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Via Michael Roberts
The thing with YEC is that they don’t have to think it out that much; YEC is literally Deus Ex Machina. Any inconsistencies can be hand-waved by “miracle.” How did Noah find two of each of the countless species of Amazon rain forest critters to bring to the Ark, despite there being so damn many we’re finding more each day? God miracled them there. How did they all get back to the Amazon when the Ark was stuck on Mt. Ararat? God miracled them back.
Or, more likely, “I don’t have to explain it. The Bible says that’s how it happened, so that’s how it happened.”
I think one of the biggest keys to getting people to rethink YEC isn’t throwing endless amounts of scientific evidence at them; it’s showing them that the Bible isn’t a book, it’s a collection of books, and they’re not all the same type of book, even though they’re in the same collection. Christianity is based far more around how historically true the Gospel is, not how historically true Genesis is. We’re allowed to believe that the Flood is myth and the Resurrection is history, without any inconsistency whatsoever.
Anybody is “allowed” to believe anything they like (at least in this country).
But I’m not sure how the resurrection is a more historically sound conclusion than the global flood. Is it simply that we have loads of evidence about the age of the earth and evolution, while it would be easier for God to sneak in one small miracle in the first century without any evidence to the contrary?
I agree. People who believe in supernatural miracles of Jesus (e.g., the Resurrection,) but despise creationists for believing in the supernatural miracles of Jehovah (e.g., the Flood,) are not being intellectually consistent.
I personally don’t mind folks who believe in miracles on faith. As long as such faith doesn’t cause them to:
– Oppose science education in schools or such public issues as global warming
– Oppose important social issues such as women’s rights or marriage equality
– Take political stances with a basis only on faith (such as a bias towards end-times predictions in the middle east)
– In other ways attempt to impose their belief system on others.
I’m not saying that one can’t take a stand on issues based on faith. I’m only saying that I’m not inclined to oppose faith, unless faith becomes the argument for a position that is reprehensible.
One of my favorite books about evolution and creationism is Kitcher’s “Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism” in which Kitcher says up front that he’s not out to argue with people who believe in Creation as an act of faith despite the scientific evidence for evolution. He says he has no problem with that. Rather, he’s out to argue with people who believe that there are scientific reasons to disbelieve evolution and endorse creationism — which besides being his concern as a philosopher of science, also really underlies a lot of the anti-evolution stuff going on today.
(The book is about 35 years old now, but it turns out creationist arguments haven’t changed much. Starts with an excellent — though old — discussion of the theory of evolution and the philosophy of science. He has a newer book on the topic that I bought and then forgot about until just now… I’ll put that on my list for Christmas break.)
I’m not a theist, but I like Kenneth Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution”. I don’t mind his “common ground” because it is faith based and doesn’t pretend to scientific verification or impose itself on standard biology.
I am a theist and I’ll have to add that one to my list. 🙂
I think you’ll enjoy it!
I second the recommendation of Miller’s book!
Used on Amazon for $.50! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0061233501/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0061233501&linkCode=as2&tag=jamefmcgrshom-20&linkId=OW77ZD27URD6LA77
You could also check out Francis Collin’s “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief”.
Also available used on Amazon for 50 cents!
Collins headed the Human Genome Project and is the director of the National Institutes of Health. He was famously a friend to New Atheist Christopher Hitchens and helped Christopher with medical advice during his final struggle with cancer.
I have that one on my bookshelf and my reading list, just haven’t gotten to it yet. So many books, so little time! (And in many cases, so little mental energy at the end of the workday that I’d rather read something mindless instead…)
Well, if you need to relax with less weighty material, I have a few Dr. Who episodes to suggest …
Not entirely. I mean, believe that some of the supernatural miracles of Jesus may, in fact, have occured. That’s a VERY different way of framing things than you’d hear from a YEC advocate when it comes to creationism.
There’s a difference between believing something’s possible and hinging the very existence of your belief on the need for something to be true.
I stand corrected. I now understand there is a VERY large difference between those who hinge the existence of their belief system on the golden plates of the angel Moroni, and those who believe the golden plates are possibly authentic.
Ah, insincerity, how I love its capacity to fail to address anything in a useful, intelligent or generous manner.
Thanks for this response, by the way. It lets me know I can ignore you in future.
Isaac, I’m not believer, but I have no problem with people who hang their faith on possible miracles. The belief in the resurrection, for example, only becomes a problem for me when apologists like Gary Habermas try to convince laymen that scholars can make an evidentiary case for the resurrection.
Believing miracles sincerely on faith is one thing. Trying to sell historical or scientific “proofs” of miracles only degrades history and science, and ultimately makes the theists selling this bogus methodology look less than honest.
Faith isn’t so innocent; it’s essentially a confidence trick.
• Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
• Ephesians 3:12 confidence through faith
• 1 Timothy 3:13 increased confidence in their faith
I guess I would say that… basically yes, I do think that there’s a difference between believing something that has a great deal of evidence against it and believing something that doesn’t really have much in the way of evidence one way or the other.
Also, while one can’t make a historical case for the resurrection, I think a strong case can be and has been made that some of the followers of Jesus (plus Paul) had experiences that they BELIEVED to be the resurrected Christ, whereas I don’t think there’s any reason to think that the authors of the Creation stories were doing anything but re-telling legends (and indeed much evidence that they were in fact doing that, such as the similarities to other legends being told in the Near East at that time).
So I think they’re fundamentally different KINDS of stories. One might or might not believe that the disciples’ experiences were anything but the kind of hallucinations that people often have after someone important to them has died, but the belief in the resurrection does seem to have an origin in things that happened in a way that the creation stories don’t, if that makes any sense.
One methodology commonly used by historians of ancient events is hypothetical (or even mechanical – in the case of archeology) recreations of recorded events to assess what historical accounts would have even been possible.
Evidence for a resurrection would include evidence that such an event is probable or even possible. Unlike wars, coronations, births, deaths, or other historical events, we have no experience or evidence of resurrections ever taking place. A resurrection is not an event that can be verified through medical science, and which has not been verified through any sort of credible eyewitness. Even if remotely possible, it is, by it’s very nature, the least likely explanation for writings in the NT (which, themselves, are not by eyewitnesses).
While it’s true that we have Paul’s second-hand account of Jesus followers’ experiences, these are not necessarily the same experiences described by the much later written (and highly embellished and derivative) gospels, and we don’t know the nature of these experiences (Paul’s own experience of Jesus was highly mystical).
Shared supernatural experiences are commonly recounted in all sorts of religious gatherings. We don’t have eyewitness records of Jesus’s appearances, but we do have eyewitness records (both individual and in groups) of people who saw the devil in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Unlike Jesus, few people today believe that there were witches in colonial Salem, even though the “evidence” is much stronger than that for the resurrection.
Well, yes, That’s why I said “one can’t make a historical case for the resurrection”. 🙂
The thing is, there’s this tendency to equate everything in the Bible as thought it were… well, a book, written by a single author. You know, “We know that camels weren’t domesticated in what would have been the time of Abraham, and the Bible says he had camels, therefore obviously Jesus didn’t exist.” That sort of thing.
My point is that I personally see “Well, these people had experiences that they interpreted as being the risen Christ. Were they right? Is that what they were? Or were they hallucinations, as is not uncommon following a death?” as being a different of question than “Well, here are these creations stories that may or may not ever have been meant to be taken completely literally to begin with, that are millennia old, are based on the legends, and are contradicted by current scientific evidence. Also, there are two of them, and they’re mutually contradictory. Should I believe they’re the literal truth or not?”
Thus I don’t see that there’s any conflict with a person believing in the resurrection but not being a YEC… saying, “You know, it could be” in the first case but “No, I don’t think God engineered all the evidence to trick us” in the second.
I understand you; I may be a little too proactive in my rejection of the Habermas/Licona/Craig apologistic attempts to “prove” the resurrection.
Not far from the mark. Evidence of miracles would naturally depend on the type of miracle. If God flooded the world about 5000 years ago, there should be a ton of evidence for it. There isn’t.
The evidence for Christ’s miracles, on the other hand, would have to be more indirect, at least now. If Jesus cured a man blind from birth, you could – in the 1st century – meet the blind man and get testimony from him how Jesus gave him sight, and also meet people who knew this guy and could testify about his blindness so you know he’s not making the whole thing up. Since this happened 2000 years ago, however, we’re a bit short on living witnesses.
Thing is, Christianity is too crazy a religion to make up, let alone catch on, if there weren’t blind people and ex-lepers and the like to testify about it.
It’d be like if we said that the most important man who ever lived, the man who re-defined the boundaries between God and man forevermore, was a roofer named Josh from Mississippi, who hung out with meth addicts and sex offenders, said we should all reject capitalism, and died when he got thrown in jail on trumped-up charges and inmates shoved a broken broom handle up his ass. I don’t anticipate that religion catching on. No matter what Josh did or didn’t do, it’d have a hard time catching on because…dude. Broken broom handle up the ass. He was friends with meth heads and sex offenders. Come on.
But…if Josh cured people of AIDS, cerebal palsy, and inoperable brain cancer, and you could actually meet these folks and they’re sticking with their story even though everyone’s making fun of them for it and calling them bullshitters and harassing them and these witnesses receive no profit, and there’s no one saying Josh didn’t do this stuff, just that they don’t know how Josh did it but, whatever, shit like that just doesn’t happen and even if he did those things it doesn’t matter `cause that guy was clearly crazy `cause he hung out with meth addicts and sex offenders…this crazy story starts to sound less crazy.
If Josh’s friends say Josh came back from the dead, and somehow the authorities can’t produce a body and they say his followers must have stole it, and his followers are sticking with the “he came back to life” story, claiming that they met him in person and sat down and ate with the man and held extended conversations, and they’re all sticking with this – none of them are coming forth and saying, “Yeah, we made this whole thing up” – despite doing anything but profiting by it, and, in fact, the story making them sound bad in quite a few places…this crazy story starts to sound less crazy.
The evidence for the Flood is non-existent. The evidence for Christ is Christianity.
And the evidence for Ganesha is Hinduism, the evidence for Buddha is Buddhism, the evidence for Allah is Islam, the evidence for ancient Jews sailing to America is Mormonism … it’s all just a little too crazy to make up!
Why would the greek writers of the gospels make up miracles stories, when any of their greek audience could verify the stories by simply, learning Aramaic, quitting their livelihoods, putting their lifesavings into a ship across the mediterranean, and tracking down some of the surviving witnesses that are still alive after 30 or 40 years, speak a different language, and who the gospel writer forgot to name. This of course, is why we no longer have conspiracy theories or urban legends in the 21st century. Nobody ever believes such stories because everyone checks authoritative internet sources.
The difference between Josh and Jesus, of course, is that Jesus lived in a much less skeptical age – everyone was religious in the 1st century, and every religion had it’s miracles. 1st century citizens, by and large, didn’t have to verify miracles, because they already believed in miracles. The Romans were quite willing to put up monuments for any regional gods, and celebrate their miracles for the locals (as long as the locals cooperated with Roman government). But maybe I shouldn’t overstate the differences between the 1st century and today. You can still go to healing services today, and watch people getting caught up in the spirit, shouting prophecy and speaking in holy tongues. Heck, with all the folks who gave away their life-savings to follow Harold Camping a few years ago, maybe you’re right, maybe Josh could still get a following today!
By the way, you shouldn’t downplay the evidence that we do have for Christianity. I know that there is no extant eyewitness testimony to Jesus’ miracles; but don’t forget what we do have! We have the court-directed eyewitness reports of groups and individuals who saw the devil dancing with witches in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692! Verified by some of our finest colonial scholars and judges, including Cotton Mather and John Hawthorne! What more historical evidence could a Christian need? Eyewitness testimony and witch hangings in colonial America!
I think you might be misunderstanding me.
While you don’t buy the divinity of Christ or that his miracles were actually miraculous, I doubt you deny that there was a wandering Jewish preacher named Jesus who lived in Judea some 2000 years ago, and that this man was associated with miracle-working. The fact that he gained a following despite his strange associations and humiliating death suggests that, whatever this guy did – fake or no – it was probably pretty impressive. We have evidence that Jesus existed and said stuff and did stuff and it wowed people. We have something we can point to, even if it’s not something you find compelling.
With the Flood, though, we should be seeing tons and tons of evidence; vastly more than what one would expect to see from a faith healer, no matter how legit said faith healer was. With a faith healer, pretty much all you can expect is what we have; testimony and changed lives. With a flood that covers the whole world and kills all life save a breeding pair of each species, there should be a ton of physical evidence. We’re not seeing any of it.
Moreover, there isn’t really any direct counter-evidence to the Gospels; the criticisms come from things like late dates and pointing out that people are gullible and every time we look at faith healing it’s a scam so why would this be different, as opposed to, say, authorities producing Jesus’ corpse, or one of the Apostles coming out and admitting that yes, the whole thing was a scam, please don’t feed me to those lions. The criticisms may be good ones (and I’m not saying the lack of counter-evidence against something is the same as proof for that thing), but they’re not “nails in the coffin”, so to speak. They don’t require flat-out rejection of evidence.
With the Flood, though, there’s tons of counter-evidence, such as plants that pre-date said Flood that should have died if they were submerged for 40 days, but, lo and behold, are still alive today.
And my greater overall point is that, because literalists tend to think that The Bible is a single, perfect book written by God, rather than a collection, then every part in the Bible must be equally true for Christianity to be true. If there’s no global Flood like it says in Genesis, then there’s no Resurrection like it says in the Gospels.
But that’s bunk. Genesis is not the Gospels. It’s not the same type of book. (Hell, even the Gospels aren’t the same type of book as each other.) Everything in Genesis could be straight-up myth and it wouldn’t affect whether or not whether Jesus was divine and did miracles and rose from the dead or not…and that’s what Christianity is based around.
As for skepticism about Christ’s miracles and divinity, that’s perfectly fine. I’m not claiming it’s a slam-dunk 100% undeniably objective thing that only fools would never believe, “`cause it’s too crazy to make up and you can’t disprove it.” They’re extraordinary claims. “Evidence for” does not equal “proof of,” and I’m not claiming otherwise; nor am I claiming that faith plays no part in the decision. Evidence is, by nature, somewhat subjective; evidence based on things like testimony and personal conduct, particularly so. To a large degree it’s gonna boil down to the individual.
But, much like my statement that not every book in the Bible is the same book or same type of book, not every claim about the miraculous is the same type of miraculous claim. Just because one believes in one miracle doesn’t mean one has to believe in all miracles; just because one disbelieves in one miracle doesn’t mean they can’t believe in any. One looks at each of them and weighs them on their merits and flaws, same as with any claim.
Oh, I don’t disagree that a Genesis version of creation is, by far, easier to disprove than a given NT miracle.
My last comment was in response to your case for “Josh”, which makes all sorts of false assumptions: you make it sound as though Jesus either healed a blind man or didn’t, but in either case one can go ask the man himself. What man? If the gospel writer made up the healing, he might just as well have made up the blind man.
Why would the authorities care enough to try to produce a body, if one was even missing in the first place? All you have are Greek gospel tales suggesting these possibilities to you (within a Greek cultural milieu in which “missing bodies” – like that of Romulus and Claudius – were considered evidence of ascensions).
In other words all the assumptions you make that you think are evidence of miracles – these assumptions are taken from the same Greek language gospels that the miracles are taken from.
Miracles, as you say, require faith to believe. Because there is no more evidence for the NT miracles than there is for the endless magic tales recorded throughout history. I really don’t have any problem with someone believing miracles on faith, as long as it doesn’t become an excuse to cause harm such as pushing creationism in schools or opposing marriage equality. I just think the idea that one can have “evidence” of a 2000 year old miracle makes less sense than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s photographic evidence of fairies.
I’m new to this blog and while I think I get the cartoon above, what is “YEC”? Is there a place here where acronyms and other shortcuts are explained?
YEC is an abbreviation for young-earth creationism. Sorry if you mistakenly thought I was referring to the Young Entrepreneur Council!
The problem with this discussion is that no one is accepting God as the author of the bible. They are taking those who wrote it as doing so of their own accord. Christians have always taken the bible, all of it, as the inspired Word of God and He used humans to write it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Once you believe that the Almighty and Sovereign God was responsible for it, there is no hardship in believing the miraculous as God is capable of anything.
Even if we had good reason to think that you were right about the church’s historic stance, we would still have to take seriously that in some cases the authors of these works gave us their names. They are not ghostwriters for God, if the way they wrote and what they wrote is any indication. But even if one accepts the Bible as inspired or even inerrant, unless one is willing to reject its teaching that the Creator is trustworthy and true, then one still cannot embrace young-earth creationism.
Creationists claim that the bible should be taken 100% literally. Many contemporary christians conveniently state those old testament stories are now only parables to guide people from simpler times on how to live as (their) god wishes. Propping up this old tired and thoroughly debunked manuscript. However if we project this same line of thinking to their idea of life after death, heaven, and the soul, we may just start a few interesting theological discussions. Taking away a christian’s life after death is like taking away a kids candy. It is the last grasp this religion has over the doubtful amidst their flock.