How to Think Critically V

Double-Blind Tests

In a post back in October, I dissected the claims of a spam e-mail that landed in my inbox to promote the “Detox Box“, an expensive piece of snake oil claimed to be able to cure any disease through the power of pseudoscience. As is usual in these matters, an offended true believer showed up in the comments to proclaim her faith in the device:

The Detox Box works for me and I wouldn’t go without it. It is my personal results. I don’t need a double blind study to know that it works.

In fact, as I and others pointed out, you do need a double-blind test to know that this or any other medical treatment works. Personal testimony is not sufficient, and in fact, it is among the least reliable kinds of evidence – with good reason.

It should be no surprise that people often interpret the world according to their expectations. When we expect something to happen, it often does happen. For example, when we undergo a treatment which we expect to help with an illness, most people do report feeling better afterwards. Along the same lines, doctors who are administering a treatment which they expect to help their patient will tend to notice signs of improvement thereafter. This is just the well-known placebo effect, but what’s not as well-known is just how powerful the placebo effect can be. For a dramatic example of the mind’s power to influence the body, I give you pseudocyesis – psychosomatic pregnancy.

“Every sign and symptom of pregnancy has been recorded in these patients except for three: You don’t hear heart tones from the fetus, you don’t see the fetus on ultrasound, and you don’t get a delivery,” Dr. Paulman said.

“Every sign and symptom of pregnancy” is literally accurate. Women with pseudocyesis see their bellies swell, exactly as you’d expect in a late-term pregnancy. Their breasts become enlarged and produce milk; their menstrual cycle stops; their hormone levels are elevated; they suffer food cravings and morning sickness. And when the time arrives, they have contractions and labor pains. So convincing are these signs that pseudocyesis often fools even experienced obstetricians, and sometimes goes undetected right up until the moment of labor, when it finally becomes obvious there’s nothing to be delivered. Some women have undergone unnecessary Caesarian sections because of it. (The usual explanation is that it occurs in women who desperately want to conceive children, but are unable to for some reason. It’s rarer these days thanks to ultrasound and other fetal imaging technologies which can provide the woman incontrovertible proof that she isn’t pregnant.)

Human beings are fallible; of that there can be no doubt. When studying things that can’t easily be quantified, we’re all too susceptible to bias, both for and against. Even if we have the most honest intentions in the world, unconscious presuppositions may subtly skew our results without our even being aware of it. (58% of corporate CEOs are six feet tall or more; in the general population it’s only 15%. Apparently most people subconsciously think that tall people make better leaders.)

How do we compensate for our own biases? We can do it with a scientific technique that’s considered the gold standard in medicine and other fields of diagnosis: the double-blind test.

The double-blind test is fundamentally a very simple concept. To conduct a double-blind test, you start by gathering a group of volunteers. Each volunteer is assigned – randomly, which is important – to either the experimental group or the control group. Those in the experimental group receive the treatment that is being tested, while those in the control group receive a placebo that is identical to all outward appearances, but completely inert. The experimenters rate the progress of both groups and, at the conclusion of the test, crunch the numbers to determine whether the experimental group shows a statistically significant difference from the control group.

The crucial point of a double-blind test is that the volunteers don’t know whether they’re in the experimental or the control group, and neither do the scientists who are administering the treatment and observing the results. Generally, during the experiment, that knowledge is held by a third party who does not otherwise participate. Once the experiment is done and the results are in, the blinding is broken, and only then do the experimenters sift the data to determine whether there’s a significant difference between the two groups. (Sometimes this has to be modified, such as in double-blind studies of surgical treatments that compare the real operation with “sham surgery” which makes an incision but nothing more. In this case, one set of doctors performs the surgery and a different set, blinded to who got which treatment, evaluates the results.)

The point of a double-blind test is that it is designed so that no one’s beliefs, biases or expectations can influence the results. Since volunteers are assigned randomly to one of the two groups, there’s no possibility that, say, an unscrupulous medical researcher could assign the sicker volunteers to the control group and the healthier ones to the experimental group to make a treatment appear more effective. Since the volunteers don’t know which group they’re in, their expectations about what will happen can’t cause a placebo effect that would throw off the results. (More accurately, both the experimental and control groups should experience the placebo effect to the same degree. Thus, that effect can be statistically subtracted out, to see whether any residual effect is left over that could only be attributed to the efficacy of the treatment.) And since the researchers don’t know either, their expectations about the efficacy of their own treatment can’t skew their data collection.

In experiments that are not double-blind, the results are often affected by the participants’ or the researchers’ advance knowledge. For example, in the classic police lineup technique for identifying suspects, there are concerns that the detective present may purposefully or inadvertently prompt the witness. Double-blind lineups, where the detective overseeing does not know who the suspect is, have been shown to produce fewer false identifications.

A famous case where double-blind experiments revealed the truth was Clever Hans, the horse who could supposedly solve complex mathematics (giving the answers by tapping his hoof). In reality, he was responding to subtle, unconscious cues from the observers who were present and who knew the answer to the question. This fact was eventually exposed by the psychologist Oskar Pfungst, who conducted a double-blind test of the horse’s abilities by asking questions whose answers none of the onlookers knew.

When performed properly, the double-blind test is an invaluable tool for weeding out pseudoscience and falsehood of every kind. Witness the following immortal reply from a practitioner of “applied kinesiology”:

When these results were announced, the head chiropractor turned to me and said, “You see, that is why we never do double-blind testing anymore. It never works!”

Although it may not “work” to confirm presuppositions, double-blind testing most definitely does work to tell truth apart from falsehood. As such, it’s no surprise that advocates of delusion avoid it or denigrate it at every turn.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Eric

    Wasn’t something close ot the first double blind test first created by Lavoisier and Franklin when they were comissioned to investigate Mesmer? While Antoine and Ben knew who was exposed to real vs fake “magnetized” water, audience members did not and neither did the test subjects. Turned out the effects were entirely the power of sugestion. Those who believed they had been exposed to Mesmer’s water acted accordingly , whether it had been “charged” or not. Those who had been exposed to real charged water whithout being told of the charge did nothing.

    Woo-heads been runnin from blind experiments ever since.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Yes, indeed! In fact, according to some sources, Franklin and his committee were responsible for the creation of the double-blind test as we know it to test Mesmer’s claims. I don’t know if this is true – surely other people had similar ideas during the Enlightenment – but if so, it could be yet another thing we owe to the founders.

    I’m also reminded of the “N-rays” hoax, which was exposed by a similar method of blind testing. Amazing how the pseudoscientists always get the “right” results when they know in advance what they should be seeing.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    It’s always kind of humbling to realise that the people who created America were scientists as well as statesmen, and good scientists, worthy of some historical note, at that. How many politicians these days have that kind of breadth?

    On a different note, double-blind trials ought to be on primary (oops, elementary) school curricula, they really should. There are so many cool ways you could teach this to little kids. You could give them little magnets and ask them to try to throw them straight ahead, to see if they are deflected by a piece of metal some distance away. Hide the metal in a box so they can’t see if it’s there or not and get the kids to notice the difference between the case where they know the metal is there and the case where they don’t. Or just get them to do Randi’s crystal experiment, or something like it (Actually, probably not exactly that experiment — you wouldn’t want them to start pushing down too hard on each others’ arms. But I’m sure you could think of something). Then discuss the results and explain about scientific trials.

    It’s all very well teaching adults critical thinking in theory, but that couldn’t possibly be as effective as teaching it to children in a very concrete fashion.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ Spanish Inquisitor

    It’s always kind of humbling to realize that the people who created America were scientists as well as statesmen, and good scientists, worthy of some historical note, at that. How many politicians these days have that kind of breadth?

    Good point, Lynet. Why doesn’t politics attract more scientists these days? What is there about government that scientists shy away from? We could really use that kind of thinking, those kinds of minds, in positions of authority.

  • Landis Schmitt

    Thinking back to my early childhood education (including High School) many decades ago, I do not remember anyone in any of the science related classes every explaining what “science” really is. I was just thrown into Biology, Chemistry, etc, and expected to read the material and perform a few experiments. There was never an explanation about “double blind testing” or even the difference between a scientific theory and a general theory. I think it would be a great benefit if early childhood education included an introduction to “science”, which emphasized the actual methods used in science and why they are used.

  • theistscientist

    Brilliant analysis all. Howewever, as a theist, kindly allow me to argue a contrarian point. Critical thinking requires a complete analysis of the total fund of scientific knowledge: that is true. However, scientific knowledge does not alone reliably answer all the questions humans need to practically thrive and function. Humans may be rational in a survival sense, but their self-actualization and thriving require complex hybrid “goods” of love, romance, comradery, esteem, belonging, etc. As you know, these cannot be measured on a gas chromatograph, yet I am sure they occupy more of our mental anxiety than purely scientific questions do.Even the military recognizes that morale, willingness to sacrifice for the group, pride, refusal to leave A fallen comrade behind, etc are powerful motivators to battlefield success. “Science” cannot answer most of the “why” questions, including “first cause”, why are we here? matter: how can matter being mindless organize itself into larger more complex groupings of matter? why are their almost mindless, mishapen masses of bare rock called asteroids? and then earth , with beautiful tropical beaches and beautiful naked tahitian girls! why the difference? why isnt all the universe just milllions of giant mishapen blobs of mattter? how and why did matter organize itself into our modern universe? Before you complain at my meandering, remember this : IN EQUIPOISE, first cause is neutral! Be aware of intellectual arrogance. In mathematics all unproved theories have the exact same mathematical value:0. Complex codes in our space and time world usually require a code maker. “unless mathematically quantifiable, all explanations are subjective”.

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  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Humans may be rational in a survival sense, but their self-actualization and thriving require complex hybrid “goods” of love, romance, comradery, esteem, belonging, etc.

    Yes, none of us would argue about that. In fact, I’m a little confused by your apparent belief that there is something ‘contrarian’ about that statement. None of those things require belief in God, I might note; nor do they topple science from its paramounce as the arbiter of objectivity.

    With regard to your questions, all I can say is, if science can’t answer those questions, do you really think you can? In the face of ignorance, the right response is to admit ignorance, not to dogmatically insist on the nearest made-up story. And no, I don’t think we ‘need’ answers to those questions in order to have love, romance, camaraderie, esteem, belonging, etc. The answers we need are more personal: not ‘What is the motivation for the universe?’ (if that question even makes sense) but rather ‘What is my motivation?’ Such questions might seem easier if we buy into a story about the ‘motivation’ behind the universe as a whole, but even without such a story they are not always so very difficult. And for me, well, I’m highly motivated to survive without made-up stories wherever possible. I care about the truth of things. I don’t need to justify that care by reference to a deity. I just take that care as it exists.

  • OMGF

    Theistscience, are you really a scientist? Be honest please.

    Your whole post is one big god of the gaps fallacy with a few others thrown in for good measure.

    In mathematics all unproved theories have the exact same mathematical value:0.

    No they do not. What in the world are you talking about?

    Complex codes in our space and time world usually require a code maker.

    Begging the question that complex codes exist that are only explainable by a code maker, as well as begging the question that some code maker exists. Further, this isn’t even true. DNA can be thought of as a code, yet evolution is sufficient to explain how the “code” for humans arose without recourse to a “code maker”.

    Finally, your talk about a “first cause” is pretty empty rhetoric. We don’t even know if the universe (or matter) is part of some larger universe and/or eternal. That’s one of the problems with the first cause argument, in that it assumes way too much and then comes to a mistaken conclusion based on bad assumptions.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Theistscientist,

    “Science” cannot answer most of the “why” questions, including “first cause”, why are we here? matter: how can matter being mindless organize itself into larger more complex groupings of matter? why are their almost mindless, mishapen masses of bare rock called asteroids? and then earth , with beautiful tropical beaches and beautiful naked tahitian girls! why the difference?

    First of all, all those “why” questions you pose may in fact not have an answer, or perhaps just not an answer you do not like. You assume there was a first cause but without any reason for doing so. You’re using your model of how the mind understands the world we live in to a model for which it may not (and indeed probably does not) apply. But to answer your question about why we find the earth beautiful and satisfying compared to other planets that could not hope to support us, it’s because we evolved here. We have evolved to fit our environment, not the other way around.

    why isnt all the universe just milllions of giant mishapen blobs of mattter? how and why did matter organize itself into our modern universe?

    Are you saying because most celestial bodies seem to resemble circular shapes that they aren’t just giant blobs of matter? Sure, they’re pretty to look at from here through our telescopes but if you were suddenly placed there your mind would very quickly change on the matter, if you had time for it because you were either cooked or frozen solid that is. But regardless of that, it doesn’t seem that god needs to fall anywhere into that; nothing about the whole idea strikes me as something that can’t come about just through natural forces like gravity.

    Before you complain at my meandering, remember this : IN EQUIPOISE, first cause is neutral! Be aware of intellectual arrogance. In mathematics all unproved theories have the exact same mathematical value:0. Complex codes in our space and time world usually require a code maker. “unless mathematically quantifiable, all explanations are subjective”.

    You’re making a rather large leap here. You’re not just saying there was a first, neutral cause. No part of that seems to strike me as a designing force, and even farther than that, strikes me as a cause capable of imparting morals, or answering any of the ‘why’ questions you posed (you can’t say “this was the first cause and because of that beaches are beautiful). Of course, as mentioned before, it impies there was a first cause, which I seem no reason to accept since you just asserted there was this first cause instead of made any attempt to demostrate that the idea must be true.
    As OMGF touched on, if you want to give this first cause intelligence, will power, designing abilities, or whatever other characteristics you had in mind, and then just assume the first cause just came into existence, you might as well just assume that our universe just came into existence. We have evidence for our universe existing (not for a creator), we have rules of physics that can explain how matter become diverse as it as and takes the shapes it has (no evidence for a designer there anywhere), and once life forms, we have explainations for how it develops and changes and becomes diverse (no need for a god anywhere there either).

    All you do is assert there was a first cause (Without an explaination of why this must be the case), assert that is happens to be a personal god capable of answering your “why” questions (assume those questions have answers in the first place), but never go so far as to do anything that isn’t assert and assume. Sure, maybe science can’t answer your why questions, but why does would a religious thought suddenly get that privilage? What’s so wrong with just saying “I don’t know” that requires you to create a supernatural explaination for everything with no evidence?

  • lpetrich

    As to measuring love, romance, comradery, esteem, belonging, etc., ask a psychologist. I’m surprised at how some people seem to think that psychology is not a science. Maybe not a very “hard” science by some standards, but nevertheless still worthy of the title.

    First cause? I don’t see why there has to be a “first cause”.

    Why are we here? My answer is why not ask your parents why they decided to bring you into existence. Is it really so hard to do so? And would you feel bound by whatever purpose they had?

    The same applies to our species in general. If it turned up that extraterrestrial visitors gradually brought our species into existence by doing genetic engineering over the last few million years, would we feel bound by whatever purpose they had in doing so? Which could well have been their entertainment.

    How can matter being mindless organize itself into larger more complex groupings of matter? The ability to do so is a consequence of the natural laws that it is subject to — order emerges spontaneously. Are snowflakes assembled by fairies living in clouds? Are mineral crystals assembled by gnomes living in the Earth? Seriously.

    As to why the Earth seems like such a nice place for us, that’s because of natural selection. We live here on Earth because that’s the only place in the Solar System that allows us to. And the Earth is also a giant rock — it just has the nicest surface layer for us.

    And if the Solar System was really made for humanity’s benefit, then why is just about all of it so inhospitable?

    “Complex codes in our space and time world usually require a code maker.” How do you distinguish design from non-design? And why do you leap from design to some alleged single super designer? Do you conclude that about every designed object your encounter? And if not, then why not?

  • theistscientist

    I kindly thank you all for your professionalism and your politeness.I left IIDb because by now someone there would have started the pile-on attack by now. Also, there are a lot more of you than me so I apologize if I miss any of your followup q’s. Moving forward, actually “God of the Gaps” arguments, properly structured pass every test of formal logic (fwiw). We recognize that intelligent design is a hybrid theory which merges some scientific hypotheses with transcendental ones. But again, that hybrid contruct also passes every test of formal logic as well. It is certainly logically possible that there is a God or God analog/intelligent designer. Is the DNA molecule irreducibly complex? personally I dont think so , but can science prove abiogenesis? no, not yet anyway. And until scientists can, the mathematical value of the two theories is equal. In operations research the mathematical value of any unknown is usually stated as O. In comparing any two unknowns their value is equal. And evolutionists most certainly as of this time cannot prove that the DNA “code” did not require an intelligent designer. Cosmologists today are practically engaging in fisticuffs in the science narthex over string theory turf battles(*been there ,seen that, had to pull them apart!)..which is to only say that when it coms to the scientific game of wild ass guessing, theist scientists like myself and others have just as much right to sit at the wild assed guess table and drink that wild ass guess bubblleup as atheist scientists do. First cause really is a big big problem as is infinite regression, as is the whole laundry list. remember 2,001 a space odyssey? And way way back, even tho he turned out to be a quack, didnt Von Daneken in “Chariots of the Gods” make young scientists think? Azimov,Hawkings,Bradbury,Einstein, Sagan all admitted to the possibility of an intelligent designer. The judeo-Christian west has the highest number of peer reviewed published scientists,research universities, research labs,patents, etc,ect. Does evolution favor intelligence? Does evolution favor intelligent design? Does an intelligent designer favor evolution?

  • lpetrich

    On the “God of the Gaps”, I almost can’t believe that anyone is insisting on taking it seriously, since it leaves out LOTS of other possibilities.

    And how do your pet hypotheses pass “tests of formal logic”?

    And how have Asimov, Hawking, Bradbury, Einstein, Sagan, “admitted to the possibility of an intelligent designer”? The way that they would likely have admitted to the possibility of Bertrand Russell’s interplanetary teapot?

    And as to “Judeo-Xianity”, you are pretending that it is a unified front and that there are no cultural influences outside of it in our society. If you insist on considering that line of “reasoning”, then I suggest that you consider how people of Jewish descent are disproportionately represented in the Nobel Prize laureates. Doesn’t that make you want to convert to Judaism? Complete with rejection of Original Sin and belief that Jesus Christ was at best a failed would-be messiah.

  • theistscientist

    Mr. Ipetrich, calm down my brother, you are starting to get a little “IIDB ish”. God of the Gaps is a pejorative term. In Operations research in “uncertainty theory” an intellligent designer or God/analog has a healthy mathematically sound seat at the table along with all your “LOTs of other ‘ppossibilities’”. I am not sure you have understood the point I have made that the mathematical value of possibilities can vary, but at equipoise the value is O and equally O. Ipetrich, how can you say your atheist unknowns are defeators for theist unknowns? And the point I was making was that religion is a pro survival multiplier(see reliable truth seeking thread) and that theists can be critical thinkers too. You may care to study the details of the aforementioned intellectuals (supra) as all of them candidly admitted to the possibility of an intelligent designer. I beleive Sagan did so in the context of an intelligent race which populated earth. Atheists would likely have little problem at least accepting that possibilty, yet, would utterly reject the possibility of “God”. Is this being intellectually honest?

  • James B

    theistscientist,

    I enjoy your contribution, but please could you write in paragraphs because your comments are a bit hard to read?

    Atheists would likely have little problem at least accepting [the possibility of an intelligent designer], yet, would utterly reject the possibility of “God”. Is this being intellectually honest?

    Not all atheists “utterly reject the possibility” of god(s). My guess is that most of us here are “weak atheists”. By that I mean we have seen no evidence for the existence of any gods; so as far as we can tell god appears not to exist. A weak atheist would say that strictly speaking there remains the possibility of a god (but perhaps he’s just shy?).

    For the sake of brevity many weak atheists (myself included) may simply say “There is no god”. I accept that this may mislead listeners/readers into thinking the speaker is a strong atheist (who feels certain that there is no god – or utterly rejects the possibility).

    In a similar way a scientist may, for the sake of brevity, say “The earth orbits the sun” without completely ruling out the possibility of some other non-heliocentric arrangement. Strictly speaking the scientist should say, “The theory that the earth orbits the sun is consistent with all available evidence so far.” I don’t blame them for abbreviating this! :)

    I think this is an intellectually honest and consistent position. Is your position similarly intellectually honest? For that matter, what is your position?

    In Operations research in “uncertainty theory”…

    Huh?

    …an intellligent designer or God/analog has a healthy mathematically sound seat at the table along with all your “LOTs of other ‘ppossibilities’”

    Yes I’ll grant you that – on the list of wild stabs in the dark with no evidence to back them up, God is right up there. :)

    - James Bradbury

  • Mrnaglfar

    The best theory for the development of DNA I’ve heard so far goes something like this.

    - The defining property of life is that life is self-replicating
    - DNA seems too improbable to come about through pure chance
    - The possbility exists for what I would call “arched evolution”

    Arched evolution is similiar to trying to ‘evolve’ (i.e. build) and arch one stone at a time. This is an impossible task past a certain point, because without all the stones in place at once, the arch will collapse. In that sense, parts of the arch are ‘irreducibly complex’ on their own. However, it’s very clear that they can be built, so how is it possible? Through scaffolding – an easy to build structure that supports the arch while it’s being built, and after completion can be removed so you never knew it was there, leaving the free standing arch. In the sense of DNA, a previously existing replicator could have existed (we know certain crystals are able to do this in a supersaturated solution), and DNA developed through that replicator. Once DNA existsed though, it was better at replicating itself than the previous ‘scaffold’ and took over.

    Of course that would need work, but it seems a far more plausible theory than any kind of god theory, since the arched evolution works from simpler to more complex in small steps (in theory anyway ;) ), whereas the god hypothesis works in reverse; it begins by assuming a concious, creative, intelligent, and perhaps even moral force just popped into existance and had the ability to create from nothing. If that’s the starting assumption, you might as well just assume DNA always existed; after all, there is evidence for DNA and none for god, and the chances of DNA just happening seem greater, no matter how small they are, than the chances of a god(s) just happening.

    Theistscientist,

    Moving forward, actually “God of the Gaps” arguments, properly structured pass every test of formal logic (fwiw).

    It fits into any hole because it’s never defined. There is no definition of god that is accepted, Gods of the Gaps are never falsifable, since for anything you can disprove someone can just make up a new one that fits.

    And until scientists can, the mathematical value of the two theories is equal.

    if you seperate them into strictly proven or disproven black and white, then sure, but it’s not as simple as that. There are degrees of plausbility. If I claimed that the flying spaghetti monster created everything, until science can prove otherwise it’s not on equal footing. Same with if I put foward that life was created though inter-dimensional elves working together to assemble it. According to that logic, all of those theories are equal in footing. Which is why it’s up to you to support your theory if you want it to be taken seriously, with objective, varifable data. To date, there is none for a creator.

    Of course, I find it interesting that when it comes to intelligent design, there’s only one designer proposed. Like in the watchmaker argument, one person does not make a watch. Miners harvest the materials for the watch, someone makes the glass for the cover, the ink to paint the dial, the leather for the strap, the cogs and springs for the interior, the tools the watchmaker needs for watch construction, etc. Likewise, watches didn’t just happen; they had previous models like sundials that eventually became digital watches.
    But that’s just an observation.

    First cause really is a big big problem as is infinite regression, as is the whole laundry list

    I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again; problems like these are more than likely due to people using a model of how they understand the world to a model it does not apply to. I don’t claim to understand how the universe worked at that time, but I’m not trying to say I have an answer either. The god answer is just being pulled from the metaphoical ass, and pulled out with such certainty, which is surprising considering there is no evidence for a god yet.

    how can you say your atheist unknowns are defeators for theist unknowns?

    Because we don’t claim unknowns as answers. I’ve never heard people trying to defend intelligent design treat it as a theory for which there is no evidence (which you could rightly say it is). No one is trying to put theories without evidence into textbooks, or creating museums for history that have no evidence for it. It would be like building a museum dedicated to the story of humpty dumpty.

    The judeo-Christian west has the highest number of peer reviewed published scientists,research universities, research labs,patents, etc,ect.

    Applies to authority don’t work normally, especially when they go counter to your point. These scientists, for the vast majority, are not religious, and this mass of scientific data that exists today doesn’t mention god or apply to supernatural forces, ever. Damnest thing huh?

  • theistscientist

    Thank you James B. You are truly a fine group of intellectuals here. My goodness, whoever runs this lashup should start their own message board,they have done a very difficult thing.Set up intelligent ,polite discussions.Very rare to find anymore.

    When you say there is “no” evidence to back up God. Do you really mean absolutely none?

  • ex machina

    When you say there is “no” evidence to back up God. Do you really mean absolutely none?

    Yes.

    The reaches of science are not yet infinite, and there will always be alternative hypotheses to cover every shortcoming (or perceived shortcoming). But areas of uncertainty do not show evidence towards a God as the cause, any more than finding the batteries of my remote control drained shows evidence that you, personally, broke into my house and drained them while I was asleep.

    The lack of evidence for one hypothesis does not prove the validity of another. It’s not a contest. Each idea must withstand the rigors of the scientific method.

  • theistscientist

    are you really sure you can say there is absolutely no evidence for God? does that include, circumstantial/cause and effect/historical/textual/archaelogical/etc?

  • Jim Baerg

    Of course, I find it interesting that when it comes to intelligent design, there’s only one designer proposed. Like in the watchmaker argument, one person does not make a watch. Miners harvest the materials for the watch, someone makes the glass for the cover, the ink to paint the dial, the leather for the strap, the cogs and springs for the interior, the tools the watchmaker needs for watch construction, etc. Likewise, watches didn’t just happen; they had previous models like sundials that eventually became digital watches.

    Have you read this essay
    http://www.econlib.org/LIBRARY/Essays/rdPncl1.html
    The only thing I disagree with in it is the phrase “faith in a free people”. Faith is not needed since there is observational evidence that a free people works well.

  • goyo

    Theistscientist: Of course, welcome. I enjoy your comments. I have always wondered though, how an analytical person could be a believer in superstition. Perhaps you could indulge me in answering a few questions:
    What exactly is it in religion that appeals to you? Is there some “feeling” that you receive?
    How can you consider the bible or any other religious text to be written by the creator of the universe, when the writings contain absolutely no mention of science, mathematics or anything that reveals any help to mankind? We have had to invent science, then medicine, etc, and it took millenia. Why didn’t god help us out from the beginning?
    Are you just a theist, with no belief that these religious writings are really what they say they are? Then, you are almost an atheist.
    Just curious.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    I’d say there’s evidence for the Christian god. Of course, it’s all very weak evidence. The same type of evidence that exists for Thor, Shiva, Amun, Allah, Quetzalcoatl, Nessie, big foot, extra terrestrials, and faeries under the garden. I would not say that there is evidence for some generic deity that created everything then disappeared. Lots of unknowns, yes, but that’s not evidence of anything but our lack of knowledge.

    I’m curious, what kind of archaeological evidence do you think might exist for (presumably) the Christian god? If you mean that locations in The Bible actually existed, well, yeah, so what? The cities in A Tale of Two Cities exist too, but that doesn’t make the events factual.

  • James B

    theistscientist,

    When you say there is “no” evidence to back up God. Do you really mean absolutely none?

    Ah, well that depends on what you’re willing to accept as evidence.

    If you’re willing to accept as evidence the feelings of love and elation that believers in a god experience while practising their religion, then you have to accept the existence of almost all gods ever invented!

    Perhaps you’ve heard about Bertrand Russel’s celestial teapot. Are you absolutely sure there is no evidence for it? No? Does that mean it exists? Does it mean that it has even a 50:50 chance of being real?

    You’ll probably think I’m being unreasonable for not accepting the bible as evidence. However, I see nothing in the bible to indicate that it was written by a deity or by those inspired by a deity.

    For some examples of what would constitute evidence of a god’s existence, have a look at Ebonmuse’s guide to converting atheists.

    So the answer to your question for me is that (despite reasonable research and questioning of theists) I have seen no evidence to back up any god. I couldn’t 100% rule out that such evidence might come to light, but see the teapot above again.

    Now I’ve answered your question, perhaps you could go back to my previous post and answer some of mine?

    cheers,

  • ex machina

    are you really sure you can say there is absolutely no evidence for God? does that include, circumstantial/cause and effect/historical/textual/archaelogical/etc?

    Yes, there is no evidence. As for what kind of evidence I’m denying, I’m denying incontrovertible conclusive proof. Inconclusive bits of evidence or evidence that has been disproven is all over the place, is that what you mean when you say “evidence”?

  • theistscientist

    Excellent comments all. Not only are you all very bright but you are polite and professional. In years on IIDB I rarely encountered this level of civility. Also, there are a lot of you and only one of me so I apologize if I miss answering your specific questions, I will not be offended if you remind me of what i missed and repeat the q. Perhaps a slightly different tack and then more specifics. One of my best friends is a well published microbiology professor at Johns Hopkins. He is a very devout Christian. Another friend is the Chief propulsion engineer at NASA for the space shuttle. He is also a devout Christian. Both are evangelical and quite good apologists as well,though not seminary trained. Are you saying that there is no reasonable warrant for belief in Jesus Christ being the Son of God? 2. Why is it that an intelligent designer/God analog cannot use “process” to bring about his design-e.g. “arched evolution”? 3.In forward-backward analysis, if you met God, would you really expect that God could be measured on a Gas Chromatograph? 4. If God really was the first cause who created first matter and then caused that matter to create more matter and organize itself by using the very physical laws we now study, would one really expect that such a first cause would be sub arrogated to scientific measurement and experimentation? 5. If there really is absolutely no evidence then there should be only strong atheists and no weak atheists. 6. Awhile back I saw a list on the internet of 1,000 PHd level scientists in fields sophisticated in microbiology,cosmology,and allied fields bearing on these issues who were “strong” theists (meaning they were not just nominal theists). I will try to find the cite. As you may know there is a Society Of Christian Biologists, ” ” Philosphers,”” Operations Research/Game Theory/Quant. Analysis,”” College Professors, etc etc. Now I am not making an ad populum argument, but rather suggesting that if what most of you are saying is really true and incontrovertible and non justiciable, then there should be few if any of such Christian intellectuals. 7. Also, if there was absolutley no evidence, then surely a careful study of the debate transcripts of William Lane Craig(online at his website) would clearly show that forensically, the Christian position was not defensible. Yet, Craig has won every debate except one.And that one is generally considered a draw. 8. And referring to the formal debate archive at IIDB over the last seven years, why then do many debates end with forfeiture by the non theist side? This should never happen if there is no reasonable warrant for Christian belief. Even poor debaters should prevail over any theist if the Christian position is indefensible. 9. Israel (cause and effect) Balfour,Churchill,Roosevelt: holocaust-’45-’48’67’73: you and I all know the drill”:atheists “the glass is half empty, self fulfilled by Western Christians: Christians”the glass is at least half full, actually nearly to the brim, fulfilled by El Shaddai God-the biblical Lord of Battles of the nation of Israel. THese hundreds of glass half full/half empty debates add up. If what all of you say is true, there should be no debates, it should be atheists win Q.E.D. Such is not the current forensic reality.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Jim,

    That’s a fantastic essay. Thank you for sharing that.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Theistscientist,

    Are you saying that there is no reasonable warrant for belief in Jesus Christ being the Son of God?

    As far as I can tell, there is not. No reliable historical record (see the essay on swallowing the camel, if memory serves correctly).

    Why is it that an intelligent designer/God analog cannot use “process” to bring about his design-e.g. “arched evolution”

    That’s the problem with the god hypothesis though; it has no definition to it. God can literally be anything and do anything according to most of these views, and lacks any ability to be falisified as a result. No predictions can be made using the God hypothesis, and no testing can be done. At best it’s a way of saying science hasn’t figured that part out yet.

    3.In forward-backward analysis, if you met God, would you really expect that God could be measured on a Gas Chromatograph?

    I suppose that would depend on what a god is made of ;)

    If God really was the first cause who created first matter and then caused that matter to create more matter and organize itself by using the very physical laws we now study, would one really expect that such a first cause would be sub arrogated to scientific measurement and experimentation?

    It’s possible, but it’s a question similiar to “how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” It just gets back to there being no definition for what god could be/ is understood to be; It’s just an abstract idea. Not that there’s anything wrong with ideas on their own, but there’s no rational reason to accept that as any kind of answer for anything. When an idea needs to be accepted on faith, there’s normally a good reason for that.

    If there really is absolutely no evidence then there should be only strong atheists and no weak atheists.

    See Asch conformity experiments; Some people just don’t like the social confrontation it causes. Others are not familiar with evidence or the scientific method. Sure, they are aware of such things, but don’t really understand them. There are also those people who just want to believe things: Tarot cards, astrology, magic, whatever works. There are a lot of factors at play.

    Now I am not making an ad populum argument, but rather suggesting that if what most of you are saying is really true and incontrovertible and non justiciable, then there should be few if any of such Christian intellectuals.

    There are plenty of people who are, for the most part, rational, intelligent people who just happen to have one or two little superstitions. There’s nothing about believing in a god of whatever nature that makes someone stupid, but their works of value do not include that belief in the sense that any published science paper that made reference to “and then god intervened” would be laughed out by the scientific community. Surely, if you’re going to the doctor you don’t want to be treated through prayer or white magic rituals; you want treatment that has evidence that it works. I can’t think of an area in my life I’d rather have people working under good faith rather than the best available evidence.

    Also, if there was absolutley no evidence, then surely a careful study of the debate transcripts of William Lane Craig(online at his website) would clearly show that forensically, the Christian position was not defensible. Yet, Craig has won every debate except one.And that one is generally considered a draw.

    I just browsed a debate on that site, and I would hardly say he won it. I didn’t see the other debater saying that he understood his point of view and agreed with it. But of course, being able to argue well and being right are two entirely different things. I didn’t see him presenting any kind of factual evidence in favor of god, just a lot of “why do we have something instead of nothing? You don’t know so I must be right”. I would hardly call that winning.

    And referring to the formal debate archive at IIDB over the last seven years, why then do many debates end with forfeiture by the non theist side? This should never happen if there is no reasonable warrant for Christian belief. Even poor debaters should prevail over any theist if the Christian position is indefensible.

    I never saw those forums, but it gets frustrating having the same arugments tossed your way time and again by people who absolutely refuse to be open to the possiblity of changing their ideas. It’s hard to try and use evidence to convince someone of a point when their acceptance of that point is in no way reliant on evidence. Of course, who “wins” a debate is a bit of a questionable point; depends on who’s reading it. Even then, again, being good at arguing doesn’t change how right the ideas are.

    If what all of you say is true, there should be no debates, it should be atheists win Q.E.D. Such is not the current forensic reality.

    When it comes to debates it normally involves two sides raising arguments and presenting evidence. Every argument I’ve seen never involves the theist raising their evidence, but merely trying to say the other argument isn’t perfect and complete, so by some kind of werid default, the theist thinks they win. Even if all scientific data was suddenly disproven tomorrow, it still would not make theism any more or less correct; if you want your point to be correct you need to provide reliable evidence.

  • Randall

    “Yes, there is no evidence. As for what kind of evidence I’m denying, I’m denying incontrovertible conclusive proof.”

    You are asking for something that doesn’t exist. You cannot prove or disprove God’s existence either way.

    “Inconclusive bits of evidence or evidence that has been disproven is all over the place, is that what you mean when you say “evidence”?”

    Disproven? Really?

  • theistscientist

    thank you brother randall, and Tu Qou Que: I demand of non theists that they show me “incontrovertible conclusive proof” of 1.unaided, spontaneous abiogenesis 2. incontrovertible conclusive proof of uninterrupted transitional fossils from chordates to hominids 3.incontrovertible conclusive proof of unaided, solely naturalistic first creation of first matter and first energy . 4. incontrovertible conclusive proof that Jesus Christ was not crucified, and didnt arise from the dead, and didnt appear in spiritual form to his followers. Tu Qou Que.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Randall,

    You are asking for something that doesn’t exist. You cannot prove or disprove God’s existence either way.

    Same way you can’t disprove russell’s teapot, but perhaps you could enlighten me as to why we should not be able to prove god’s existance?

    Disproven? Really?

    But of course, they can’t be proof of god’s existance either, right? So if as you claim we cannot prove or disprove god’s existance, why even bother looking to miracles as proof? Sounds like selective reasoning.

  • Randall

    I don’t look to miracles as proof. I look to them as evidence. Evidence and proof are not synonymous.

    Why should we not be able to prove God’s existence? Well, first of all, would you be willing to give me your definition of “God”?

  • Mrnaglfar

    Randall,

    I don’t look to miracles as proof. I look to them as evidence. Evidence and proof are not synonymous.

    I actually think they are. What makes you say they are not?

    Why should we not be able to prove God’s existence? Well, first of all, would you be willing to give me your definition of “God”?

    I don’t have a definition of god, and I haven’t heard anyone give me any accepted ones either. Hard to grow close to and believe in something you don’t even know what it is in my mind.

  • Randall

    Let me answer your first question later, as I am pressed for time.

    Hm. Working off the basic assumption that God is a being of spirit – how would we be able to prove his existence? We cannot measure spirit or test it or verify, empirically, any of the claims that anyone can make about God. And we cannot disprove God for the same reasons that we cannot disprove the FSM or anything else of the sort. I am using “proof” here to connote “scientific proof.” If you accept miracles as proof, different story. But I’ll try to get back to that later.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Randall,

    Working off the basic assumption that God is a being of spirit

    What is spirit, and why do you assume god is made of it?

    We cannot measure spirit or test it or verify, empirically, any of the claims that anyone can make about God

    We can’t measure it because we don’t know what it is, if it is in fact anything at all.

    If it can’t be measured, if we don’t know what it is, and if we don’t know it exists, how can anyone start basing claims on it? How does one even talk about such things?

  • OMGF

    I demand of non theists that they show me “incontrovertible conclusive proof” of 1.unaided, spontaneous abiogenesis 2. incontrovertible conclusive proof of uninterrupted transitional fossils from chordates to hominids 3.incontrovertible conclusive proof of unaided, solely naturalistic first creation of first matter and first energy . 4. incontrovertible conclusive proof that Jesus Christ was not crucified, and didnt arise from the dead, and didnt appear in spiritual form to his followers.

    This makes no sense. If one can not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that all of the gaps in scientific knowledge are filled, then goddidit? If we can’t prove Jesus didn’t rise up from the dead, then he did? You can’t prove that Mohammed wasn’t sent from Allah, so I guess that’s true too. And, you can’t prove that the FSM didn’t create the universe, so I guess you should believe in that too.

    The problem you have here is that you are forgetting the burden of proof. You are asserting that god exists, so it is up to you to provide supporting evidence. Ditto for Jesus and his resurrection. You do understand this, right?

    Also, your claims of friends who are evangelical and scientists don’t mean that belief in Jesus is rational nor that there is evidence for god/Jesus/Xianity. That would be like me saying that since Einstein did not believe in god, it’s evidence that there is no god.

  • Goyo

    Theistscientist: You are demanding proof from us? Of what? OMGF is right, You need to provide the proof that god exists. So far, there is none.
    And you refuse to answer the question, why do no religious writings from the supposed creator of the universe contain any science? Nothing of the help that we as his created beings needed for the first 100,000 years, with disease, medicine, etc.

  • theistscientist

    Burden of Proof. No one has any burden whatsoever. Belief in a spiritual God is personal and subjective. In law, the moving party has the burden. In dissertation defense the candidate has the burden. In a formal forensic debate involving proof of facts the affirmative has the burden. In peer review challenging a standing majoritarian view the challenger has the burden. None of those apply here,

  • OMGF

    theistscientist,
    The burden of proof is determined by who makes the positive claim. You are making a positive claim, therefore it is up to you to convince us atheists that your god exists. Your belief certainly is personal and subjective, and if you wish to contend that god only exists in your mind, then have fun with that. That’s not what you are claiming is it? No. You’re claiming that god exists as an objective reality. If you wish anyone else to believe this claim, you should provide evidence of your claim. Otherwise, I, and others, am totally rational in rejecting your claim and living my life as if no god exists.

  • ex machina

    I demand of non theists that they show me “incontrovertible conclusive proof” of 1.unaided, spontaneous abiogenesis 2. incontrovertible conclusive proof of uninterrupted transitional fossils from chordates to hominids 3.incontrovertible conclusive proof of unaided, solely naturalistic first creation of first matter and first energy .

    Why does a lack of any of these presuppose your God as a cause? Why not choose one of the other millions of possibilites one could imagine. This is a textbook example of “the God of the Gaps.” I can’t believe you are intellectually satisfied by it.

    4. incontrovertible conclusive proof that Jesus Christ was not crucified, and didnt arise from the dead, and didnt appear in spiritual form to his followers.

    Prove that I was not crucified, and didnt arise from the dead, and didnt appear in spiritual form to his followers. Can’t? Very well. I am your new God. My first command is to stop all this religious nonsense.

    Randall,

    You are asking for something that doesn’t exist. You cannot prove or disprove God’s existence either way.

    If this is true, in what way is it an argument for belief?

    Disproven? Really?

    Umm . . yes. Really. Or at least unfalsifiable hypothesis that need no disproving.

  • Randall

    “The burden of proof is determined by who makes the positive claim.”

    I don’t believe that’s necessarily true – at least, not in some systems of formal debate. But I don’t think it’s important, since this is a discussion forum and not a debate forum. I’m not trying to convert anyone; Ebonmuse said that most atheists do not attempt to press their atheism on others. Proof (scientific) of God is impossible; evidence of God is easy to produce. But you cannot ask for scientific proof of something that cannot be scientifically verified.

    As for spirit – so far, it is only the name I give to “the substance God is made of.” God is obviously not made of matter (or, if He is, it is not matter that is present in our universe or that we have a manner of detecting yet) – so I assume that he is something else, and that we need a different name for what that something is.

  • Randall

    Sorry for the double post. I missed some points in my previous one.

    “If this is true, in what way is it an argument for belief?”

    It isn’t. It is a request to stop asking for believers to provide something which cannot exist – empirical proof of God’s existence. If you say that “I will not accept the existence of anything without this proof” – then I’d think we are at an impasse, at least temporarily. But no one has said that yet.

    “Umm . . yes. Really. Or at least unfalsifiable hypothesis that need no disproving.”

    What is the unfalsifiable hypothesis? Has all the evidence for God’s existence that is based on individual interaction with God been disproven? Or the evidence for Jesus’ existence? Or eyewitness accounts of miracles?

    “Prove that I was not crucified, and didnt arise from the dead, and didnt appear in spiritual form to his followers.”

    Are you claiming that you have done all these things?

  • ex machina

    It isn’t. It is a request to stop asking for believers to provide something which cannot exist – empirical proof of God’s existence.

    Why can’t this exist? It makes sense that a God with as much power as most descriptions attribute to Him, that providing proof would be a fairly simple matter. If proof can’t exist, then how can you know anything about it at all? What the difference between that and it’s nonexistence?

    What is the unfalsifiable hypothesis?

    There is no single Unfalsifiable hypothesis. Look up the term in Wikipedia for more information.

    Has all the evidence for God’s existence that is based on individual interaction with God been disproven? Or the evidence for Jesus’ existence? Or eyewitness accounts of miracles?

    Yes. . . . do I win?

    “Prove that I was not crucified, and didnt arise from the dead, and didnt appear in spiritual form to his followers.”

    Are you claiming that you have done all these things?

    No, but the idea that you’d have to place the burden of proof on yourself in that case to be consistent still points out the shortcomings of your argument.

  • Will E.

    I demand of non theists that they show me “incontrovertible conclusive proof” of 1.unaided, spontaneous abiogenesis 2. incontrovertible conclusive proof of uninterrupted transitional fossils from chordates to hominids 3.incontrovertible conclusive proof of unaided, solely naturalistic first creation of first matter and first energy . 4. incontrovertible conclusive proof that Jesus Christ was not crucified, and didnt arise from the dead, and didnt appear in spiritual form to his followers. Tu Qou Que.

    Color me unimpressed. Boilerplate creationism obscured by some scientific language and a Latin phrase (and it’s “tu quoque” not “Tu Qou Que”).

  • theistscientist

    and color my boilerplate questions unanswered. and no it is Tu Quo Que, when spelled as it is in the Latin vulgate.Vulgatic lexicon and grammar would be closest to what Romans in first century palestine would use.Color me unanswered.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Your “boilerplate” questions need not be answered, theistscientist, because they have the burden of proof backwards. It’s not up to us to disprove whatever notion of God you or anyone else comes up with; the burden of proof is on the believer to show why their particular notion of God is credible.

  • theistscientist

    thankyou Mr ebon, (by the way, I admire how you have set and run this incredible blog, leadership shows-If you were running IIDB I probably would still be over there) anyway, BoP analysis is slippery.In Law Bop is on the emoving party. In peer review, it is on the party aeguing against the majority view, in most professions it is on the side which is contrarian to(generally accepted professional accounting/medical/aeronautical/military standards. REligious conviction is really a very personal and subjective thing. Right up there with whether blonds, are better than brunettes! As I am an old operations research man, let me throw this atcha. Bop is on atheists. We(Christians) run much of the world,atheists in the West have no general or flag officers, no senators, no commitee chairmen, no Divison 1 coaches, no major University Presidents, no Carrier Battle groups, no Supreme Court justices,only two endowed chairs(that i can find in the entire country)etc. Under aspirational choice matrix comparison victory conditions the BoP is on the losing side.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about. In science, in logic, in philosophy, in law, the person who makes the positive assertion has the burden of proof to support it. “God exists” is the positive assertion. To claim that you evade the burden of proof because you can count more believers is just piling fallacy on top of fallacy.

  • theistscientist

    thankyou for your thought provoking and polite responses. I think I understand logical fallacies. Maybe I need to alter the hypo a bit. Let’s try this. Which side has the burden of proving that Christianity has been more of a negative than a postive in the relative success of the West(i.e. Western democracies)and what are the victory condtions for the debate? hypo2. affirmed: The Western Christian nations are not more compassionate towards the sick,the poor, orphans etc (due to the influence of Christianity)than non Christian nations? hypo3, the ostensibly intelligently designed “code” in the DNA “code” was not intelligently designed but rather randomly evolved? and what are the victory conditions for this debate?

  • James B

    theistscientist,

    May I use your logic for a moment? When someone asserts that the only true god(s) is/are: Thor, Zeus, Allah, Ra or some others, do you accept the burden of proof as a non-believer in these gods? If not why not?

    Or do you believe that truth is determined by the votes of a sufficient number of authority figures?

    Bop is on atheists. We(Christians) run much of the world,atheists in the West have no general or flag officers, no senators…

    I may be reading this wrongly, but this seems to translate as: “We own the world, what we say is therefore true. Get used to it.”

    If this were Slashdot now’s about the time I’d be saying, “I for one welcome our new theistic overlords!” ;)

    Under aspirational choice matrix comparison victory conditions the BoP is on the losing side.

    Nice bit of sophistry there.

    Each time you change the subject I begin to wonder if you’re trying to convince us of your position or simply waste our time…

  • Randall

    Perhaps I don’t understand. Why is “God exists” required to be the positive assertion in this case? Isn’t that only true if you accept “God doesn’t exist” as the status quo?

  • RiddleOfSteel

    James B wrote of theistscientist:
    Each time you change the subject I begin to wonder if you’re trying to convince us of your position or simply waste our time…

    Yes, I think if theistscientist is claiming there is a god, he should step up already and give us the specs and his supporting evidence so we can evaluate. What is the god, what are it’s properties, has it interfered in this world, and what are the evidences. If this was already done in another post maybe someone could direct me to it.

  • theistscientist

    whoa there brother James,calm down, take a deep breath, you are starting to get a little IIDB’ish. I really dont think I have changed the subject and as to wasting your time, well, I dont know how valuable your time is. If you just want the same ‘ole same ‘ole then I suppose we should all cease discussing and say there is nothing new/we are at equipoise [again],there is no rational warrant for beleieving in God(therefore you are debating with a superstitious idiot-in which case YOU are wasting your own time,etc

    Actually, I follow Alvin Plantinga’s school of thought when it comes to evaluation of competing religious revelations. I take them all seriously and study them and try to understand their adherents deeply. Thor,Zeus (have no chosen people,no treatise which has linked with real time/place/human history.etc) Same for RA. And by the way, James, James B. isnt over on the ‘atheist’ Thor, Zeus, Ra , blog arguing against these ‘gods’ either. I would kindly suggest that even James B. takes the jehovah God of the Bible a lot more seriously than Thor, zeus, or Ra-or, is that a bit of inverse selectivity bias on your part?

    And as to BoP. I am just suggesting a few arguments outside the box. I suppose if you want to follow roberts rules of order,we could just say BoP on theists,BoP according to atheists is unmet, end of discussion. Is that what you want?

    With all due respect Mr. Ebon is incorrect with BoP in law. In law it is with the moving party NOT the one making the positive assertion (seriously, it is the moving party, ask an attorney). In peer review it is NOT with positive assertion but rather whether one is challenging the majority view in the field. etc. I am not trying to be anal here, just pointing out that BoP is a bit slippery and it isnt as pro forma as some seem to make it out to be. And besides, all one has to do is switch the hypo around a little or change the wording of a question and then, for all practical purposes, the burden “shifts” to the other side to answer the question.

    And as to “runnning the world”…yes, I know the causation/cause and effect contra arguments with that assertion, but those arguments work both ways. I personally beleive the judeo-Christian West has been superior in large part BECAUSE of Christianity. I am a theist after all, a Christian theist. There would be no need for this blog if we agreed on this subject.

    I didnt mean to start a sidebar here, however, 20 leading peer reviewed historians credit the influence of Christianity as being a positive rather than a negative factor in the development of Western Civilization, when relatively compared with Islam,Buudhism, Hinduism,etc.

    High on the list is the way we treat our women.Feminists here , who have never travelled “there” will have no real clue but if one studies this in depth one will learn that Christianity positively correlates with major improvements in the life chances of women. Christianity strongly encouraged reading so that men and women could read the Bible(especially in the protestant Christian West). Encouraged the nuclear family, legal rights for women to own property and participate in the professions, amelioration of conditions for child labor laws, reform of hospitals, orphanges, asylums, etc. Women who could read and were educated could teach their children better and they did. Christianity positively correlates with free universal public education, a concerted societal effort to improve the lives of the poor,better prenatal and childhood nutrition,more democratic government, and according to leading historians a few dozen more positive correlates.

    Been to Islamic countries and seen how women and the poor are treated there? seen the quality of democracy there? How about historically in the East and Far East? oriental despotism, eastern and far eastern autocratic/patriarchal culture, and comparative cross-cultural studies show that Christianity is a positive correlate.

  • goyo

    Theistscientist: I would argue that all of these advances were done “in spite of” the teachings of the bible, which are clearly as mysogenistic and chauvinistic as the other religious writings.

  • James B

    theistscientist:

    whoa there brother James,calm down, take a deep breath, you are starting to get a little IIDB’ish

    I did not mean to offend you or cause you to reference the IIDB again, I was merely getting frustrated at your refusal to answer my questions and instead divert into irrelevant other topics…

    I would kindly suggest that even James B. takes the jehovah God of the Bible a lot more seriously than Thor, zeus, or Ra-or, is that a bit of inverse selectivity bias on your part?

    Again you dodge my question! I feel like I’m trying to interview a politician!

    To answer yours, I think they’re equally unlikely. I address Christian questions in this case because you’re a Christian.

    James B wrote:
    [If] someone asserts that the only true god(s) is/are: Thor, Zeus, Allah, Ra or some others, do you accept the burden of proof as a non-believer in these gods? If not why not?

    I would appreciate it a lot if you would consider the questions above. I intend this as a thought experiment, so whether or not people do make such assertions (or whether Christianity contributed to Western civilisation or whether abortion is wrong or whether Jesus had a great haircut) is neither here nor there.

  • ex machina

    Perhaps I don’t understand. Why is “God exists” required to be the positive assertion in this case? Isn’t that only true if you accept “God doesn’t exist” as the status quo?

    No. Positive assertion does not refer to any kind of status quo or majority view on the subject, but to the fact that it asserts that something is positively true. For example: “I have a banana,” is a positive assertion. “No you don’t have a banana,” is a negative one.
    It seems unimportant in the case of the banana, but placing the burden of proof anywhere but on the positive assertion produces ridiculous situations. Anyone could claim anything they like and one would have to consider it true, because they could not disprove it.

    I tried to demonstrate this before when I asked you to disprove I had not risen from the dead. If the burden of proof is on the negative assertion (that I haven’t) then you must believe that I, too, have been resurrected, because you cannot conclusively prove it did not happen. This is the dilemma placing the burden of proof on the negative assertion creates.

  • James B

    Hi Randall,

    Perhaps I don’t understand. Why is “God exists” required to be the positive assertion in this case? Isn’t that only true if you accept “God doesn’t exist” as the status quo?

    It would seem to me to be the default position. Nobody needs to tell you anything for you to come to the conclusion that there are no gods. Until we’re told about gods we don’t know anything about them.

    Arguably you could independently come to a conclusion that there is some kind of intelligence controlling things. Perhaps a person could reach this general conclusion in the same way that they might assume that there’s nothing out there.

    But specific gods or religious claims are an entirely different matter.

    Imagine a person brought up in isolation without any mention of religious ideas. They wouldn’t wake up one day and think, “Hey Jesus died on a cross to save me” or “Mo’ flew to heaven on a winged chariot”. If lots of people in this (admittedly hypothetical) situation independently came up with the same religious story without being told it, then it would start to look convincing.

    Plus you could (at least in theory) prove that a god exists. If this god was all-powerful, then it seems they’d be able to prove it to us. Whereas it really is impossible to prove that any god exists – the believer can always say, “She’s just hiding.” or “You’re not looking in the right way”… etc.

    In practical terms I think it’s about whether or not you’d like to convince people that your god exists.

  • ex machina

    With all due respect Mr. Ebon is incorrect with BoP in law. In law it is with the moving party NOT the one making the positive assertion (seriously, it is the moving party, ask an attorney)

    I wanted to point out that you keep saying “moving party” as if it means anything but the plaintiff or the prosecution . . . who are the ones making positive assertions, and the ones with whom burden of proof lies. Ask an attorney.

  • theistscientist

    ex machina, it may be a sidebar point, but you are quite incorrect, with all due respect. “moving partY” is not limited to plaintiff or prosecution, it can also be the defendant, an intervenor, a third party litigant, a witness, it is any one asking the court to take some action. And the moving party request does not have to be a positive assertion. It may well take the form of a negative assertion,a motion to limit discovery, to decrease or increase time, a counterclaim, motion to recuse, motion in limine, motion in opposition to a motion, motion to dismiss, motion to rehear, motion to add to or to redact, motion for superseadeas, to deny supersedaeus,etc.

    Moreover, Burden of Proof in law shifts like the wind, in criminal court BoP is on the prosecutor, except when the defendant makes a motion involving an affirmative defense, then the BoP shifts to the defendant, then it shifts when making first argument, then shifts to party making rebuttal then shifts again to party making sur-rebuttal,then again in sur sur-rebuttal,and so on. Ex machina, kindly actually consult a board certified trial lawyer before embarrasing yourself.

    James B. Not so fast my brother. For many centuries, primitive, pre literate hominids have been looking around at the complex,beautifal/terrifying/welcoming/hostile world and have almost universally (about 95%) concluded that there is a god or gods responsible for or in control of the natural and biological world around them. This was even before we had the Bible, the eyewitness accounts of Jesus and his miracles, before we had Israel, and before we had prophesies concerning the diaspora, and the return, and Jerusalem, and its loss and regain,etc etc.

    Again, what are the victory conditions? ( Game Theory ) and who decides. William Lane Craig, Campus Crusade for Christ, Josh McDowell, Perry Stone, Ravias, Strobel, Glenn Miller, Plantinga, and many other apologists , present the evidence of the Christian faith regularly and receive letters from hundreds of thousands of people who say that based on the evidence they have come to believe in Jesus Christ.

    fwiw, for me personally, reading every single transcript of William Lane Craigs debates and reading “Reason for the Hope Within” by Murray et.al,intellectually convinced me personally that God exists and Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    As far as I can tell, theistscientist, all your statements amount to is that we should believe in God because other people do. Your statements about the burden of proof imply that we have to outright prove differently before we can disagree with the majority.

    I’d certainly disagree with that in science. Although the majority position around the turn of the 20th century was that light waves propagated in some sort of ether, Einstein wasn’t irrational to disagree with that assertion even though he couldn’t disprove it in 1905. It was a positive statement. There was very little direct evidence for the existence of the substance in the first place. Discarding it was bold, but it wasn’t irrational, and it never required any sort of proof of the nonexistence of the substance. All it required was strong evidence that the substance, if it existed, was almost certainly undetectable.

    God, if he or she exists, appears to be currently undetectable. We’ve got centuries of a lack of evidence — of diminishing evidence, even. What more do you need?

  • theistscientist

    Lynet, I can list hundreds of evidentiary glass half full/half empty arguments concerning evidence for the Christian faith. Why do you think William Lane Craig, Plantinga,Murray, Stone,resolve most(not necessarily all) of those with a conclusion that the glasses are half full whereas strong atheists say all of the glasses are completely empty? For example Israel: destruction of the temple, diaspora,ottomans,balfour,holocaust/churchill/Roosevelt-Truman/exodus-48,67,73,temple mount, jerusalem, I know you know the drill here, I am certain you will say all of these glasses are completely empty, why?

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Actually, I’m not precisely sure what each of those points refers to. If, however, you are making arguments based on biblical prophecy, then I’d say the glass is pretty near empty on the following grounds:

    (1) There are Biblical prophecies which have apparently not been fulfilled. Explaning why the olivet discourse does not imply that the destruction of the temple will herald the end of the world — and that “this generation shall not pass until all these things be done” — requires some serious wishful thinking and unlikely loopholes. Nobody reading that text in, say, 45AD (assuming it was written before then) would have read it as saying anything other than that the destruction of the world would be within that generation. If you have to change the apparent meaning of the text before it turns out not to be false, then taking a prophecy from it and saying that it has been fulfilled is a dodgy process.

    (2) I find it hard to believe that the Bible says anything specific and obvious about the second world war. If that’s so, then the stuff you (appear to?) claim applies to the second world war must be vague and open to interpretation after the fact. Prophecies that are vague and open to interpretation after the fact are not half-full/half-empty situations. They really are empty.

    Please excuse me if you were referring to something else entirely.

  • theistscientist

    Lynet,to save time I kindly direct you to the website 100prophecies.org and particulary to the ones fulfilled in 1948. To get the discussion started.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    For many centuries, primitive, pre literate hominids have been looking around at the complex,beautifal/terrifying/welcoming/hostile world and have almost universally (about 95%) concluded that there is a god or gods responsible for or in control of the natural and biological world around them.

    I strongly urge you to read this post which describes an experiment that just might suggest why this might be the case.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Although this thread is now drifting off topic, here’s an essay on Ebon Musings which demonstrates that all the end-times prophecies of the Bible were intended to come true 2,000 years ago. They have failed to do so.

  • theistscientist

    thank you lynet,excellent comments, and nes, I learned a lot from the studies you cited, they seem to be methodologically sound. And Mr. Ebon, as best as I can tell, you do a first rate job in your article of stating the preterist position that some Christians actually adopt. One quick problem I might point out is that eschatological scripture requires a “Battle of Magog” in which a powerful force from the North invades Israel, and God miraculously intervenes on behalf of Israel and it takes seven years just to bury all the enemy dead. I see no ancient battle that fits this description. Also eschatological scripture requires an endtime battle of Armageddon,which will be fought, most theologians believe , on the plain Of Megiddo, and in which armies from all over the world, including the Kings of the East, will come against Israel and will be miraculosuly defeated by El Shaddai God, the Jehovah God Lord of Battles. I can see no historical analog for such a battle, although Israel/jerusalem has been surrounded by foreign armies many times(nothing on the scale of armageddon has happened yet).Also, although there have been historical prefigurations of the Anti-christ and the false prophet( titus, antiochus,assorted Roman generals,Nero,popes,sultans, mahdi,Islamic conquerors, ottomans, Hitler, Hillary Clinton(just kidding) )etc. none of these have done all the things eschat. scripture says they will do in the tribulation.

    Interstingly, there have been many mark of the beast historical prefigurations, tatoos on Roman soldiers, and on subjects in occupied Roman lands, the Star of David and concentration camp tatoos, blood type tatoos and blood chits,on SS commandos,etc,and today, possibly subdermal computer chips in the hand or forehead, however none of these completely match up with all the requirements in revelations concerning the great tribulation. Since this is a long post and it is starting to delve into a particularly complicated area of eschatological exegesis, I will stop here, allow others to comment and then continue…. I hope many will stay in this discussion, we could all learn a lot from each other.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Oh. Thank you for the specificity. Here is a quick link to the relevant page for everyone else. I can now tell you that:

    1,2,3 and 4 were fulfilled in large part by people who believed in that prophecy, because there was such a prophecy. Hardly evidence.

    Regarding 5, it’s neither certain that those verses imply that they second Israel will be more impressive than the first, nor certain that Israel is more impressive, given that impressiveness is an idea that is open to interpretation and that we don’t actually have the previous Israel around to check. In other words, both the interpretation and the fulfilment of that interpretation are suspect. To the extent that it’s another statement that Israel will be re-formed, see my response to 1,2,3 and 4.

    6 is based on what appear to be fairly dodgy calculations. After all, the initial punishment, by this interpretation, wasn’t 430 years, was it? It was 70ish. And I’d love to see how he picked which lunar calendar to use.

    7 — See 1,2,3 and 4.

    8 — You seriously think we can tell if God is watching over a country? Mind you, some would say that America is watching over Israel these days.

    9 — Those verses almost certainly refer to the old Israel, don’t they? I agree that they could be said to carry over to the new Israel, but the new Israel does not obey all the commands in Leviticus, so the ‘prophecy’ doesn’t apply. If Israel were faring badly, no doubt we could put it down to verses suggesting punishment because Israel does not obey the old laws.

    10 — An awful lot of modern countries can be said to be more prosperous than their ancient versions, and we’re pretty well all more numerous! Insofar as this is a prediction that Israel will be re-formed, see my response to 1,2,3 and 4.

  • ex machina

    Moreover, Burden of Proof in law shifts like the wind, in criminal court BoP is on the prosecutor, except when the defendant makes a motion involving an affirmative defense,

    Are you even listening to the words you are saying? You’ve just proved my point. The burden of proof has to do with positive or affirmative positions . . not the negative. How can you understand it here and fail to do so in your Theological discussions? The level of intellectual fragmentation that must be required to keep this up is frightening.

    Anyway, my interpretation still stands, as in any debate, of course the burden of proof shifts, but in the end lies on the party making the positive assertion, which is in law the plaintiff or prosecution (save rare circumstances).

  • theistscientist

    brother ex machina, if it will make you happy, and kindly avoid derailing this otherwise excellent thread which is just now getting really really interesting, I will concede to you as to the burden of proof(but will do a Galilleo in my mind’neverthelss it does move ‘). {I have spent 25 years teaching the socratic method to law students} and other graduate students. (save ‘rare’ circumsatances?)

    now where were we?

  • James B

    now where were we?

    Bored and frustrated, mate.

  • theistscientist

    boredom means you have nothing left to learn(you have perfect knowledge) frustration in a debate is best obviated by decisively winning it.

  • ex machina

    brother ex machina, if it will make you happy, and kindly avoid derailing this otherwise excellent thread which is just now getting really really interesting,

    I’ll decide the content of my own posts, thanks.

    I will concede to you as to the burden of proof(but will do a Galilleo in my mind’neverthelss it does move ‘).

    So you’re just going to say you’re conceding it to shut me up? That’s hardly a concession. I wouldn’t hang on to this so tightly but it’s one of the only things you’ve really said anything solid about. Nevertheless it does move, indeed. . . . based on who’s making positive assertions. We talked about that.

    {I have spent 25 years teaching the socratic method to law students} and other graduate students. (save ‘rare’ circumsatances?)

    That’s great, you should practice that kind of systematic thought here. Yes, rare circumstances, I don’t know how else to say it. I’m not as familiar with law terminology as you, that’s clear. But the fact that you’re willing to equivocate in the matter to make it appear as though I’m not right about my central point (burden of proof, where it lies, and why) is very frustrating. By the way, now that you’ve conceded it, are you willing to go over those posts in which you maintained that the burden of proof was on the negative assertion in the case of God’s existence? You’ve made it clear you are not with that little “where were we?” – as if the discourse on which you have been basing your argument hadn’t been damaged.

    This type of behavior, above all things, is my chief irritation with apologists. What kind of intellectual satisfaction can be gained by such tactics?

    Your argument is no longer intact. You’re going to have to go back and repair it somehow to gain any further meaningful discussion.

  • DamienSansBlog

    Ex Machina is quite right, TheistScientist. You can’t just go on and on about “burden of proof” as the whole basis for whatever argument it is you’re making, and then dismiss “burden of proof” and veer off into “fulfillment of prophecy”.

    Not that you’re the only one to blame for this. A couple of us Daylight veterans played along.

  • theistscientist

    100prophecies.org the 10 fulfilled in 1948 fairly solid, fairly specific name,place,result. I say the glass is 3/4 full,advantage theists here.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    I have responded to that twice, theistscientist, but regrettably my posts are being eaten. I suspect this will be eaten as well, but if it posts, I’ll try reposting.

  • OMGF

    One quick problem I might point out is that eschatological scripture requires a “Battle of Magog” in which a powerful force from the North invades Israel, and God miraculously intervenes on behalf of Israel and it takes seven years just to bury all the enemy dead. I see no ancient battle that fits this description.

    So, instead of thinking that maybe the Bible is wrong, you plow ahead with the idea that the Bible is right and the interpretation must be wrong?

    Beyond prophecy, which has inherent problems, do you have a piece of evidence to present to us for god’s existence?

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Hey! It worked! Okay, I’m having to re-type this; should have saved it. Sorry. Also many apologies to Ebonmuse for clogging your system with multiple copies of this (butbutbut I’m in an argument here and (s)he thinks (s)he’s reasonable and I have to get my reply in, sorry, sorry :-); feel free to delete the previous two versions.

    The link is at 100prophecies.org/page3.htm for those who want to follow along with me. I’m not putting in a proper link in case there’s a spam filter that stops it, and that’s what went wrong in my earlier posts.

    1,2,3 4 and 7 refer to the same prophecy, which was fulfilled in large part because the prophecy existed, by people who believed in it. That’s not evidence.

    5 is a questionable interpretation of that piece of scripture. There isn’t necessarily an implication of increased impressiveness, and the implication, to the extent that it does exist, might merely be that the prophet believes that the return to Israel would be still a more impressive demonstration of God’s existence (it isn’t because of the reason given above). The flexibility in the definition of ‘more impressive’ makes fulfilment also difficult to define exactly. To the extent that this is another prophecy of the formation of Israel, see the reason given above.

    6 is some pretty questionable calculation. If nothing else, the original punishment period, by that reasoning, would have to have been approximately 70 years, not 430. It’s also questionable whether we should be pulling in a verse from a completely different part of the Bible, and questionable whether failure to return counts as lack of repentance. And I’d love to see how it was decided which lunar calendar to use.

    8 — You seriously think we can tell whether God is watching over a particular country? America watches over Israel to some extent. God? Who knows?

    9 — Since the people of Israel are not following all (probably not even most) of the commands in Leviticus, I fail to see how that prophecy applies in the first place.

    10 — An awful lot of countries are more prosperous than they were in ancient times, and nearly every (still extant) race is ‘more numerous’. To the extent that this is a prophecy that the people of Israel will be gathered again, see my answer to 1,2,3,4 and 7.

  • OMGF

    High on the list is the way we treat our women.Feminists here , who have never travelled “there” will have no real clue but if one studies this in depth one will learn that Christianity positively correlates with major improvements in the life chances of women. Christianity strongly encouraged reading so that men and women could read the Bible(especially in the protestant Christian West). Encouraged the nuclear family, legal rights for women to own property and participate in the professions, amelioration of conditions for child labor laws, reform of hospitals, orphanges, asylums, etc. Women who could read and were educated could teach their children better and they did. Christianity positively correlates with free universal public education, a concerted societal effort to improve the lives of the poor,better prenatal and childhood nutrition,more democratic government, and according to leading historians a few dozen more positive correlates.

    Been to Islamic countries and seen how women and the poor are treated there? seen the quality of democracy there? How about historically in the East and Far East? oriental despotism, eastern and far eastern autocratic/patriarchal culture, and comparative cross-cultural studies show that Christianity is a positive correlate.

    Again, correlation does not prove causation. In that you also have to factor in the rise of secularism, the rise of wealth, etc. A huge factor in increasing general education is the rise of wealth, because it allows people to stop focusing on immediate survival and to expend energy on other pursuits.

  • theistscientist

    Lynet, dear Lynet, do you realize the historical import of what you are watching unfold. Now here we have a semitic people in the far east, the jews, who are conquered, slaughtered, enslaved, their temple is torn down so that the only stones left standing are a military wall, even the Roman soldiers put the stones to fire to melt down gold that had melted into the crevices in the burning of the stones. The Romans plough salt into the fields so they wont be capable of being farmed for hundreds of years, and the people are sold into slavery and dispersed throughout and even beyond the boundaries of the known world. Their land is occupied by conquerors and completely taken over by foreigners. This also happened to the assyrians, the jebusites, the malachites, the medianites, and about twelve other cultural groups. Almost two thousand years later, all the other groups have been assimilated by their conquerers and have disappeared, yet the jews have somehow held onto their unique culture, their hebraic language and now they are restored in political and legal sovereignty over their ancient land. They begin to return from all over the world . They fight a desperate defense after being attacked, they are outnumbered in some battles 40 to one, and they have WWII surplus rifles and no air force and they win. Then in 1967 they defeat a combined attacking force armed with modern Russian missles and aircraft and outnumbered 6 to one in infantry and 14 to one in tanks and artillery, and miracle of miracles, they reoccupy their sacred temple mount. Again in ’73, then in operation wings of eagles they begin flying in diaspora jews from Russia, the former eastern bloc (who because of the end of the cold war are now being allowed to make aliyah) and even thousands of Ethiopian jews from a lost tribe in ehtiopia.

    My brothers and sisters, on this one the glass is at least 3/4 full.Q.E.D.

  • lpetrich

    theistscientist, what I’m seeing from you is cherry-picking and selectivity, and you have to learn to move beyond that.

    As to belief in cosmic designers, so what? Most believers in such designers have believed in designers other than the god that you believe in, so you ought to conclude that there is a universal tendency to believe in false religions.

    Also, for nearly all of humanity’s history, it had been universally believed that the Earth is flat. Yes, flat. Check out The Flat-Earth Bible some time for flat-earthism in your favorite book. And flat-earthism does seem like common sense; as the early theologian Lactantius had noted, round-earthism means that what’s on the other side would fall upwards, which he considered a total absurdity.

    And if Xianity is responsible for all these feminist things, then where are all the female priests and pastors and bishops and archbishops and popes and so forth? And why is the Xian God supposed to be male, anyway? Pagan religions often have MUCH more feminist pantheons, with female as well as male deities.

    It must be significant that the most feminist religious groups are some neopagan ones, because their female followers get to worship deities made more closely in their likeness than male deities could ever be.

    But for the most part, feminism has been a secular movement, one outside of most religious groups.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    . . . the jews have somehow held onto their unique culture . . .

    That is unusual, I’ll grant you that. I won’t grant you that the re-creation of Israel is all that startling given that it was achieved by a culture with a strong tradition of prophecy that such a thing would happen, though. And I’m well aware of the extraordinary military success of Israel, although having had it explained to me in terms of desperation and sharp pre-emptive military strategy perhaps makes me less likely to consider it a miracle. Moreover, the prophecies that you say predicted it are either vague enough that the simple continued existence of a Jewish state would be enough or have unfulfilled conditions before they can apply.

    Do you think maybe the Jews had stronger taboos against intermarriage than “the assyrians, the jebusites, the malachites, the medianites, and about twelve other cultural groups”? That would explain the continuation of culture. The fact that Christians cared about who was a Jew or not might also have contributed to their isolation within Christian cultures. If people hate you, you’re less likely to convert or assimilate, and more likely to defiantly hold on to your identity.

    The Jews aren’t the only scattered people who have held on to a shared identity. The Romani would be another example, even if they aren’t so ancient. So it’s not as if you need to be God’s chosen people to do it.

    I’ll give you the Jews continuing to exist as one nontrivial prophecy. Israel’s continued existence probably counts, too. What about the rest? Looking on that site (which no doubt tries to count the hits and ignore the misses), we’ve got lots and lots of ‘Israel’ (the continued existence of the Jewish people counts as one, no matter how many times the Bible says it), one claim that not one stone of the temple was left standing despite the fact that the Wailing Wall was left standing (Shouldn’t that count as minus one or something? Even though it might well have simply been written hyperbolically after the fact?), several that Jesus may or may not have fulfilled depending on whether the story was altered to fit the prophecy (and which ignore large stretches stating directly that the Messiah would be military and would make specific military conquests that are no longer possible), and several bits of ancient history that rely on not having been written after the fact. Then there’s the fascinating prediction that a city of some strategic importance (Tyre) would be razed to the ground a few times, and the claim that Tyre isn’t Tyre unless it’s built by the Phoenecians, thereby making the prediction that Tyre would never be rebuilt into a prediction that (no, really?) eventually the Phoenecian empire would fall.

    There are several Biblical prophecies that are simply wrong by any reasonable interpretation. Isaiah 13:20 basically states that the lands of Babylon will never be inhabited by anyone, Babylonian or not. And you can’t have Ezekiel 29:15 until you explain why Egypt wasn’t deserted for 40 years straight (by animals as well as people, no less) as in Ezekiel 29:11, since the people in that region could write, and have a pretty well continuous recorded history (enough that we know which Pharaoh followed which, for a start). In short, it’s hit and miss. And hit and miss is not half and half! It’s precisely what we expect if the ones that do work were just luck and vagueness and the occasional twisting of words that were not intended to be vague.

    Oh, boy, we’re going so badly off-topic. Apologies to other posters; it’s as much my fault as anyone’s.

  • lpetrich

    The OP talked about doing double-blind controlled experiments. That’s clearly the ideal sort of protocol, but in many cases, one cannot do that, and for such things as human history, one has to look for “natural experiments”, circumstances that approximate experiments in the lab. But it can be VERY difficult to find such natural experiments, because one has to be careful to show that only certain factors have been varying.

    theistscientist has evidently been treating human history as a natural experiment, with the presence or absence of Xianity being the varying factor. But there are numerous difficulties in doing so, which theistscientist has shown little inclination to take into account. There are some other important varying factors, there is a problem with treating Xianity as homogeneous, and there is a problem with treating “the West” as homogeneous.

    I’m reminded of what Richard Feynman had called “Cargo Cult Science”, something that is intended to have the appearance and the authority of science without being good science.

  • theistscientist

    ex machina,ipetrich,OGMF,Lynet, thank you all for your very bright and polite responses, I have been attending to a sick horse and may be so engaged late tonight, with your kind indulgence I would like to continue our excellent discussion, especially on the 1/2 full,1/2 empty analysis of prophecy, tomorrow.

  • Randall

    Again, perhaps I am missing something.

    Why is any of this relevant? Prophecy is a minuscule part of Christianity and virtually irrelevant to the practice of one’s faith. Much of the Bible was never meant to be taken literally, and certainly not out of context. The answer, either way, won’t change our respective views of the Bible. Why are we bothering to debate whether or not certain prophecies came true or not? Is this going to get us anywhere?

    “And why is the Xian God supposed to be male, anyway? Pagan religions often have MUCH more feminist pantheons, with female as well as male deities.”

    God isn’t supposed to be male – at least, not by Christianity. We use the masculine primarily because the ancient Israelites were a chauvinistic society, and presumably because Jesus is male. Catholicism does not claim that God has any gender at all, nor do I think that most mainstream Christian denominations do so.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Randall,

    Why are we bothering to debate whether or not certain prophecies came true or not? Is this going to get us anywhere?

    Yep, because the burden of proof (perhaps that should be ‘burden of showing some actual evidence’) is on the positive assertion, since there are all manner of positive assertions that are almost certainly not true (such as Russell’s teapot) for which there is no evidence either way, it being difficult to prove a negative. If the Bible can be shown to have some vague (albeit not perfect) tendency to make correct predictions, then we go from ‘zero’ evidence for God to ‘a teensy bit that might explain how it is that some people could view the notion as justified’. There are theists who don’t try to base everything on faith, and every so often you come across one of those rare smart ones who understands evolution perfectly well and is quite capable of seeing that the Bible is contradictory in places and not exactly seamless, and you wonder what on Earth they’re basing their beliefs on. It’s nice to get some answers.

    Heck, if the Bible had made consistently fulfilled predictions of a specific, testable nature, do you think I wouldn’t care? Sure, there’s a whole body of other awkward problems (I might end up stuck believing in a God who isn’t good by any definition I would recognise, sticks highly accurate prophecies into a deeply flawed book, and has an unexplained tendency to hide behind natural laws), but it would still be impressive.

  • lpetrich

    Randall: Prophecy is a minuscule part of Christianity and virtually irrelevant to the practice of one’s faith

    Me: Tell that to your friendly neighborhood fundies some time. A BIG fundie apologetic shtick is how many prophecies in the Bible have gotten fulfilled.

    Randall: God isn’t supposed to be male – at least, not by Christianity. We use the masculine primarily because the ancient Israelites were a chauvinistic society, and presumably because Jesus is male. Catholicism does not claim that God has any gender at all, nor do I think that most mainstream Christian denominations do so.

    Me: It can’t be that hard to explain that God has neither sex.

  • OMGF

    Randall,

    Prophecy is a minuscule part of Christianity and virtually irrelevant to the practice of one’s faith.

    I too would rather move beyond talking about prophecy, because I find it boring. There are problems with prophecy that are very difficult to overcome and I doubt that anyone here or anywhere can make a compelling case for the Biblical prophecies due to those problems.

    Much of the Bible was never meant to be taken literally, and certainly not out of context.

    I’ll agree with the latter, since that seems like a no-brainer. Of course the authors didn’t want to be taken out of context. As to the former, how do you know that? The invention of taking things non-literally is most likely a consequence of the fact that the we’ve learned that the Bible doesn’t actually describe the real world or what was to happen in the real world accurately. So, instead of critically analyzing the Bible and admitting errors, people simply assumed the Bible is still corect and that interpretations need to be changed. Since the plain words were wrong, then the plain words obviously meant something else. The problem with this, of course, is that it a priori assumes the correctness of the Bible.

    We use the masculine primarily because the ancient Israelites were a chauvinistic society, and presumably because Jesus is male.

    Don’t forget the writings of Paul and Jesus had some chauvinism in him too. Xianity has also been chauvinistic through the ages and I don’t think you can blame it on simple inheritance from the Jews. Further, if we really should treat women as equals, why did god not simply tell them that in the first place? Surely it is moral to do so, so why would god not impart morals on his chosen people. Were not the rules of Leviticus supposed to morally guide their lives? So where are the rules about how to treat women equitably? Falling back on the culture defense doesn’t work here, because their laws are supposedly from a divine source.

  • Randall

    Lynet: since I am not attempting to use prophecy, fulfilled as not, as evidence, perhaps I am simply in the wrong thread. Considering the interpretative nature of prophecy, even prophecy at its best, I agree with OMGF’s latest post, for the most part.

    Lpetrich:

    I have never met a real live fundamentalist. When I do, I will be sure to mention it. For now, I am defending Christianity as I am familiar with it. Christianity as I am familiar with it doesn’t consider prophecy, or anything that doesn’t help us to love God and love others, as irrelevant, at best.

    OMGF:

    “As to the former, how do you know that?”

    Because the Bible isn’t a narrative. Some books of it were written as fiction. Some are historical accounts, some are poetry, some are lists of collected sayings, some contain instructions of building and craftsmanship. It’s impossible to take these literally without grossly misinterpreting their original purpose, and in many cases it’s impossible to take them literally at all. (Deuteronomy 34:22. “Dan is a lion’s whelp that springs forth from Bashan!” Would you argue that we were intended to believe that Dan is a lion’s cub?)

    Being pressed for time, I will leave the second half of your post for now and return to it later. How would you consider Jesus to be chauvinistic?

  • OMGF

    Randall,

    Because the Bible isn’t a narrative. Some books of it were written as fiction. Some are historical accounts, some are poetry, some are lists of collected sayings, some contain instructions of building and craftsmanship.

    Short of having a secret decoder ring, how do you tell which parts are which? How do you tell which parts the author intended to be which? You might very well think that one part is obvious fiction since it doesn’t describe true events or doesn’t describe the real world accurately, but the author might have thought that it did. For instance, the creation story in Genesis might be such an example. We know it didn’t happen as it’s depicted in Genesis. The Earth is much older, things didn’t happen in a day, etc. The authors might have literally believed that though and felt that the literal words written were what happened. It’s no good to go back with the benefit of hindsight and say, “Well, they obviously didn’t intend it to be literal since it’s wrong,” when you can’t honestly say that they didn’t intend it to be literal.

    How would you consider Jesus to be chauvinistic?

    He constantly refers to his “father”, his rules for marriage and divorce are more strict towards females, etc.

  • Randall

    When I said “fictional” I really meant it. The Book of Tobit was written as a story; aside from stylistic and structural clues, that it is generally thought to be written five centuries after the events it includes, and references to folklore heroes, it says in the first line, “This book tells the story of Tobit” and gives a made-up lineage.

    Perhaps you wish to buck the field and go against the majority of Biblical scholars and the dictates of common sense. You could, possibly, interpret this book literally. Let’s look at another book, the Book of Proverbs. It is, as is evident just by looking at it, just that – a collection of wise sayings. Whether or not you take them literally is more or less up to you; they obviously were not meant as historical truth, since they do not detail history; they make obvious use of rhetorical devices, such as personifying Wisdom; in some cases, such as Proverbs 31:1, it is explicitly detailed that the following proverbs are “advice which his mother gave him”…

    Again, perhaps you could find a way to interpret Proverbs literally. Setting aside the fact that we would not want many of our proverbs taken literally, what then? Who is commanding them? What do you do with “For the stirring of milk brings forth curds, and the stirring of anger brings forth blood”? Is that somehow a doctrine which is integral to the faith?

    An example from the New Testament. Jude 1:12 says “They are waterless clouds blown about by winds, fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead and uprooted.” It would be easy to take this passage out of context and say that Jude was deluded and thought people were clouds. In context, he is describing evil people by means of a metaphor. Would anyone here contend that we should take this passage literally?

    Let me return to your original point. You said that we might consider parts of the Bible non-literal because they don’t describe the real world; these three books are evidently non-literal. Yes, we must make an interpretation of these books; but as in today’s world, you must interpret poetry and allegory to gain their meaning, and this does not make them any less valid.

    “The authors might have literally believed that though and felt that the literal words written were what happened. It’s no good to go back with the benefit of hindsight and say, “Well, they obviously didn’t intend it to be literal since it’s wrong,” when you can’t honestly say that they didn’t intend it to be literal.”

    If you accept that the authors were divinely inspired, then they weren’t writing based on their own beliefs, but for the benefit of those who would read their writings. The intent of the author wouldn’t matter nearly as much as the intent of the One inspiring the author. If you contend that the authors were writing based on their own beliefs, then we aren’t required to accept the Bible as sacred Scripture, and the argument breaks down. Which option would you like to discuss?

    “He constantly refers to his “father”, his rules for marriage and divorce are more strict towards females, etc.”

    Perhaps “father” is the best word he knew; he certainly already had a mother. As far as I remember, his rules for divorce and marriage (“What God has joined together no human being must separate”) treat both sexes equally.

  • OMGF

    Randall,

    When I said “fictional” I really meant it. The Book of Tobit was written as a story; aside from stylistic and structural clues, that it is generally thought to be written five centuries after the events it includes, and references to folklore heroes, it says in the first line, “This book tells the story of Tobit” and gives a made-up lineage.

    The author might have thought it was the actual lineage. Proverbs are what you say, but some do purport to take them literally. Why did you not deal with the example I gave you though?

    Let me return to your original point. You said that we might consider parts of the Bible non-literal because they don’t describe the real world; these three books are evidently non-literal. Yes, we must make an interpretation of these books; but as in today’s world, you must interpret poetry and allegory to gain their meaning, and this does not make them any less valid.

    Actually, in some instance it most certainly does make it less valid. When Jesus is said to have performed miracles, if that is only allegory or poetry, then Jesus has no claim to any divine powers and is just a man. If it is allegory that he was born of the seed of god, then he is not divine, etc. etc. etc.

    If you accept that the authors were divinely inspired, then they weren’t writing based on their own beliefs, but for the benefit of those who would read their writings. The intent of the author wouldn’t matter nearly as much as the intent of the One inspiring the author.

    If this is the case, I find it odd that 1) god could not be more clear in his writing, especially since he knew all the trouble that the ambiguity would cause later – thus making him liable for all that trouble since he caused it with his negligence – and 2) there are many contradictions and mistakes, especially scientific mistakes like the way the Earth formed, etc. god would have known how it happened, so he was lying to the authors of Genesis.

    If you contend that the authors were writing based on their own beliefs, then we aren’t required to accept the Bible as sacred Scripture, and the argument breaks down. Which option would you like to discuss?

    We can discuss both options. If the Bible is not divinely inspired, then there is no reason to hold it as a holy book at all. Thus, we lose our only source of knowledge of god, beyond the subjective experiences of different people, which is inherently unreliable.

    Perhaps “father” is the best word he knew; he certainly already had a mother.

    He had a father too. Did he really not know that his choice of words would be used to discriminate against women for years and years? Was he not divine? If he didn’t know it, then he’s not the god of the Xian myth. If he did know it, then he’s at least partly responsible for it.

    As far as I remember, his rules for divorce and marriage (“What God has joined together no human being must separate”) treat both sexes equally.

    I do not believe that is so. I’ll have to look it up, but I believe there is one instance where Jesus allows that divorce would be OK. Do you know what that is? Also, IIRC, men were allowed to remarry after the death of a spouse, but women were not.

  • theistscientist

    apologies to all, have been away all day, have a young stallion that needed antibiotics- horses get the flu just like humans.Antibiotics for the stallion ,aged single malt scotch for me. Now where were we? and I may have missed some posts, so I will try to backtrack later and answer any q’s I may have missed. I guess I probably fit the label of fundamentalist, though it has pejorative connotations that dont apply to me. Also, I am trying to get freethinkers to reconsider their hasty rejection of the value of Bible prophecy. I beleive there are far more glass 1/2 full arguments from Bible prophecy than 1/2 empty. And those 1/2′s add up.

    The Israel restoration propjecies for example. About five years ago we debated these on IIDB. Quite frankly the theists won fairly decisively. Then, IIDB decided to try again, but they changed the formal debate q. from “are the biblical restoration prophecies concerning Israel reliable?” to ” has the land promise made to the jews been fulfilled in every detail?” This speaks volumes. It was necessary to carefully parse the q. in order to avoid losing the debate. The new format is a loaded q., but still comes out fairly well for the theist position.

    Odds. important. “The jewish people will have their holy city restored, and their holy temple,they will rule over their land and city,their ancient language will be restored to the holy city,jews will come from all over the earth to return to jerusalem,etc etc…..(this is after almost 2,000 years) This would be on the same probability level as saying: In the latter days, the plains Indians will be restored to their sacred plains hunting grounds, the herds of Buffalo will be restored and they will hunt them as of old, their ancient language will be restored, they will defeat their white conquerors”(and with the plains Indians we only have a couple hundred years to play with, far less than 2,000).

  • lpetrich

    I don’t see what’s so special about the Bible in prophecy fulfillment, because all of these people had also fulfilled prophecies, often despite efforts to thwart that fulfillment:

    Oedipus, Romulus, Perseus, Zeus, Krishna, the Buddha, Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, Harry Potter, Anakin Skywalker

  • Jim Baerg

    Hi Theistscientist:
    To what extent do you think an element of ‘self-fulfillment’ affects the impressiveness of a prophecy?

    For millennia Jews had been saying to each other ‘next year in Jerusalem’, there was an intense desire to restore Israel & the Zionist movement did exactly that. An impressive achievement, but impressive in a different way than a correct prediction of something that human actions cannot affect.

  • Randall

    It can’t have been the actual lineage because, apart from textual and contextual support for such a heritage being fictional, it makes Tobit a relative of Ahiqar, a hero of Near Eastern folklore and a fictional character. This was a common literary convention of the time.

    If you wish me to deal with Genesis, I will do so. I’ll have to ask for some time, though, and my responses to the rest of your posts may be sporadic. It is a really busy time for my family. Thanks in advance.

    “I do not believe that is so. I’ll have to look it up, but I believe there is one instance where Jesus allows that divorce would be OK. Do you know what that is? Also, IIRC, men were allowed to remarry after the death of a spouse, but women were not.”

    Ah. Something I can address quickly. Matthew 19: 3-10, Matthew 5: 31-32. The only reason that divorce was permitted in lawful marriages was for adultery. I don’t think Jesus says anything about allowing only men to remarry, nor do I think that Paul says this in Corinthians. I’ll look it up also.

  • OMGF

    It can’t have been the actual lineage because, apart from textual and contextual support for such a heritage being fictional, it makes Tobit a relative of Ahiqar, a hero of Near Eastern folklore and a fictional character. This was a common literary convention of the time.

    But, do you know that the author didn’t think it was authentic? IOW, did the author wish to make up fiction? If so, doesn’t this damage the claim that the scriptures came from god?

    If you wish me to deal with Genesis, I will do so.

    It’s up to you, I just felt that it would be the easiest to deal with.

    Ah. Something I can address quickly. Matthew 19: 3-10, Matthew 5: 31-32. The only reason that divorce was permitted in lawful marriages was for adultery. I don’t think Jesus says anything about allowing only men to remarry, nor do I think that Paul says this in Corinthians. I’ll look it up also.

    It’s pretty specific that a man can divorce his wife if she is unfaithful. Also, if she marries again, she commit adultery, yet he is allowed to remarry.

  • theistscientist

    Mssrs Ipetric,baerg and “miss”?Lynet,Msngr,OMGF,etc. and all, thank you all for your excellent q’s and especially for being polite, by now on IIDB the teenage debate wannabe jackals would have derailed the thread! Yes,it is a fair rebuttal that the judeo-christian west also wanted a democratic pro-western bastion in the middle east ne’ Israel, and of course we know the British strategists, balfour, a few tactical generals and intellectuals who wanted to divide and conquer the pan-islamic coalition of the German Ottomans Turks, did conspire, etc, this is out of school pro forma history 101, …. but look what it took to make it happen! Anti-semitism rei-

    gned in Europe, Britain and its empire and even in the U.S. (hell of a place for a paragraph change eh’? Ima word procesoer virgin. It required WWII, not so easy a prophetic scenario to anticipate, especially after the war to end all wars, and the allied occupation of the industrail ruhr and rhineland, and the reparations and Versaille treaty demilitiraztion requirements.

    Then the success of the Nazis,(a prefiguration/analog of anti-christ) the holocaust, then the defeat of the Nazis(not too predictable) then the outpouring of sympathy for “jews” (extraordinarily unlikely)then European support for a jewish homeland , the exodus, extarordianry confluence of victory conditions/mulitpliers allowing Israel to succeed and even thrive.

    I will supply the operations research analysis when I have time, but even on the prima facie evidence, this Bible prophecy is 3/4 cup full.

  • OMGF

    theistscientist,
    Are you putting forth the idea that god fulfilled the prophecy by giving rise to anti-semitism for centuries in Europe? You do realize that the Jews were so reviled that Xians actually thought the Jews had to kill Xians and use their blood in order to see, mate, etc? Further, are you asserting that god brought the Nazis to power so that they could kill millions of people in gas chambers and start a war that killed many, many more just to fulfill this prophecy?

  • theistscientist

    au contraire, OMGF, a fulfilled prophecy is a “fact”, all God has to do is just be accurate, and The Bible prophecy is chillingly accurate.3/4 point to theism. Q.E.D.

  • OMGF

    No, that’s not QED. You do know what that means, right?

    The point though was that god being accurate was only caused by the deaths of millions upon millions of people. Is this how god fulfills his prophecies, by killing innocent people? Doesn’t that sort of damage the idea of an omni-benevolent god?

  • theistscientist

    yes or no, was the prophecy accurately fulfilled?

  • OMGF

    I don’t know. What exactly does the prophecy say?

    Even if it is fulfilled, don’t you care about how god brought it about, or do the ends justify the means? How can you tell that it was “fulfilled” as part of divine action and not simply because men who believed in the prophecy brought it about intentionally?

  • theistscientist

    Q.E.D. in forensic peer reviewed debate, “I dont know” contra the affirmative, is default.

  • theistscientist

    p.s I have done this for over thirty years.Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, young scholar! God Bless. and I do care for you young man,someday you will understand.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    theistscientist, your patronizing self-congratulation overlooks the obvious point raised by numerous commenters: the Jewish people regathered in Israel because they knew about the prophecy and were actively attempting to make it come true. That is no evidence of divine intervention, it’s only evidence that there are human beings who make plans and then attempt to follow through on them.

    What you’re claiming would be like me predicting I’ll go to the supermarket later today, then going there, and announcing that “fulfillment” as proof of my astonishing god-given insight. It should be too obvious to need mention that the only thing that could provide evidence of supernatural intervention is a prophecy whose fulfillment was beyond human ability to stage.

  • OMGF

    Q.E.D. in forensic peer reviewed debate, “I dont know” contra the affirmative, is default.

    No, it means that I’ve asked you for information, which you seem unwilling to give for some reason. I’d like to know which verses you think have prophecied the coming of Israel.

    p.s I have done this for over thirty years.Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, young scholar! God Bless. and I do care for you young man,someday you will understand.

    You’ve done what? Spoken in broken sentences, not answered question, then declared victory even though you haven’t presented a coherent argument and haven’t answered any of the rebuttals put to you?

    I’ll also note that you haven’t yet bothered to deal with the fact that if god did bring this prophecy about, then your god has proven that he is a brutal killer.

  • James B

    Q.E.D. – Quite Easily Done.

    This indicates that the conclusion reached is trivial to derive and implies that the opposing party, having not reached the same conclusion, is thus a simpleton.

    See also: Quid Pro Quo
    ;)

  • goyo

    As evidenced by the above conversations, theistscientist simply makes blanket statements, claims victory, and does not answer simple, direct questions.
    Again, theistscientist, why did god not give a scientific primer to mankind from the beginning?

  • OMGF

    James B,
    I had not seen that version of QED before. The one I’m familiar with is Quod Erot Demonstrata or “It has been demonstrated.” It’s a pretty lofty thing to claim especially when one has not dealt with any of the objections to one’s claim.

  • RiddleOfSteel

    Randall wrote:
    Why is any of this relevant? Prophecy is a minuscule part of Christianity and virtually irrelevant to the practice of one’s faith.

    And yet in this thread, theistscientist is putting forward prophecy as some kind of evidence – including directing people to a prophecy web site. I think you will find Randall, that Bible prophecy is not so minuscule to some believers. What is your view as a believer, on theistscientist’s use of prophecy? Is it irrelevant? Why is theistscientist involving himself in prophecy when as you claim it “is a minuscule part of Christianity”?

  • James B

    OMGF,

    I had not seen that version of QED before. The one I’m familiar with is Quod Erot Demonstrata

    That sounds a lot more correct! As is frequently the case my comment was written with heavy-handed irony and my tongue firmly in my cheek! ;)

  • Randall

    OMGF: I haven’t forgotten your last comment. I will try to get to it soon.

    RiddleOfSteel: that’s my personal opinion. I am not denigrating theistscientist, or anyone who wishes to discuss prophecy. Myself, I don’t think a discussion of prophecy will get anyone anywhere. Practically, prophecy has very little to do with the practice of faith, as I have learned mine, and I don’t think it can prove fruitful as regards theory either. The only prophecies I consider relevant are the 320 or so fulfilled by Jesus; the rest don’t seem to be important to me, because prophecy is so hard to quantify and because it does not constitute “proof” but only more evidence or lack of evidence, depending on your point of view. However, you are naturally welcome to debate it all you wish, especially if you consider it somehow relevant to whether or not Christianity is true. I don’t know where the discussion started, so I really couldn’t say.

  • OMGF

    OMGF: I haven’t forgotten your last comment. I will try to get to it soon.

    Take your time, it’s all right.

    The only prophecies I consider relevant are the 320 or so fulfilled by Jesus…

    It’s amazing how well someone can be written after the fact to fulfill so many prophecies, isn’t it? ;) (I should note that I don’t even think they got them all right, even with the benefit of hindsight.)

  • DamienSansBlog

    So theistscientist has accepted the burden of proof, and he’s trying to use prophecy to fulfill it. OK.

    theistscientist, I have to ask: have you read the previous posts on critical thinking? The ones on falsafiability, etc.? Do you understand why we do not, and cannot, regard prophecy as proof of anything?

    (Come to think of it, I suppose this is addressed to Mr. Randall as well. He does say that prophecies attributed to Jesus are relevant, though for some reason he chooses to dismiss others summarily as interfering with “the practice of faith”.)

  • Randall

    Well, since Christianity in its entirety is based off of following Jesus Christ, it makes sense that those prophecies which relate to him are either important or useful. That the rest of the prophecies aren’t useful because, as you said, they can’t be regarded as reliable proof (or even evidence) is my personal opinion. If they help you, then by all means, use them.

    “It’s amazing how well someone can be written after the fact to fulfill so many prophecies, isn’t it? ;) (I should note that I don’t even think they got them all right, even with the benefit of hindsight.)”

    Couldn’t the same be said about any fulfilled prophecy?

  • RiddleOfSteel

    Randall wrote:
    That’s my personal opinion. I am not denigrating theistscientist, or anyone who wishes to discuss prophecy. Myself, I don’t think a discussion of prophecy will get anyone anywhere.

    Except Randall, you made your prior claim about prophecy under the banner of Christianity, not simply as your personal opinion. You stated: “Prophecy is a minuscule part of Christianity and virtually irrelevant to the practice of one’s faith.” You claimed this for Christianity not just for your personal version of Christianity.

    I point out the above, because non-believers encounter this kind of thing quite often. Notice that sometimes Randall makes a claim as if it’s true for Christianity, other times he retreats into the subset of Catholicism, while still other times the claim is his personal opinion. This underlines the problem of responding to a theist about “god”, when it’s not clear what is really meant by the word. To that extent, I wonder if Randall’s version of god matches theistscientist’s version.

    I should add, what is a bit intellectually disingenuous in this case Randall, is your reaction to your fellow believers involvement with prophecy. You claim the involvement is “a minuscule part of Christianity and virtually irrelevant to the practice of one’s faith”, and yet oddly can’t bring yourself to critique them for engaging in this virtually irrelevant activity. Not to mention, there is now added to the mix, your contradictory statement that apparently 320 or so prophecies actually do matter after all.

  • Randall

    RiddleOfSteel:

    It would seem to me that if I don’t make a distinction between “Christianity believes this” versus “I believe this,” you would need to accept any statement I make as falling under the “I believe this” since that is the default position for any assertion. Or, where applicable, as “Catholicism teaches this” since I am a Catholic. Christianity has no banner, because there is no unified Christianity. Anything I claim – as I have stated on multiple occasions in other threads – can only be considered from my own personal viewpoint of Catholicism. I was wrong to claim that “Prophecy is a minuscule part of Christianity” because, as you pointed out, some branches of Christianity may consider it important. I don’t know, since I am not a part of these other branches; Christianity as I am familiar with it does not focus on prophecy. I try to avoid saying “Christianity claims” for this very reason. I will try to avoid such sweeping statements in the future. In return, please realize that anything I say can only be taken as my belief, based on my religious perspective; speaking for Christianity, or Christians as a whole, is impossible.

    “To that extent, I wonder if Randall’s version of god matches theistscientist’s version.”

    I would assume, as with any Christian from a different denomination, that they are the same in most aspects and slightly different in the particulars. The same is most likely true for your version of atheism vs., say Ebonmuse’s or OMGF’s.

    “Notice that sometimes Randall makes a claim as if it’s true for Christianity, other times he retreats into the subset of Catholicism, while still other times the claim is his personal opinion.”

    When I can, I say what Christianity, as far as I know, teaches; when there is something on which branches of Christianity might disagree, I invoke Catholicism; and when there is something that Catholicism does not explicitly mention – such as whether or not one line of discussion is more valuable than another – I give my personal opinion. I do not see anything wrong with this. The statements below are all, as far as I can see, correct statements.

    Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
    Catholicism teaches that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist.
    It is my opinion, since there is no specific doctrine, that the discussion of prophecy is not a fruitful discussion.

    “This underlines the problem of responding to a theist about “god”, when it’s not clear what is really meant by the word.”

    This is the problem with any topic of discussion that has not been clearly defined.

    “You claim the involvement is “a minuscule part of Christianity and virtually irrelevant to the practice of one’s faith”, and yet oddly can’t bring yourself to critique them for engaging in this virtually irrelevant activity.”

    I would consider the example raised to be my critique, directed toward everyone who is discussing the topic. Beyond raising that point, I have no problem with discussing prophecy. Indeed, what gives me the right to say “You shouldn’t be discussing this”? If you wish to find someone willing to criticize others, look elsewhere.

    “Not to mention, there is now added to the mix, your contradictory statement that apparently 320 or so prophecies actually do matter after all.”

    A qualifying statement is not a contradictory statement. I said, in essence, that these are the prophecies which I might consider relevant to the practice or theory of my faith. Where is the difficulty?

  • OMGF

    Randall,

    Couldn’t the same be said about any fulfilled prophecy?

    Ding ding ding, that’s the point. Any “fulfilled” prophecy could fit this description, so what makes the prophecies about Jesus any more important or compelling or whatever than any other prophecy?

  • theistscientist

    apologies all, have been busy with farm matters. I was pretending to be arrogant earlier,(i’m really not,trust me!) just to make a point. Atheists use just as conclusory “ad lapidem” statements as do theists, and ne’ more so (imho). Summarily dismissing the enormous propehtic significance of the rebirth of the Israeli nation after almost 2,000 yaers is truly an act of intellectual arrogance. Imagine the causal linkage, loss of the land to the forces of islam from the Christian west, after defeat and complete scattering in the diaspora, an entire world war and defeat of the ottoman turks, by the same Christian west,then extreme anti-semitism and anti-zionist pressure against the jews by that Christian west, then another! world war, the holocaust, millions of jewish refugees, unwanted by an anti-semitic europe,but opposed in aliyah by powerful oil interests,and the militarily powerful post-war juggernaut of the Soviet Union, and even opposed by Churchill and Roosevelt, and the pan arab colaition,….Roosevelt dies, Truman has a lone jewish advisor in his kitchen cabinet that encourages a jewish homeland……

    okay fellas, burden now shifts to the atheists. your ball at the twenty yard line!(the atheist twenty yard line)

  • OMGF

    theistscientist

    I was pretending to be arrogant earlier,(i’m really not,trust me!) just to make a point. Atheists use just as conclusory “ad lapidem” statements as do theists, and ne’ more so (imho).

    You were trying to make the point that we make conclusive statements and you did that by acting like an arse? Well, you failed in your attempt, and you still haven’t answered any of the rebuttals against your position. You’ve simply restated the same thing over again and declared that you’ve just about won; that somehow the burden of proof has shifted even though you haven’t answered any objection. We are well aware that you find these events to be far-fetched except for the will of god. You completely forget about the will of man to make god’s prophecies come true, as Ebon pointed out already, just as one example of something that you are ignoring.

    I’d still like to know why you think a god that kills millions upon millions of innocents just to make a prophecy come true is worthy of worship.

    I’d also like to know if your critter (your horse?) made it through all right?

  • theistscientist

    thank you kindly OMGF for your sincere concern about my horse. Horse is doing fine, two male goats had a fight, recovering, granddaughter is being a real bitch!(i hope that’s not a sin to use that word!)…anyway, I think I did in faCT FOR forensic purposes shift the burden of proof to your side, omgf, and perhaps, in time , you will come to realize just how slippery the burden of proof is, especially when it shifts! and especially when “victory conditions” are subjective. anyway, I htink I see your main concern, here is answer: God has ‘foreknowledge’ of events, he does not force those events in apposiiton to human free will. The Bible is (admittedly) an accurate portrait of the barbarity, violence, inhumanity of human beings, especially when they act in accordance with their sin nature.

    It amazes me at the complaints about the old testament, quite frankly the old testament is a graphically accurate and reliable cultural telling of the brutal, genocidal, human race. To my mind, it fits like a glove. 100% truthful.

  • OMGF

    I think I did in faCT FOR forensic purposes shift the burden of proof to your side, omgf, and perhaps, in time , you will come to realize just how slippery the burden of proof is, especially when it shifts!

    It’s actually not that slippery since you are making the claim that prophecy has been fulfilled. You have yet to tell me exactly which prophecy you think has been fulfilled (where it is written, what it says, etc.) nor have you answered any of the objections. In short, the burden of proof lies on your positive assertion that prophecy has been fulfilled, and until you fill in the gaps and answer the criticisms, it remains on you to prove your position.

    God has ‘foreknowledge’ of events, he does not force those events in apposiiton to human free will.

    This is rather contradictory. god relied on our free will in order to bring the prophecy about, yet if we have free will then we have the ability to choose other than what god has planned. Further, if god is omniscient, then he knew all this would transpire (thus negating our free will) and not only allowed it but created it to happen as it did. Thus, he is still a monster. Even in the first scenario, he would have foreknowledge or at least knowledge at the time that so many people were being persecuted and killed and he did nothing about it. So, why is this a god worthy of worship?

    It amazes me at the complaints about the old testament, quite frankly the old testament is a graphically accurate and reliable cultural telling of the brutal, genocidal, human race. To my mind, it fits like a glove. 100% truthful.

    It also paints your god in a very unfavorable light. Your god committed genocide and ordered it of his people. He regularly acted in arbitrary ways towards them and punished them mightily. He ordered people to sacrifice their own children. god acted like an a-hole throughout the OT.

    It also makes me wonder why god would create such creatures that were capable of so much evil. Isn’t god omni-benevolent? An omni-benevolent god would abhor evil, yet he created evil beings. This is contradictory.

  • theistscientist

    omgf, you confuse foreknowledge with omniscisnce. foreknowledge is philosophically an archetype of omniscience. and the theodicy of free will, as argued by Plantinga, Moreland, and William Lane Craig is unbeaten by atheist detractors( see Craig’s website)William Lane Craig has NEVER lost a debate with an atheist(are you curious as to why in the whole world of atheist academicians that no one can beat him?) or is it the ideas that he espouses (hint)! and cutting to the chase…. worthy of worship? look up sovereignty , look up “king” , look up “judge”, creator…. you know, omgf, you arent exactly spending 24/7 over on the islam message board, or the peter pan message board, or the flying spaghetti message board, becAUSE you think these entities have some truck with evidentiary forensic reality!

  • OMGF

    omgf, you confuse foreknowledge with omniscisnce. foreknowledge is philosophically an archetype of omniscience.

    Then god is not omniscient? I guess that means that god is not perfect. For in order to be perfect, god must have perfect knowledge. You are telling me that god does not have this, so god is not perfect. Further, with god’s foreknowledge, he still allowed such evil to happen and did nothing to counter it.

    William Lane Craig has NEVER lost a debate with an atheist(are you curious as to why in the whole world of atheist academicians that no one can beat him?) or is it the ideas that he espouses (hint)! and cutting to the chase….

    You can stop with the William Lane Craig worship, because his claims of invincibility are highly overblown. Bart Ehrman destroyed him when they met up. And, of course, claims of victory are solely in the eye of the beholder in most instances. The thing is that Craig relies on begging the question. His normal mode of argumentation, that the apostles would not have believed in Jesus had Jesus not been the son of god and risen from the dead, makes many category mistakes and assumptions that are unwarranted. Craig’s arguments are actually not that great.

    worthy of worship? look up sovereignty , look up “king” , look up “judge”, creator

    So, because god created you he has license to do whatever he wants to you and you have to not only suck it up but worship him?

    you know, omgf, you arent exactly spending 24/7 over on the islam message board, or the peter pan message board, or the flying spaghetti message board, becAUSE you think these entities have some truck with evidentiary forensic reality!

    Actually, I’m on an atheist blog, so what of it? Are you saying that I think that Xianity has some validity and that’s why I’m arguing against it? Well, I don’t see myself on the Xian message board either, so what’s your excuse?

  • lpetrich

    theistscientist needs to take a look at the world of pro-capitalist right-libertarians some time; the sort of people who admire the likes of Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein. I’ve encountered oodles of such people online, so it should not be hard to find some of them.

    And I find it strange that defenders of Biblical mass murder should get so worked up over Communist mass murder. Could they be projecting whatever distress they might feel as they defend Biblical mass murder?

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    and the theodicy of free will, as argued by Plantinga, Moreland, and William Lane Craig is unbeaten by atheist detractors( see Craig’s website)William Lane Craig has NEVER lost a debate with an atheist(are you curious as to why in the whole world of atheist academicians that no one can beat him?) [sic]

    I admit that it depends on the format (something like a blog or forum tends to work much better), but I would say that most formal debates are absolutely useless when it comes to finding the truth. Who “wins” a debate is usually the one who is more charismatic, prepared, and has plenty of feel good sound bites, not the one who argues logically. Since most people, in my experience, are not familiar with logical fallacies, it’s much easier for one person to toss them out (usually several in their allotted speaking time) while it could take the other person’s entire time to explain why just one of them is wrong, let alone trying to fit in their own points as well. Guess who usually comes out the “winner” in such cases?

    I haven’t seen any of Mr. Craig’s debates (something I’ll try to correct, if only to find out if I’m correct in my assumptions or not), but I can venture a guess as to how they probably played out…

  • OMGF

    Nes,
    You can find one of those debates here.

    Since most people, in my experience, are not familiar with logical fallacies, it’s much easier for one person to toss them out (usually several in their allotted speaking time) while it could take the other person’s entire time to explain why just one of them is wrong, let alone trying to fit in their own points as well.

    This has been likened to creationists throwing a brick through a window and leaving the rationalist to clean it up. It’s much easier to throw out discredited sound-bytes that are dishonest and wrong than it is to undertake cleaning up the mess that results.

  • http://nesoo.wordpress.com/ Nes

    I didn’t know it at the time, but it appears that theistscientist was banned, so I guess he can’t really respond.

    This has been likened to creationists throwing a brick through a window and leaving the rationalist to clean it up.

    Thanks for the simile, OMGF (what does that stand for, anyway, if anything? I always misread it as OMFG), that’s exactly the image I was trying to convey.

  • OMGF

    OMGF comes from a nickname that I got from some high school students that I used to help (volunteer work). They used to tease me that I was older than dirt, so that along with my love of the character Boxy Brown from Aqua Teen Hunger Force came together to become Old Man G Funk, which I just shortened to the initials.


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