I'm fortunate to often run into students whose interests in physics go beyond what they encounter in class, and who might even develop their interests in philosophical directions. Anyway, one of my previous students has apparently been taking the ambitions of physics to describe everything very seriously, and has been worrying about the classic free will vs. determinism problem.So I emailed him a response, which aside from directing him to the literature, tried to give a quick and dirty … [Read more...]

Checklist: Evaluating Claims about Jesus – Part 5

In the Chapter 2 of The Case for Christ (hereafter CFC), Lee Stobel puts forward eight tests for determining the credibility and reliability of the Gospels.  I briefly discussed four of those tests in Part 3 of this series.  In this post I briefly discuss two more of  the tests.5. THE BIAS TESTThis test analyzes whether the Gospel writers had any biases that would have colored their work.  Did they have any vested interest in skewing the material they were reporting on? (CFC, … [Read more...]

Is Bayes’s Theorem Irrelevant to History?

On his blog, R. Joseph Hoffmann published an essay by Stephanie Louise Fisher which, among other things, argues that Bayes's theorem (hereafter, BT) is irrelevant to historical scholarship. In her words, BT is "completely inappropriate for, and unrelated to historical occurrence and therefore irrelevant for application to historical texts."Really?Whenever a historian argues that such-and-such an event probably did or did not happen, the historian is implicitly appealing to probability. … [Read more...]

The Unending Story

This was in the Manchester Guardian last February: Like movie monsters who keep getting killed but keep coming back for more (and more tedious) sequels, anti-science activism keeps rising from the crypt. No surprise here. This is truly the unending story. What does surprise me a bit is that it apparently took so long for the two main forces of anti-science animus--evolution denial and climate … [Read more...]

Checklist: Evaluating Claims about Jesus – Part 4

A reader comment (by 'downtown dave') on Part 3 of this series suggests that I take a look at Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ (hereafter: CFC).  I don't find Strobel's case to be persuasive, but the criteria for evaluation of the Gospels that he puts forward in Chapter 2  ("Testing the Eyewitness Evidence" ) seem reasonable and helpful, even if the eight tests he outlines fall short of being a comprehensive list of criteria for evaluation of historical claims about Jesus. … [Read more...]

Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus – Part 23

In Joseph "Rick" Reinckens's webpage A Lawyer Examines the Swoon Theory we get a short snippet from Origen that allegedly confirms a Roman practice of stabbing victims of crucifixion with a spear: In his Commentary on Matthew, Origen, one of the early Church Fathers, says the lance thrust to Jesus was administered "according to Roman custom, below the armpit."  (See Humber, Thomas.  The Sacred Shroud. New York, Pocket Books, 1977)Neither Reinckens nor Humber give us … [Read more...]

Platonism vs. Divine Aseity: A Deductive Argument for the Non-Existence of God

The purpose of this post is to sketch an argument for the nonexistence of God based upon the logical incompatibility of divine aseity and the existence of God. In Martin's and Monnier's taxonomy of arguments for atheism (see The Impossibility of God, Buffalo: Prometheus, 2003), this argument would be classified as a "deductive disproof of the existence of God."The Doctrine of Divine Aseity FormulatedLet us begin by defining the doctrine of divine aseity as follows:(A1) God does not depend on … [Read more...]

Criminalizing sex

A poster put out by one of the Islamist political parties in Turkey. On top of the image of people turned to stone, with hints of Sodom and Gomorrah, the slogans are "Criminalize adultery" and "Homosexuality is immorality."They may eventually get their way as well. There's considerable public support for enforcing religious morality through the legal code. In Turkey, as with other Muslim countries, a lot of this is already part of the legal system; the Islamists only want to intensify something … [Read more...]