t provide much guidance in terms of confirming or disconfirming various claims about what God would be likely to do or not to do.

        So, EITHER being “a perfectly morally good person” has significant practical implications and the problems of evil provide powerful evidence against the existence of God, OR being “a perfectly morally good person” does NOT have significant implications for predicting a person’s actions, and we have basically NO RATIONAL BASIS for confirming or disconfirming claims of the form “God did such-and-such.” Claims like “God created the universe” or “God raised Jesus from the dead” or “God will give eternal life to those who repent and believe in Jesus as their risen savior.”

        • Greg G.

          THEN the characteristic of being “a perfectly morally good person” doesn’t have much significance,

          It also damages the theology of a judgmental god thingy. If a maximally great being cannot get consistently good results, it can’t claim a right to judge the actions or results of beings with limited potence, limited knowledge, and no foresight to speak of.

        • Doubting Thomas

          The real problem for Christians starts when they assert the premise that god is good.

          Let’s follow the logic:
          1. God is good.
          2. To be good, we should emulate god.
          3. God does nothing to save starving children. God does nothing to stop rapists. God lets thousands of people die from cancer every day.
          4. Fill in the blank

  • Priya Lynn

    “Christians might say…that good things are God’s gifts to you and bad
    things are God testing you.”

    Which then brings up (what should be) the obvious objection: “Why does an omniscient god need to test me? He/she already knows how I will react.”

    So much of christian “logic” is really, really, bad.

    • Castilliano

      Poking at that side of the equation can get some fruitful results, and bad things happening to good people has led many people to reflect enough to recognize religion’s flaws. Also, if an omniscient, omnipotent god wanted you to grow into a certain type of person, then it could have made you that way. If the path was more important, then it begins intruding upon free will (as do most issues involving “a Plan”.)

      Unfortunately, this tactic re: good people’s lives often leads to “whack-a-mole” where theists just toss up whatever poor rationalizations they can to avoid reflecting too much. The dialogue soon crashes, so I prefer coming from the side of bad people.
      So if God rewards good people w/ good times, teaches/tests good people w/ bad times, then God (?????) bad people w/ good times, teaches/punishes bad people w/ bad times
      Assuming they believe in a loving god, nothing really fits. A good life both rewards and encourages their bad behavior so now what? What’s god doing here?

      The answer which seems to gibe best is that Satan is rewarding (or tempting with rewards, which amounts to the same thing), except that means their god has stepped aside? Demonstrable, tangible rewards can come from the Enemy?
      So then they have to play the long-game, afterlife gambit where reasoning loses all grounding in evidence and IMO they’ve lost on this whole topic.

      Once they’ve disconnected one’s belief from one’s welfare, we can point at how since there’s no data about a person’s well-being that would inform an observer about whether or not somebody is a Christian (et al) or living a good or bad life, then maybe the correlation’s too low to conjecture causation. There’s isn’t really any way to determine what happens why. And in theistic worldviews, that prosperity gospel pastor might just as easily be a bad person prospering as a good one.

    • Illithid

      Theology is a house of mirrors built to obscure the fact that there is nothing at its center.

      • epeeist

        “Theology – a subject without an object”

      • Greg G.

        Geology is the study of the Earth and the rocks it is made of.
        Biology is the study of living things and life on Earth.
        Theology does not study gods, it is the study of what other people said about gods.

        • Bob Jase

          Geology has type specimens for rocks.
          Biology has type specimens for living things.
          Theology has no type specimen.

        • Greg G.

          I have seen rock collections with samples of different types of rocks glued to a board.
          I have seen butterfly collections with different species of butterflies on pins stuck in a board.

          My mother used to have a pin cushion with lots of pins stuck in it. I now realize that must have been her god collection.

        • Bob Jase

          Nope, just tiny invisible pink unicorns.

  • John MacDonald

    A lot of the religion thing is environmental. For instance, if you were born in Afghanistan you wouldn’t be Christian (99.8 percent Muslim).

    • Ignorant Amos

      Even which type of Christian…had I been born less than quarter of a mile to the north, west, or east of where I was in Belfast, I’d have been a Catholic and not a Protestant.

  • Ficino

    OT: a while ago we talked about an alleged 1st century papyrus fragment of gMark. It has now been published and dated to the second or third century:

    https://danielbwallace.com/2018/05/23/first-century-mark-fragment-update/

    From Wallace’s blog you can gather a tissue of deceit woven by others, designed to jump up excitement about this now less than stupendous fragment. Not the first time there has been a pump and dump.

    • I heard Gary Habermas speak (less than 2 months ago, IIRC) about the supposed first-century Mark. Anyone who’s been paying attention about other headline-making discoveries (the Gospel of Mrs. Jesus, for example) would know that caution would be smart. Maybe he just doesn’t care.

      • epicurus

        Bart Ehrman has a few recent blog posts about Wallace and the supposed manuscript, as Ehrman was apparently the first to have it used as “evidence” against him in a debate in 2012 with Wallace where Wallace made the claim to beat Ehrman, then 6 years of silence as to the details, which were apparently wrong, but Wallace signed a non disclosure agreement and wouldn’t talk about it.

        https://ehrmanblog.org/we-do-not-have-a-first-century-copy-of-the-gospel-of-mark/

        https://ehrmanblog.org/what-the-new-fragment-of-marks-gospel-looks-like-the-so-called-first-century-mark/

        https://ehrmanblog.org/non-disclosure-agreements/

        • Maybe Habermas, in hindsight, wished he’d kept his mouth shut as well.

          Kidding! Whatever works to advance the Kingdom, amirite?

        • epicurus

          Yes, I think it’s ingrained in the Christian culture – I heard many far fetched stories in my Christian days that people would just accept, or if they didn’t, it wasn’t a concern that people were making them up.

          The only one I remember was the NASA and the missing day story. The person who told me that story later came back and told me she found out it was a fake. But that never seemed to bother her that it was faked and made up by spirit filled Christians. And she would tell new stories she’d heard without hesitation or doubt.

          https://www.thoughtco.com/nasa-and-the-missing-day-in-time-4057271

        • Yes, I’ve written about that tale. It’s a fun story, but the fact that it’s a complete lie does kinda take the luster off.

        • Clive Adams

          I guess that’snwhy the bible is still popular with some. It’s a complete lie but they like the story. Shame it’s such a hateful story and few if any take time out to read it all and try to make sense of all its contradictions, errors and unpleasantness. Oh well.

        • Ficino

          Thanks for linking these.

        • epicurus

          One of them is only partial due to Ehrman’s pay wall (All money to charity) but the other two are complete as he usually throws up freebies.

        • Greg G.

          I remember the brouhaha when Wallace first mentioned it. I have followed the story through the years. I was glad to read Bart Ehrman’s take on it so thanks to him for making it free and thank you for linking them.

        • wethelred shaggybreeks

          Thank you.

        • ildi

          The plot thickens:

          Non-disclosure agreement: The EES has no knowledge of, and has never seen, the NDA which Professor Daniel Wallace says someone required him to sign about the unpublished Mark fragment. Professor Obbink too says he has no knowledge of it. The EES has not received any outside request of any sort about the Mark fragment before its recent publication.”
          https://www.ees.ac.uk/news/poxy-lxxxiii-5345

        • epicurus

          Good grief. Ehrman was saying the other day (sounds like I know him -hah) that there is more funny business going on and Wallace has clammed up yet again. His desire to score cheap points against Ehrman is coming back to “bite him in the buttocks” (Forrest Gump voice)

        • If I recall, “buh-tocks” was roughly how Forrest said it.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The bit that doesn’t gen with me is that Wallace had disseminated a falsehood that he claims he knew to be false shortly after he made it, but could do nothing to correct his claim due to a NDA. The papyri “expert”, he was allegedly referencing, had already changed his opinion on the 1st century dating, even before Wallace had announced it was a 1st century mss. Call me old fashioned, but I would’ve insisted that I clear my name…NDA or not. And on the issue of that NDA. Surely it can’t be binding on the issue of dating, since the sole purpose of Wallace’s announcement was to let the world know that MFC papyri was just that, a 1st century mss…when it really wasn’t, and the “expert” attested to such already.

          So a lie was allowed to fester for 6 years and the “scholars” knew it was a lie? It’s the poor bastards that have punted toward that mss of Mark and it being a 1st century papyri that I feel a wee bit sorry for…I’ve engaged in some elsewhere, and we’ve had a couple here too…tying their flag to that flawed mast has left them with an egg splattered face. Not that I’m gloating or anything like that, mind you…bwaaahahahaha!

        • epicurus

          This also makes me think of the attitude of apologists that any 1st century mistake or mistelling of the the gospel story would quickly be corrected by those who knew what actually happend. They might not, assuming they even found out about a miss telling, and even if they did try to correct it, lots of other Christians would just not care, they like the inaccurate version better and that’s what they are sticking with

        • Ignorant Amos

          Indeed…apparently various Gnostic Christian traditions were just as popular as the proto-orthodox traditions that eventually got the thumbs up by the empire.

          One wonders how such beliefs coulda taken hold and gained wide popularity, if the gospel Jesus was so well attested to during the first 3 centuries of the cult.

        • epicurus

          Very good point

    • Jim Jones

      Maybe my (more or less unsupported) claim that the gospels were written after 135 CE is unduly optimistic. It seems an even later date is possible.

      • Robert Price (“The Bible Geek” podcast) supports a post-Bar Kokhba War date.

        • Jim Jones

          The Jews were about to get a beat down after that revolt. I assume the Christians would want to be disassociated from them as a result.

        • Bob Jase

          Why else would Pilate be made a Christian saint?

        • rationalobservations?

          There is no evidence of any of the many non Jesus based messianic cults calling themselves “Christians” just as there is no evidence of any of the Messiah claimants being called “Jesus” or any real Hebrew name from which
          “Jesus” could be derived.

        • Greg G.

          Jesus comes from the Septuagint version of Joshua.

          I am pretty sure Jim Jones is not referring to Jesus who claimed to be a Messian.

        • rationalobservations?

          My comment is supplemental to Jim’s and does not contradict anything he writes.

          The oldest extant (and possibly original) Septuagint dates from fabrication no earlier that the 3rd century and is not evidence of the existence of “Jesus” or anything written in christian bibles written by men starting in the late 4th century.

        • Pofarmer

          I just like to note that External attestation places the Gospels sometime after Bar Kokhba. There were writings of Church fathers before then, and things like the Didiche which are considered earlier, that don’t seem to have any of the knowledge the Gospels claim to. No. I think the Gospels are late fiction.

        • Interesting. I wonder then why 2nd-century dating of the gospels is such a minority opinion. Scholars quibble about 10 years plus or minus from the conventional dates, and that’s about it. An interesting experiment would be to take, “The gospels were after Bar Kokhba” and then try to disprove that to see what that would look like.

        • Pofarmer

          My understanding is that an early 2nd century dating was common until the 20th century before what are essentially apologists got involved in the Scholarship. The only way to place them before 70 is because the don’t mention the raising of the Temple in 70 A.D. But this is essentially the same as complaining “Gone with the Wind” doesn’t mention WWI.

          I hope that Ignorant Amos or Greg G. or another commenter will chime in with a link to a very good article on a late dating for the Gospels that I can’t seem to find right now. It deals pretty much exclusively by what we can know by External Attestation.

        • Ignorant Amos
        • Ignorant Amos
        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, those are good, but it isn’t the one I was thinking of. It was an independent blog post that I’ve apparently failed to bookmark.

        • The only way to place them before 70 is because the don’t mention the raising of the Temple in 70 A.D.

          But this fails since John doesn’t mention the destruction of the Temple, and it was written after 70, even according to most conservative scholars!

          a very good article on a late dating for the Gospels that I can’t seem to find right now

          Yes, I’d like to see that.

          That reminds me of a recent vridar article, “Doing History: How Do We Know Queen Boadicea/Boudicca Existed?” He runs through figures from roughly the time of Jesus who are historical or historical-ish. This is a rebuttal to the popular argument, “Well, if you throw out the resurrection from the history books, you must discard every other figure from that time for the same reason.”

          https://vridar.org/2018/05/07/doing-history-how-do-we-know-queen-boadicea-boudicca-existed/

        • Greg G.

          I think Mark was written in the first century. It seems to rely on Jewish Wars but not Jewish Antiquties. I don’t think it was really a Christian writing until it was adopted by Christians. I think it was written for Romans who were interested in the war in Judea and Galilee, similar to the interest in Jewish Wars. I think it may have been more like Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

          I think John also may have been early, then re-written, and re-written, and re-written with redactions and interpolations until is was the mess that I described elsewhere this morning. I have been contemplating whether the author(s) of John knew Jewish Wars and de-emphasized the names of the rebels and parents of the rebels used in Mark. John seems to have some knowledge of antebellum Jerusalem the we don’t have elsewhere. Caiaphas being the son-in-law of Annas is very plausible and knowledge of the five-sided pool is in there. But that is something that may have been written in the first century and was still available in the second century.

          Matthew used Jewish Antiquities and Luke used Matthew and Jewish Antiquities so they were probably second century at the earliest and the earliest attestation at the latest.

        • Pofarmer

          This is off the subject, but I just passed another little house church opening up off of a little black top road out in the country. That’s at least 2 just in the last year.

        • epicurus

          Great. Now Trump will be taking credit for a religious revival sweeping the land!

        • Pofarmer

          Stress does funny things to people.

        • Pofarmer

          I see two problems here. The first is that you’re making an argument from silence. There’s no way to know which materials the author of the Gospel of Mark had access to. The second is that you’re essentially arguing from internal attestation again. By Internal attestation “Gone with the Wind” was written soon after the civil war.

        • Greg G.

          Interesting. I wonder then why 2nd-century dating of the gospels is such a minority opinion. Scholars quibble about 10 years plus or minus from the conventional dates, and that’s about it.

          They are assuming the gospels are historical and need them to be from eyewitnesses. If they were written in the 90s, then they are proposing that someone in their 80s wrote an entire gospel without wearing glasses.

    • Kevin K

      6 years. Gives new meaning to the saying “a lie can travel around the world while the truth is putting on its pants.”

    • Greg G.

      I like these two comments on that blog post:

      stuartpaterson480

      AND why did DAN sign an NDA, I didn’t think it was in his DNA

      31 MAY 2018 AT 6:06 AM REPLY

      stuartpaterson480

      It wasn’t out of bADNess, but perhaps the original checking was iNADequate

      31 MAY 2018 AT 6:14 AM

    • Greg G.

      This is Hixson’s blog post on the fragment. It has a comment exchange that includes Scott Carroll and Peter Malik.

      http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2018/05/first-century-mark-published-at-last.html

      It also has the question of whether the fragment that was published is the same one that Wallace announced, which might be why Wallace has shut up again, if the NDA is still in effect.

      • epicurus

        I think it’s time for Wallace to suck it up, break his NDA, suffer any consequences, and salvage some integrity.

      • Ignorant Amos
        • Pofarmer

          Wish I could upvote there.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Well ya can, but it means typing “upvote” in a combox…question is, do ya wanna go to that much effort.

        • Pofarmer

          nope

        • Ignorant Amos

          I retract the above…ya can’t even do that.

        • Greg G.

          Aractus let them have it. I saw someone in another forum asking why they were still calling it FCM.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Probably because the alternative to FCM is a mouthful.

          I upvoted Aractus comment, but it didn’t pass the monitor.

  • There are actually cryptids that went unrecognized for hundreds of years and then were later found to exist. Hell, for a very long time, scientists thought that the coelacanth went extinct over 50 million years ago, until someone came upon a fishing group that ate them as part of their normal diet. And these animals did not have the benefit of being beyond of the confines of natural law. Since we’re talking about the Christian-ish god, it’s also been pointed out that this god thing doesn’t like being tested, when the test is because of doubt. Of course, if you’re an empiricist, and I am, there’s no reason to believe that a god exists, but that’s another matter.

    • Doubting Thomas

      I wouldn’t like being tested either if I failed every one.

      • Not sure that this god thing has, but okay.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Wait, you think “there’s no reason to believe that a god exists” and are also unsure if god has failed all tests? You seem to be carrying around some cognitive dissonance. You might want to resolve such issues.

        • Greg G.

          He’s all about dodging the burden of proof while putting it where it doesn’t belong.

        • I don’t see any observations which contradict the existence of a god, in general.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Oh, so it’s your epistemology that sucks. Now I see.

        • What’s wrong with my epistemology?

        • rationalobservations?

          “All the many millions of entirely hypothetical gods and goddesses remain undetected and undetectable.”

          Always happy to answer that request / false assertion. And:
          You’re welcome.

        • Ignorant Amos
        • Greg G.

          So sad. This one is from a newscast of the baby’s death:

          https://youtu.be/UOQk7XF6FVs

        • Bob Jase

          Good thing god didn’t give that baby more than it could handle.

        • Greg G.

          Apparently, two days of suffering was necessary for some greater good.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The relief from suffering at the point of death was the greater good that the holy rolling toss bags are likely to claim. Without suffering, it is hard to experience the greater good…at least that’s the trope we get from the fuckwits regularly enough on here.

        • God works in fucked-up ways.

      • Kevin K

        Tell the SA to go fuck himself with a rusty porcupine for me.

        • epicurus

          That sounds like one of Ignorant Amos’ creative curses!

        • Susan

          That sounds like one of Ignorant Amos’ creative curses!

          Too American to be IA but the spirit is the same.

          I love diversity. 🙂

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yeah…I’d have probably said hedgehog as opposed to porcupine…but to be fair on both animals…I’d prefer he used a rusty wire brush and Dettol for a bit of extra sting factor.

    • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

      Really? Because the God of the Bible allowed himself to be tested by doubters many times. Including by a man who has come to be known as Doubting Thomas. And he promises to produce miracles so that people would believe and know he was God.

      The not liking to be tested thing is just an excuse to explain why prayers don’t deliver.

      • > Really? Because the God of the Bible allowed himself to be tested by doubters many times.

        Citation? Also, the bible does state that god doesn’t like to be tested due to doubt. I mean, regarding Thomas, John 20:24 specifically says the following.

        Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

        Sounds like Jesus totally burned Thomas.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          Did he refuse Thomas’s request? No. Did he say he didn’t want to be tested? No. He was fine with the request, he merely said that he would be more impressed with those who believed without proof (I never said God was reasonable)

          There was the test Elijah did to use God’s power to light bonfires to disprove any doubts that his God was more powerful than other gods.

          Moses used God’s powers to do tricks for Pharoah who didn’t believe. (Then He had to harden Pharoah’s heart so He could do more tricks to punish Egypt)

          And, like I said, Jesus told his followers to do miracles to alieve doubts.

          It was only when Christians couldn’t make with the miracles that he stopped liking to be tested.

        • > Did he refuse Thomas’s request? No. Did he say he didn’t want to be tested? No. He was fine with the request, he merely said that he would be more impressed with those who believed without proof (I never said God was reasonable)

          Seems like he did it more to mock him, and to also show the others, rather than to appease Thomas’ doubt. Indeed, I don’t see that he did it specifically to appease Thomas’ doubt at all.

          > There was the test Elijah did to use God’s power to light bonfires to disprove any doubts that his God was more powerful than other gods.

          Could you provide the verse?

          > Moses used God’s powers to do tricks for Pharoah who didn’t believe. (Then He had to harden Pharoah’s heart so He could do more tricks to punish Egypt)

          Again, sounds more like he was doing it for Moses.

          > It was only when Christians couldn’t make with the miracles that he stopped liking to be tested.

          No; there are plenty of verses in the bible, including the one I mentioned about Thomas, where he mentions disliking doubt and being tested for it. So what we have is a complex issue that has been unresolved, and there was no attempt to resolve it in studies cited in prior discussions.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          Why would he need to do the tricks for Moses? Moses already believed, after God showed himself to Moses (again, submitting to be tested)

          Which verses say he dislikes being tested?

          Why ignore Jesus telling his followers to do tricks to make people believe?

        • > Why would he need to do the tricks for Moses? Moses already believed, after God showed himself to Moses (again, submitting to be tested)

          To help Moses, not to convince him.

          > Which verses say he dislikes being tested?

          Here’s a whole article on god and doubt. https://worldchallenge.org/newsletter/doubt-%E2%80%94-sin-god-hates-most

          > Why ignore Jesus telling his followers to do tricks to make people believe?

          Again, for whom is he doing this? The non-believers or the believers?

        • Greg G.

          Again, for whom is he doing this? The non-believers or the believers?

          It doesn’t matter. You can point to verses that say God can’t be tested and verses that say God was tested and responded in stories. But now, God doesn’t respond to tests for believers or non-believers.

          Believers believe God answers prayer at a rate far greater than chance. The Templeton study shows that is extremely ulikely or was fucking with believers and non-believers alike.

        • > It doesn’t matter. You can point to verses that say God can’t be tested and verses that say God was tested and responded in stories. But now, God doesn’t respond to tests for believers or non-believers.

          It kind of does matter, but what really matters is that a paper that tests a theory should have justification for the validity of that theory. That requirement is fundamental to research in general, and not limited to research on prayer or gods.

        • Greg G.

          It kind of does matter, but what really matters is that a paper that tests a theory should have justification for the validity of that theory. That requirement is fundamental to research in general, and not limited to research on prayer or gods.

          The Templeton Foundation is a Christian organization that is trying to unite science and religion. The kind of justification you are requiring would be Bible quotes which would make it look less scientific. The used a scientific procedure to test whether prayer works. It showed no effect due to prayer, except a possible negative effect.

          There have been studies that test whether more people need medical attention from accidents during full moons. They don’t need any justification for that other than many people who work in emergency rooms believing there is a relationship. One study found that there were more emergency room visits during full moons than other nights after analyzing data from emergency rooms for one year. Then someone pointed out that during that particular year, full moons fell on weekends more than usual. When they adjusted for emergency room visits on weekends, the data showed no increase.

          You don’t have a valid reason to reject the Templeton study so you are making things up.

        • > You don’t have a valid reason to reject the Templeton study so you are making things up.

          I gave you a valid reason. There is no attempt to justify the assumptions made in the study.

        • Greg G.

          It was trying to justify the assumptions of Christians. That is what the Templeton Foundation does.

          From https://www.templeton.org/about/vision-mission-impact

          In order to catalyze such discoveries, we provide grants for independent research that advances the mission of the Foundation. Our grants for public engagement help people worldwide engage the fruits of that research and explore the Big Questions.

          That people believe prayer works that way is enough justification, except, possibly, for people with OCD.

        • > It was trying to justify the assumptions of Christians. That is what the Templeton Foundation does.

          Saying that it’s from a Christian foundation does not satisfy argument for the assumptions.

          > That people believe prayer works that way is enough justification, except, possibly, for people with OCD.

          Actually, it has more to do with the way I view scientific investigation. This site is still in VERY rough draft, but here is a short discussion on research. http://reformacademia.org/index.php/research-best-practices/

        • Greg G.

          The lack of stated assumptions doesn’t invalidate the findings. It just eliminated that type of prayer from further investigation.

          If it had positive results, they would follow it up to see what worked and why it worked so the initial assumptions would be irrelevant.

          The study said that there were previous studies that had positive results but poor methodologies. They were repeating those experiments to show whether the other studies positive results were from prayer working in some way or just an artifact of poor methodology.

        • > The lack of stated assumptions doesn’t invalidate the findings. It just eliminated that type of prayer from further investigation.

          It doesn’t invalidate the findings as much as it leaves them floating in a void.

        • Greg G.

          If it had positive results, it would not be floating in a void. Since it had negative results, it would be floating in a void, with or without a justification as it would prove the justification wrong and invalid.

        • I’m not really sure about that. This “positive result” nonsense is kind of just that. Indeed, positive results are more tricky. So a theory made a correct prediction. And? The more robust a theory, the easier it is to justify its use. If there is a valid criticism to a theory, it needs to be addressed, and assumptions used in the theory need to be justified.

        • Greg G.

          Robust theory? Where does that come from? It is about religious belief in prayer. They were not trying to figure out how it worked at that point. They just needed to establish that it worked. Then they could come up with assumptions to test how it worked if it had a positive outcome.

          The most likely interpretation is that the positive outcomes of the previous prayer experiments were because the methodologies allowed bias. If they thought the experiment was flawed, they would have repeated it with the flaws eliminated. The fact that they haven’t announce plans after a decade and a half for a new and improved version shows that they accepted the results. It is just too hard to eliminate bias in other types of prayer experiments.

        • I am addressing a more fundamental issue with scientific investigation. If a study uses an assumption, especially if that assumption isn’t universally accepted, it should needs to be justified.

        • Greg G.

          The fundamental issues are the methodology and the results. The conclusion is the same no matter what the assumptions were.

          Is this an OCD thing with you?

        • > The fundamental issues are the methodology and the results. The conclusion is the same no matter what the assumptions were.

          That’s not true. What constitutes evidence, is entirely dependent on the theory in question.

          > Is this an OCD thing with you?

          No; it’s a science thing. You wouldn’t understand.

        • Greg G.

          When you think everybody is doing science wrong except you, it’s probably your OCD talking.

          I have a friend I have known for 20 years. She recognizes here OCD and has a sense of humor about it. It makes life easier for her. She told me a few months ago that she developed a new thing. When she drinks coffee from a paper cup, the seam has to be on the opposite side from her mouth. She takes them in stride and is amused by some of her own behaviors.

          Perhaps you do not have OCD. Maybe you have CDO, which is like OCD but the letters are alphabetical, as they should be.

        • ildi
        • Susan

          Seems like he did it more to mock him.

          But it worked. (It’s a story but I’ll play along.) Thomas made a perfectly reasonable request and Jesus provided evidence. He didn’t come up with an excuse for there being no evidence. He provided evidence and Thomas believed. (sigh) It’s a story. A classic example of christians claiming there was once evidence. So Thomas believed and Jesus said it was better to believe without evidence. Never explained why it was better to believe without evidence. Just that it was.

          Where he mentions disliking doubt

          Psychics don’t like doubt, either. Nor do con men.

          So what we have is a complex issue that has been unresolved

          No. What we have is a dearth of evidence and excuses for the dearth of evidence.

          there was no attempt to resolve it in studies cited in prior discussion

          The studies were aimed at removing the flaws in previous studies based on claims made by christians.

          The results were white noise.

        • rationalobservations?

          You make feeble excuses only for your indoctrinated and deluded belief in a god, not to be mistaken for the actual evifence of the still hyppthetical existence of that undetected and undetectable god among millions of similar undetectable gods and goddesses invented by men.

        • Kevin K

          Daniel in the lion’s den. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. The 10 Plagues of Egypt. The walls of Jericho. All “tests” of the power of Yahweh the Magnificent™.

        • Yep, Jesus made clear what the standard for good evidence is: seeing his miracles with your own eyes. So Jesus himself supports my atheism.

        • “Because the God of the Bible allowed himself to be tested by doubters many times.”
          Citation?

          Seriously? You don’t remember? There’s Elijah and the prophets of Baal (with the winner getting to slaughter the losers—they knew how to have fun back then!). There’s Is. 7 where the king refuses to follow Samuel’s command to test God and gets punished for it.

          Also, the bible does state that god doesn’t like to be tested due to doubt.

          The Bible says all kinds of stuff. But all you’re arguing now is that it’s contradictory. I’ll give you that.

          ”Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.””
          Sounds like Jesus totally burned Thomas.

          Agreed. And some Christians try to downplay the importance of faith, saying that faith = trust based on sufficient evidence. You need to slap some sense into them.

        • > Seriously? You don’t remember?

          Why would I remember?

          > The Bible says all kinds of stuff. But all you’re arguing now is that it’s contradictory. I’ll give you that.

          Actually, I am arguing something much more fundamental: the need to justify assumptions used in theory development.

          > Agreed. And some Christians try to downplay the importance of faith, saying that faith = trust based on sufficient evidence. You need to slap some sense into them.

          Why?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Why would I remember?

          I think Bob was being rhetorical. You obviously didn’t remember…or just didn’t know…so you are making your argument from a position of ignorance. Even if only partial ignorance.

          Actually, I am arguing something much more fundamental: the need to justify assumptions used in theory development.

          Are ya, pish. You are just being a contrary cunt for the sake of it.

          The assumption is based on the statements in the scriptures that YahwehJesus answers all prayers made by those with faith. The theory being, that if those with faith pray, prayers will be answered.

          You keep introducing your “God doesn’t do tests made through doubt” ballix. It is a non sequitur. Give it up already.

          Believers don’t countenance such ballix. Do you know what it takes to attain sainthood? The RCC for example, don’t consider your “doubt passages” fuckwittery to be an issue. Probably, because unlike you, they can tell the difference between the two.

          Beatification (from Latin beatus, “blessed” and facere, “to make”) is a recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person’s entrance into Heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name.

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

        • Pofarmer

          God doesn’t do tests made through doubt”

          Yeah, the other problem here is that those who did the Templeton Study weren’t doubters. They fully expected their faith to be rewarded and their study to be a success.

        • Why would I remember?

          Because you’ve read your Bible thoroughly. Or perhaps that’s a bad assumption.

          So we’re now in agreement that God is indeed OK with being tested?

          Actually, I am arguing something much more fundamental: the need to justify assumptions used in theory development.

          It would be nice to find another point of agreement. The Bible is contradictory. Agreed?

          “You need to slap some sense into them.”
          Why?

          They won’t listen to me.

        • > Because you’ve read your Bible thoroughly. Or perhaps that’s a bad assumption.

          My bible? I do think I have one somewhere, but I’m not sure where. I’ve definitely read through a fair amount of various translations, for various research. Probably just a bad assumption on your part.

          > So we’re now in agreement that God is indeed OK with being tested?

          Nope. There’s a lot of contradiction and as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, when there’s a lot of confusion about whether or not an assumption is reasonable, it should be justified.

          > It would be nice to find another point of agreement. The Bible is contradictory. Agreed?

          Sure.

          > They won’t listen to me.

          Should they?

        • “So we’re now in agreement that God is indeed OK with being tested?”
          Nope. There’s a lot of contradiction and as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, when there’s a lot of confusion about whether or not an assumption is reasonable, it should be justified.

          I gave you two examples in the Bible where God is OK being tested. What justifies your disagreement?

        • > I gave you two examples in the Bible where God is OK being tested. What justifies your disagreement?

          Well, that’s not even in contention. The question is “in what situations?”

        • Greg G.

          Well, that’s not even in contention. The question is “in what situations?”

          The Bible doesn’t agree with itself. Bible believers disagree with one another because they emphasize different verses or interpret them differently. Yet many believe that prayer works because the Bible says it does and confirmation bias tells them it works. You don’t need assumptions to test whether they are right. You design an experiment that is similar to other experiments that showed a correlation between prayer and outcomes but with methodology that eliminates possible bias, then see what happens.

        • Pofarmer

          I think the real question is “Who cares”?

  • Bob Jase

    One of the essential clues in tracking animals is they leave scat/droppings/feces behind them.

    God does not leave scat/droppongs/feces.

    Therefor god cannot do shit.

    • Greg G.

      He made the Israelis bury their shit so he wouldn’t step in it at night.

      • Bob Jase

        Yet they did so in 1948 and its caused nothing but trouble since.

  • Ted Apelt

    A lot of this depends on your definition of “God”. There are about as many different definitions of this as there are people, and to make matters worse, these definitions are constantly shifting. Pick a definition and show it to be false, and it’s “That’s not what I mean by God!” OK, so what exactly do you mean by the word “God”??? They never give you a straight answer. EVER!

    Then, because you can’t prove that all possible definitions of the word “God” (including ones you have never heard of before) are false, it must mean that “God” exists.

    Well, I’ll make it easy for you. I will precisely define what I mean by “God”. “God” is any being that: (1) Assumes the title of “God” and (2) Answers this request:

    If there is anyone out there who can understand what I am saying, and you are not a human (or something programmed by humans), and you want me to know that you exist, please let me know you exist.

    I have been saying this for many decades, so far no response.

  • Clive Adams

    The main difference between a deer and god is that deer exist. Pretty obvious when there’s no track there’s nothing to track but sonehow a lot of people get fooled by thise who make a living from pretending they can find one. For some reason though they always accapt the excuses for why there’s never anything at the end of the trail. I guess some people are just happy to be fooled.

  • Mighk Wilson

    Where this analogy falls apart is that an animal tracker already knows (and nobody doubts) that things such as deer and bears exist. We’ve already seen them. He or she is just tracking a particular individual animal. But claiming that you can track a sasquatch …

  • anxionnat

    Yes, I had a few lessons on tracking in high school and college. Not enough to make me an expert by any means. I wish young people could have similar experiences! Because of orthopoedic problems, I haven’t been able to do tracking or hiking for several years. (Sigh.) I grew up catholic and it all seemed so unlikely to me! I, and my 5 siblings, were all atheists/agnostics/whatever by the time we were eleven or so. All of us got forced to attend church etc, but it was amazingly ineffective in brainwashing us. I sort of took a cerebral approach because in the 50s and early 60s there was nobody to talk to–I wasn’t aware of anyone at least. By the time I was 13, I’d read two different translations of the Bible, the Quran (in English translation), selected reading from Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, and lots and lots of mythologies. In college, I read yet another translation of the Bible, plus the whole Hebrew Bible in the original Hebrew. I didn’t think the Bible had any more credibility than the myths. I remember telling my mom, “A talking, bipedal snake??? Really???” and “Insects have 4 legs? I know better than that!!” I was maybe 12. She was unable to answer. But she still forced religion on me til I was 18 and left to go away to college. After all of us kids left home, my dad (who converted from a sort of Labor atheism to marry Mom) gradually made his way out of catholicism. He was an atheist too, by the time he died. When you track animals, there is evidence. People who are (or were) hunter-gatherers in the past and the present look for the same type of signs to track, the world over, with the same aim–feeding themselves. I don’t now for sure, but I would guess that skills like tracking would transfer from one culture to another. Religion doesn’t.

  • wethelred shaggybreeks

    “Show us he xtians who pray nontrivial requests that are reliably answered…”
    Well, I once had a Baptist landlord who came by to fix our refrigerator. He couldn’t find the right screw among his tools and thought he’d have to go buy one. Then he looked again and said triumphantly, “The Lord is with me–I found it!”
    Explain that–if you can!
    (sarcasm)

    • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

      Clearly Satan was deceiving him. If he had gone to the store like God wanted him to, he would have had a chance to preach to a nonbeliever
      Instead that nonbeliever will become a tatoo artist.

      • wethelred shaggybreeks

        Satan–1
        Goad–0

  • Roger Kreil

    Would a Christian say “Only Jesus could break me free from my heroin addiction. Nothing else worked. So I know that he is real!”?

    • epicurus

      Yes

  • Tuna

    Why are there ads for a Christian university all over this page? Coincidence, keyword failure, or really weird ad campaign?

    • epicurus

      I guess the algorithms see lots of God words and deduce religious people who can be sold religious advertising.

    • Greg G.

      Click on an ad you like and the algorithm will assume you are interested in that type of ad.

  • WOW!! Is this dumb or what. Animals exist, that is why they can be tracked and actually found. Gods, ah no !

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    This topic makes me think of a friend who compared the search for god to SETI. His point was that, while the entity was, in principle, demonstrable, it could never be disproved no matter how absent it appeared to be.

    I didn’t recognize the distinction at the time, but now it is clear as day. While it is true that not finding evidence of aliens can never prove no aliens exist, we at least have an absence of positive evidence. “No aliens exist” is a step too far, but “no aliens exist right here” is perfectly reasonable. (Or, to be pedantic, “no aliens are/were sending radio waves in an effort to make contact.”)

    With god, there is no such absence; everything is conceivably positive evidence for him and nothing could ever be construed as evidence of absence. To bring in your analogy, imagine trying to track a deer when you don’t have any idea what things should look like if a deer hadn’t been there.

    • Gord O’Mitey

      I think that your analogy is flawed: our understanding of the Universe is incomplete, but nothing about it suggests that a naturalistic explanation for its evolution is, in principle, inadequate.

      Perhaps you should’ve written, “With god, for the faithful, there is no such absence; everything is conceivably positive evidence for him …”

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        nothing about it suggests that a naturalistic explanation for its evolution is, in principle, inadequate.

        Would you mind sharing where my comment implies anything different?

        • Gord O’Mitey

          It was too easy, iMo, to misread your comment, hence My suggestion of inserting “for the faithful”. Otherwise, it appears to read that you believe that there is a god. Nietzsche famously announced My demise.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Ha! Sorry if it was confusing. I was only introducing the analogy to show why it doesn’t work. The subject felt related to the Bob’s post.

        • Gord O’Mitey

          Justan, I did misread it, (so much for My omniscience, eh), and thought you were trolling, until I read your moniker. (It’s all easily done in this medium.)

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “God tracking
    Like a forest animal, God is also elusive. ”

    A major part of the problem is that when you ask the believer what they mean by the word ‘god” they can’t ( or at least haven’t so far) give a clear definition.

    All they have is a string of vagueities intermingled with unproven claims.

    • Susan

      A major part of the problem is that when you ask the believer what they mean by the word ‘god” they can’t ( or at least haven’t so far) give a clear definition.

      That is THE problem. What sort of evidence should we be looking for if we’re trying to track an incoherent being?

      We can only look for evidence for the individual claims they make, when they stand still long enough to make any sort of clear claim.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Stand still long enough?

        It’s easier to stitch a button to a fart.