Critical Historians vs. the Dogmatists (Believers or Deniers)

Several recent discussions here at SO have addressed the perennially fascinating issue of the historical Jesus. In fact, in one guise or another, this is one of our most popular subjects for discussion. Recently, there have been abundant comments from “mythicists” who argue that the Jesus of the Gospels is a figure of myth or legend. This thesis was famously defended by G.A. Wells in a number of works. Wells argued that the evidence for the so-called historical Jesus was really no more com … [Read more...]

Science and Religion: The Clash of Ideals

In my previous post I argued that science and religion still can and do clash, especially concerning the implications of evolutionary theory and neuroscience. Specifically, an account of human origins that views Homo sapiens, like every other species, as the highly improbable end-product of a very long series of contingencies and accidents, cannot rest easily with worldviews in which humanity is an essential element if not the centerpiece of creation. Further, many if not most religions require … [Read more...]

How Science and Religion Still Clash

“Extinguished theologians lie about the cradle of every new science, like the serpents strangled by the infant Hercules.” That is how T.H. Huxley classically expressed the “warfare” theory of the relationship between science and religion. On that theory, science and religion are playing a zero-sum game. One advances at the expense of the other. Eternal and irreconcilable opposites, science and religion only flourish by excluding the other.A number of contemporary writers, especially some of t … [Read more...]

A Christian Responds to Harris on the Evils of “Moderates”

I recently had an interesting discussion here at SO on Sam Harris’s views on “moderate” believers. One commentator took me to task for saying that Harris holds that “moderates” are “just as bad” as extremists. I think he may have had a point that this was unfair, but Harris clearly does make some fairly serious charges. So, I wrote to a couple of friends, men of the cloth, to ask how they responded. One has graciously replied at length. I am giving below my letter of inquiry and his response. … [Read more...]

Prof. Pruss on Hell and Free Choice

Prof. Alexander Pruss considers the traditional doctrine of hell and its alternatives: three salient proposals, then, are these (2 and 3 are quotes from Prof. Pruss’s post):(1) The traditional doctrine: At death there can be no further changes in one’s eternal destiny.(2) Imposition: God imposes moral transformation on those who do not freely opt to love him.(3) Endless Second Chances: God … [Read more...]

Nasty as you want to be: Bash Erdogan

Lately here at SO I have issued a number of calls for civility in discussions, eliciting some very uncivil responses from some quarters. Generally, though, the comments have been encouragingly positive and make me think that the rude and the crude, as always, make us overlook the good people. Yep, civility, restraint, and respect. All great.Wouldn't it be nice, though, if there were someone, an obnoxious, egotistical, irrational bully, say, whom you could bash and rip in perfectly good … [Read more...]

How to Respond to Personal Attacks

Don't. Unless the attack also involves a larger issue that needs to be discussed, don't bother. The reason that I do not generally respond to personal attacks is that anybody who would believe it would be someone for whom I have no respect and for whose opinion (about me or anything else) I could not possibly care less about. Actually, to indulge in personal attacks is to admit weakness. For instance, I have seen people write foaming diatribes against William Lane Craig when, in a face-to-face en … [Read more...]

Doing it Right the “Old” Way

Do you need a Ph.D. in philosophy to be a legitimate and respectable participant in the theism/atheism debate or the science/religion debate? Of course not. But you do need to know what you are talking about. Those, however accomplished in other fields, who leap into the debate philosophically uninformed inevitably commit freshman mistakes that expose them to the scorn of sophisticated opponents. Just being a scientist, for instance, does not mean that you will make respectable arguments. … [Read more...]