Saturday, 25 December 2010

You didn't buy that story, did ya Joseph?

Although this entry is being posted on Christmas day, I'm actually writing it on Christmas eve for the obvious reason that I have better things to do on Christmas than update a fairly modest blog - things like spending time with family and opening presents and stuff. So Merry Christmas from the past.

Here in the past it's pretty cosy, or at least it is where I am. The fire is on, I've sank a tasty pint of John Smiths, Prince Caspian is on TV, and I've been reading 'The Atheist's Guide To Christmas'. It was a well chosen joke gift given by a mate who graduated with me (she inisted that I opened it there and then, don't worry; I don't break the sacred Christmas gift-opening rules lightly). I've got a soft spot for inter-religious (or counter-religious) banter so I was keen to get stuck in, and true enough it's been a pretty funny read that's had me laugh-out-loud at parts.

Naturally however, when you get some folks to contribute to a volume that centres around a specific viewpoint, they'll now and again slip in some disparaging comments about the opposing viewpoint: in this case, Christian theism. I got no beef with this, I expect and in fact welcome it (though I do wish that in a book which is clearly meant to be humourous, there'd be a bit more, dare I say it, grace, given by the authors; the dichotomy between atheists as cool dispassionately reasoned fellows, and theists as irrational loons is a tiring canard that appears through-out the book), but what's bewildering is how downright silly some of the objections are. Uh-oh, I sense your unease. Now I know it's Christmas but that doesn't mean we can't get our philosophy hats on, does it? Just pretend the paper hat you got in your cracker is a bit more profound and a bit less naff than it actually is. Sorted? Good. Let's check out an objection that's particularly relevant to tomorrow (err, today), that is, Christmas, which for Christians is a celebration of the virgin bith of Jesus.

Science disproves the virgin birth?

If only Joseph had known about modern science. Poor guy. If he had he would have known that Mary could not be both pregnant and a virgin. Sadly he didn't have a clue about the birds and the bees so he accepted Mary's story about angels and the Holy Spirit and was duped by the cunning lass.

What's ridiculous about the above reflection is that it didn't take the advent of modern science for people to discover that virgins don't get pregnant. Believe it or not, the ancients knew that you didn't get the bump without doing the business. They weren't any more prone to believe that a virgin just happened to get pregnant any more than we are. Unsurpringly we read in Matthew that Joseph was going to leave Mary until an angel appeared to him in a dream and comfirmed Mary's story to him (whether or not you believe this actually happened is irrelevant to the point that Joseph clearly knew that virgins don't get pregnant). Despite this, Mitch Benn, in his otherwise intelligent contribution, scoffs at the "scientific implausibility of virgin births", as if the fact that virgin births can't occur through natural means is a blow against Christianity. Of course they don't occur naturally! I don't know any Christian who disagrees. Our claim is not "Mary got pregant through some natural cause even though she was a virgin", but rather "God caused Mary to be pregant even though she was a virgin."

There is a world of difference between these claims. Do you think the fact that virgins can't become pregnant through natural means establishes the impossibility of a all-powerful being who created nature causing a virgin to be pregnant? Clearly not. Even if there are concrete and binding entities called natural laws, if God exists he created them and thus can over-rule them. Benn has merely assumed that the Christian God doesn't exist, the very thing he was supposed to be arguing for.

On the plus side he does convincingly argue that atheists need not shun Christmas because of its religious association, something I wholly agree with. Christmas is what you make it, and if you're a non-religious folk who just wants to have a good time with a little wine and some mince pies, be my guest. Have a merry Christmas!     

28 comments:

MitchBenn said...

Now now, in the context of the piece, the "scientific implausibility of virgin births" was cited as a possible objection that an uptight humourless atheist parent might have to their child being in a school nativity play. My elder daughter's been in two nativity plays so far and I've been proud as punch at both of them.

However, you can't surely deny the SCIENTIFIC implausibility of virgin births? Might be technically possible now but not 2000 years ago. The IMPLAUSIBILITY of virgin births, absent scientific perameters, is a slightly different issue but requires supernatural factors which can't be incorporated into a scientific assessment.

And with regards to your final point, of COURSE I presume the non-existence of God, as I presume the non-existence of anything invisible, undetectable, unmeasurable and intangible. Where there is no evidence of a thing's existence, its NON-existence has to be the default position until such evidence arises.

Martin said...

Heya Mitch.

I understand the context in which you mentioned the "scientific implausibility of virgin births" and in fact agree with you that an atheist ought to be able to enjoy Christmas. I'm glad you were proud of your daughter! It was clearly implied however that you believe the scientific implausibility objection is a credible one. So I don't think I misrepresented you.

I wonder however what you mean when you say something is "scientifically implausible"? I took it to mean "implausible via natural means" and showed why that is irrelevant in determining whether a virgin birth actually occurred. So far as I can tell you haven't given a counter-argument to my refutation of the objection taken in this sense.

But do you take "scientifically implausible" to mean something different or more than "implausible via natural means"? If so I can't imagine what sense of the phrase would aid your position. If you argue that science, properly conducted, does not study or made reference to "supernatural factors" than all you would have succeeded in doing is showing that science is an area of study that cannot determine whether a virgin birth happened supernaturally or not.

But what's significant about this? Why should anyone care that science can't do this? Science isn't the only method of acquiring knowledge. After all the belief "science is the only method of acquiring knowledge" does not meet its own standard for it has itself not been scientifically acquired.

In regard to your acknowledgment that you presume the non-existence of God, my point was that the "scientific implausibility" objection is question-begging, it assumes something vital that is the very point being discussed, i.e. that God can't (or doesn't exist to be able to) intervene in the universe. This point of mine stands whether or not atheism is rationally justified as a default position absent any evidence for theism.

As it happens though it seems that absent any evidence for or against a positive existential claim, we ought to be agnostic about the truth of that claim, not assert its negation. For the principle that we ought to presume its negation leads into contradictions:

"Let’s accept for the sake of argument that there is not sufficient evidence that God exists. Let’s also accept for the sake of argument that there is not sufficient evidence that God does not exist.

From the principle in question it follows that we must assume

(1) God does not exist.

But now consider the following positive existential claim: There is a human being who was not created by God. That’s also a positive existential claim. So the principle in question also commits us to assuming

(2) It is not the case that there is a human being who was not created by God.

Now (2) is logically equivalent to

(3) All human beings were created by God.

Now, for a certain technical reason, we need to add the following to generate a contradiction (but it’s an unobjectionable premise):

(4) There are human beings.

Now the conjunction of (3) and (4) entails

(5) There is a human being that was created by God.

But (5) obviously entails

(6) God exists

So the principle in question commits us to making assumptions that entail both (1) and (6). But (1) and (6) are contradictory. So by reductio ad absurdum, the principle is false." source

MitchBenn said...

There's actually PLENTY of evidence that God does not exist, or at least that the God as described in the Bible does not exist.

While the notion of some sort of imperceptible non-interventionist God (the Deist concept of God) could never be 100% ruled out, seeing as its existence actually makes no difference whatsoever to the universe (ie. it's exactly the same without it as it would be with it) it's pointless debating it.

However Yahweh is patently a fiction as the only evidence for his existence is the Bible, and the Bible's own claim to be his inerrant word, which it CAN'T be, as it's riddled with errors and inconsistencies. It's not the inerrant anything.

Its pre-history is innacurate (no dinosaurs) its history is innacurate (there's no record of Moses's revolt or the plagues in Egyptian history, the supposed time-frame of Jesus's birth conflicts with contemporary Roman history) its science is all over the place (bats are birds, pi=3, the earth is flat with four corners, there's no mention of microscopic life at all); considering the Bible is supposed to be the product of divine omniscience it gets a LOT of things wrong.

I'm not even going to get into the hideous moral flaws in the Bible - and the utter nonsense they make of the claim that God, via the Bible, is the source of all human goodness - since all such things are essentially subjective.

I could also bring up Epicurus' Paradox; it's well-worn I know but it does go unanswered. How can we believe in a just and loving all-powerful God when we see a world full of injustice? And the "mysterious ways" answer won't wash. It, like more or less every argument in favour of God's existence, is merely a polite way of saying "Shut up and believe."

So, am I certain that *A* God doesn't exist? No. Am I certain that YOUR God doesn't exist? Absolutely.

Martin said...

Mitch, it is interesting that you did not actually respond to any of the arguments I made in my last post. I can only presume it is because you are unable to. I don't know why you don't just have the humility to accept that. Instead you rattle off numerous assertions about the Bible of which I seriously doubt you've done much research on. I shall be honest in responding to your rather emotionally loaded post by actually admitting areas where I lack knowledge.

You claim that the only evidence for the existence of Yahweh is the Bible's own claim to be his word. This is utterly false. You seem ignorant of the fact that the Bible's historical texts can be treated like any other historical texts and thus can provide evidence of what actually happened in history. I wonder if you're even familiar with historical arguments for Jesus' resurrection from scholars like N.T.Wright, Gary Habermas, or William Lane Craig? And while you do list some alleged errors in the Bible your assertion that the Bible contains inconsistencies is nothing more than that: an assertion.

In addition, what if the Bible is not inerrant? If the Bible records an error does that entail that Yahweh does not exist or that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

You mention that the Bible does not talk about dinosaurs or microscopic life. At what point do you think it should have? Where does the Bible attempt a comprehensive list of all the creatures that ever lived?

It would be nice btw if you provided Bible references for errors you accuse the text of making. As it happens you're putting an arbitrary standard on to the text. The word used for bird didn't have the precise meaning it did then, it was a more general word for a creature that flied. And to how many digits after the decimal place do you want pi to be listed to in order for the text to not be making an error? And what makes you think the four-corners language is literal?

I'm certainly not qualified to comment on Egyptian history (I doubt you are too) but it would be nice if you provided more specifics about the conflict in Jesus' birth and Roman history. Some sources might be nice too.

Strangely, in the same paragraph you lament God's moral shortcomings and then claim that morality is merely subjective! Do you really think their is no more truth to the claim that murder is wrong than there is to the claim that ice cream tastes nice? I guarantee you, you do not live consistently with this philosophy.

(More below)

Martin said...

Your penultimate paragraph is perhaps the biggest indication of your ignorance. Obviously the Christian claim is that justice is ultimately administered at the end of the age at the final resurrection, not in this present life. As for the alleged impossibiltiy of a good God allowing suffering, that argument fails and is widly unpopular amongst philosophers at the moment. It fails because it is logically possible that God has a morally justifiable reason for allowing suffering.

Contrary to the popular impression given by Dawkins et al and (sadly) many within the church, Christianity is not about shutting off your brain. The fact that the only answer you've encountered from Christians in response to Epicurus is "God works in mysterious ways" reveals to me that you haven't come into contact with any substantial Christian material beyond the insufficient words of your average pastor who clearly isn't doing his job properly.

I sincerely hope you haven't been irresponsible enough to bodly assert the views you've presented here in the public eye, when you're clearly not in a position to dish them out with any authority. Your post in the theologweb thread I sourced in the previous post was embarrassing.

Look, I can see that you have no love for things that are mindless. I too cannot accept something blindly and I feel that to do so would be dangerous. But do not think that because there is not an intelligent Christian voice that has the public's attention, then there is no intelligent Christian voice at all.

Nick said...

Mitch:However, you can't surely deny the SCIENTIFIC implausibility of virgin births? Might be technically possible now but not 2000 years ago. The IMPLAUSIBILITY of virgin births, absent scientific perameters, is a slightly different issue but requires supernatural factors which can't be incorporated into a scientific assessment.

Reply: Excuse me. Could you please tell me when it was established by science that it takes sexual intercourse between a man and a woman to make a baby? Who proved this?

I mean, it seems like you're saying the ancients were ignorant of this fact so it'd be amusing for me to see when you think this was demonstrated.

Also, could you define this term "supernatural" for me?

Mitch: And with regards to your final point, of COURSE I presume the non-existence of God, as I presume the non-existence of anything invisible, undetectable, unmeasurable and intangible. Where there is no evidence of a thing's existence, its NON-existence has to be the default position until such evidence arises.

Reply: Could you please then demonstrate to me the existence of triangularity?

Mitch: However Yahweh is patently a fiction as the only evidence for his existence is the Bible, and the Bible's own claim to be his inerrant word, which it CAN'T be, as it's riddled with errors and inconsistencies. It's not the inerrant anything.

Reply: Oh this is cute. Do you not know anything about natural theology? (Oh wait. I'm sure the answer is no.) I'll make my case for God's existence on the five ways of Aquinas. Pick any way that you wish and we'll discuss it.

MitchBenn said...

It is interesting how in these discussions it's always the humble and forebearing servants of the Lord who get tetchy and personal first...

Don't really have time for this, but...

"Mitch, it is interesting that you did not actually respond to any of the arguments I made in my last post. I can only presume it is because you are unable to."
If you're referring to that specious six point thing in the latter paragraph of your reply, I didn't respond to it because you'd cut n' pasted it from Theologyweb. I've seen it before and like most apologetic arguments it hinges on a logical fallacy (that's it there in point 2 - that simply does not follow from point 1 at all, and as such the rest of it is meaningless). It's a fun but transparent little word game which proves nothing.

" I don't know why you don't just have the humility to accept that."

I do love how Christians accuse atheists of a lack of humility while claiming certain knowledge of that which cannot be known - the exixtence of an invisible being inhabiting an imperceptible realm - but also to know the MIND of this being and to be among his most favoured subjects. Ah yes, how humble.

It's like when Christians tell us how "offensive" our beliefs are (wrong already, incidentally. Atheism isn't a belief. It's the absence of a belief. A-theism, not Athe-sim)... I believe that when you and I die, exactly the same fate awaits both of us. YOU believe that when I die, I will be made to suffer for all eternity, and, moreover, that I DESERVE to be made to suffer for all eternity. And *my* beliefs are offensive?

MitchBenn said...

(continued)

"Instead you rattle off numerous assertions about the Bible of which I seriously doubt you've done much research on."

Ok, here we go:

By definition can't cite the Bible passage mentioning dinosaurs 'cos there isn't one...

Historicity of the plagues of Egypt; no mention of this has been found, except purportedly by Christian apologist William Albright; the documents he presented were found to refer to a far earlier historical period than the supposed time of the Exodus. Modern day Israeli scholars (Israel Finkelstein, Zeev Hertzog) now acknowledge Genesis and Exodus as folk mythology (despite political pressure to do otherwise).

Historicity of the Nativity: Luke & Matthew have Christ conceived during the reign of Herod the Great (37 BC-4 BC), but also during the governorship of Quirinius, which began ten years later in AD 6.

Pi=3: 1 Kings 7:23

Bats are birds: Leviticus 11:13-19

Flat earth with four corners: Revelation 7:1



"You claim that the only evidence for the existence of Yahweh is the Bible's own claim to be his word. This is utterly false. You seem ignorant of the fact that the Bible's historical texts can be treated like any other historical texts and thus can provide evidence of what actually happened in history."

They can be, and have been, and have been discredited by all but apologists.


(continues..)

MitchBenn said...

(continues)

"I wonder if you're even familiar with historical arguments for Jesus' resurrection from scholars like N.T.Wright, Gary Habermas, or William Lane Craig?"


Confess I'm not familiar with the first two, and don't have time to read up on them now (don't really have time for any of this, but hey ho) but William Lane Craig?? Are you serious? Why don't you just cite Ray Comfort and his banana while you're about it?

I don't respect the "scholarship" of the likes of WLC because what he practises is not scholarship or science, it's apologetics. A scholar or a scientist assesses the evidence and proceeds towards a conclusion. An apologist STARTS with the conclusion (the Bible is true, or at least broadly true - not all apologists are YECs) and then actively seeks evidence to support it, ignoring everything else.


"And while you do list some alleged errors in the Bible your assertion that the Bible contains inconsistencies is nothing more than that: an assertion."


Think I just cleared that one up.



"In addition, what if the Bible is not inerrant? If the Bible records an error does that entail that Yahweh does not exist or that Jesus did not rise from the dead?"


No, it just means there's absolutely no reason to accept that either of those things is true. The Bible's SOLE claim to authority is its own insistence - and its followers's acceptance - that it is The Inerrant Revealed Truth Of God. Without this, it's merely an interesting collection of folk legends. Since nothing which contains demonstrable factual errors and/or internal inconsistencies CAN be classed as "inerrant", the Bible's foundational claim is shown to be false, and therefore there's no reason to accept any of its other claims on face value. Where the Bible DOES tally with extra-Biblical accounts I'm happy to take it on board as another source of information, but I'm afraid the existence of the Bible is evidence of nothing other than the fact that somebody wrote a book called the Bible.


"You mention that the Bible does not talk about dinosaurs or microscopic life. At what point do you think it should have?"

Oh I dunno, Genesis? On the evening of the third day, God made some really big lizards?


"Where does the Bible attempt a comprehensive list of all the creatures that ever lived?"


Well in Genesis 1:26 God gives man dominion over all other living things on Earth. had whoever wrote Genesis know about bacteria and viruses he would have known that such things frequently have dominion over us.

(continues...)

MitchBenn said...

(continued)

That's the thing about the Bible; for something that's supposed to be the product of divine revelation there's no actual information in there which wasn't known to, or couldn't have been made up by, the people of the time. Case in point; Christ was supposedly possessed of diving knowledge, and yet while during his ministry he's content to cure the sick - and rather, flashily, revive the dead - why didn't he tell people about germs? Why didn't he instruct his followers in simple food hygiene? How many MILLIONS of lives would that have saved?



"It would be nice btw if you provided Bible references for errors you accuse the text of making."


There you go.


"As it happens you're putting an arbitrary standard on to the text. The word used for bird didn't have the precise meaning it did then, it was a more general word for a creature that flied."


Cheap shot, but "flied"? Oh dear.


"And to how many digits after the decimal place do you want pi to be listed to in order for the text to not be making an error?"


It's GOD. God isn't supposed to make errors AT ALL. Even if Pi is an infinite number in decimal terms, it's easily expressed as twenty-two sevenths. How hard would that have been?


"And what makes you think the four-corners language is literal?"


Fair enough, but you've got to admit at least that the notion of a geocentric universe was important enough to Biblical doctrine for Gallileo to be threatened with torture and excommunication for debunking it.



"I'm certainly not qualified to comment on Egyptian history (I doubt you are too) but it would be nice if you provided more specifics about the conflict in Jesus' birth and Roman history. Some sources might be nice too."


There you go.



"Strangely, in the same paragraph you lament God's moral shortcomings and then claim that morality is merely subjective! Do you really think their is no more truth to the claim that murder is wrong than there is to the claim that ice cream tastes nice? I guarantee you, you do not live consistently with this philosophy."

... and here comes the old Atheists Have No Moral Standards chestnut.

Here's the thing; Morality is doing the right thing, no matter what you're told to do.
Religion is doing what you're told to do, whatever the right thing may be. Ask Abraham.

And my moral standards are far less fluid than yours, because I apply them to everything and everybody.

Whenever a rationalist points out to an apologist that at various points the Bible endorses slavery (Ex 21:2-6, Lev 25:44-46 and elsewhere), stoning children for disobedience (Deut 21:18-21), genocide (Deut 7:1-5), rape (Gen 19:4-8), the apologist will invariably say how you CAN'T apply modern moral standards to those passages, and besides, if Moses, the mouthpiece of God, orders his men to slaughter an entire population except the little girls, who they can keep to do what they like with (ew) (Numbers 31:7), then there's obviously some reason why in THAT instance, committing genocide and then spinning off a little paedophile slave ring off of it was perfectly fine and reasonable...

Stuff that. Those things were wrong then and they'd be wrong now.

(continues...)

MitchBenn said...

(continued)

"Your penultimate paragraph is perhaps the biggest indication of your ignorance. Obviously the Christian claim is that justice is ultimately administered at the end of the age at the final resurrection, not in this present life. As for the alleged impossibiltiy of a good God allowing suffering, that argument fails and is widly unpopular amongst philosophers at the moment. It fails because it is logically possible that God has a morally justifiable reason for allowing suffering. "


In other words, God moves in mysterious ways (sigh).



"Contrary to the popular impression given by Dawkins et al and (sadly) many within the church, Christianity is not about shutting off your brain. The fact that the only answer you've encountered from Christians in response to Epicurus is "God works in mysterious ways" reveals to me that you haven't come into contact with any substantial Christian material beyond the insufficient words of your average pastor who clearly isn't doing his job properly. "


...and you've just done it again.



"I sincerely hope you haven't been irresponsible enough to bodly assert the views you've presented here in the public eye, when you're clearly not in a position to dish them out with any authority."


Bit late for that. You've read the book.


"Your post in the theologweb thread I sourced in the previous post was embarrassing."


Yeah, but it was funny.



"Look, I can see that you have no love for things that are mindless. I too cannot accept something blindly and I feel that to do so would be dangerous. But do not think that because there is not an intelligent Christian voice that has the public's attention, then there is no intelligent Christian voice at all."


Don't be so hard on yourself.


Anyway, fun though this has been, I'm supposed to be doing my tax return. Don't want to go the way of Kent Hovind. Or Jim Bakker.

Nick said...

Oh boy Martin. You've found a live one here. I just wanted to comment on some of his silliness.

Bats aren't birds first off.

Did you actually bother to look up the Hebrew word? It refers to a creature that's winged. The same word is used to describe insects with wings. Last I checked, bats have wings so bats qualify as owph.

(That's the Hebrew word. You might have heard of Hebrew. It's the language the Old Testament was written in.)

As for Pi being 3, you've never heard of rounding? Don't take my word for it. Take that of Dr. Math.

http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/52573.html

The four corners refer to compass directions speaking of the North, the South, the East, and the West. It's simply a way of saying worldwide. I suppose you scream that the Earth isn't flat when someone makes a comment today also about something going out to the ends of the Earth.

Still, I'd prefer the natural theology route. Tell me which way of Aquinas you'd like to challenge.

MitchBenn said...

So if the Bats Are Birds thing is a mistranslation, how much more of the Bible is mistranslated?

And why did God permit this? If he's gone to all the trouble of guiding the Bible's creation, why does he let big chunks of it go wrong in the editing?

And who among us is so sure of the mind of God to say which bits are mistranslated? Or is it just the really embarrassing bits like saying bats being birds?

Wow, this book gets more inerrant by the minute!

Nick said...

@Mitch.

I never said it was a mistranslation. I just said look at what the word means. You do know inerrancy applies to the originals only and not the translations. Right?

Oh wait. Why think any real reading has been done on inerrancy?

My challenge to you on natural theology still stands. I won't even just say that God exists but that it can be treated as knowledge.

MitchBenn said...

Yeah you did. You said "bird"(or "fowl" in the KJV) was an innacurate translation of the broader Hebrew term "owph". You just pointed out a mistake in the Bible. Congratulations.

MitchBenn said...

... and don't try to hijack the discussion onto the Bit Of Really Cool Apologetic Theory you happen to have read up on. If you want to start a discussion on Aquinas go right ahead. That's not what we were talking about.

Nick said...

@Mitch:

*Yawn*

No. I pointed out that it was a bad translation. The Hebrew word is an excellent word and that is what inerrancy applies to. Every translation could be wrong and inerrancy still right.

Which way of Aquinas would you like to try, or are you just nervous?

Nick said...

Oh? We're not talking about Aquinas. I thought we were talking about evidence for the existence of God.

Or is it just that you want to stick to just the Bible because you think disproving the Bible means disproving theism. It doesn't.

I just thought that someone so confident that there was no evidence would be open to discussing it.

I guess you're just a man of faith.

MitchBenn said...

Not nervous. Just busy. Bye now.

Nick said...

I'll be waiting here when you "cease being busy" and are able to debate.

MitchBenn said...

Ok then (big breath):

It's important first to note that Aquinas proceeds from the existence of God as an absolute given, as evinced by the last sentence of each "way" ("this all men call God";"this everyone understands to be God" etc.), This immediately invalidates the whole exercise as any sort of objective case for God, but we'll let that slide.

The first three ways are essentially the same argument: "How did all this get here without God" and can ALL be dismissed by the question "How did God get here?". Infinite regression. Answers nothing. Proves nothing.

The fourth statement is true but would still be true without God. A thing is the way it is, whether or not we or God say so. There is such a thing as objective reality, not contingent upon perception or definition.

The fifth is rendered obsolete by the theory of evolution.

That was easy.

REALLY bye now.

Nick said...

hehehe. This is funny. It's almost like it was taken completely out of Dawkins.

First, the claim the first three are all the same argument.

BZZZZT!

The first argument is about motion meaning the actualizing of potential.

The second argument is about efficient causality and how to explain the effects today.

The third argument is about whether it would be possible for anything to exist now if all things were contingent.

There are similiarites with these, but they're all different.

Also, these arguments do not assume God. When Aquinas ends them in God, he is ending them in whatever is ultimate without giving us the nature of that ultimate reality.

Aquinas also does not assume an infinite regress. He believes an infinite regress per accidens is possible, as is found in Question 46, article 2 of the Prima Pars of the Summa. He would disagree with Craig on the Kalam.

The fourth argument is talking about degrees of transcendentals and transcendentals are non-material realities. How do you explain degrees in that area?

The fifth argument doesn't give a darn about evolution. It's not even talking about living species but rather non-living species, such as planets in orbit. It can include living species but is not limited to species. It deals with teleology. It doesn't care how they got there but if there is a purpose to them being there. Aquinas would not care about the ID movement today necessarily.

As for where did God come from, Aquinas answers this in the next chapter on simplicity, which tells me you haven't read Aquinas but most likely just Dawkins, who also hasn't read Aquinas. To ask what caused God for Aquinas is like asking "What caused existence?"

Thanks for demonstrating you haven't read. You are a man of faith!

Martin said...

“It is interesting how in these discussions it's always the humble and forebearing servants of the Lord who get tetchy and personal first...”

Interesting. Who was it that decided to ignore the actual argument that I addressed in the blog entry and heatedly brought up a ton of irrelevant points instead? That’s right, you. As it stands you haven’t done anything to defend your objection to the virgin birth based on “scientific implausibility” against my criticisms nor do I have any reason to believe that you are able to.

“If you're referring to that specious six point thing in the latter paragraph of your reply, I didn't respond to it because you'd cut n' pasted it from Theologyweb. I've seen it before and like most apologetic arguments it hinges on a logical fallacy (that's it there in point 2 - that simply does not follow from point 1 at all, and as such the rest of it is meaningless). It's a fun but transparent little word game which proves nothing.”

Actually I was referring to the whole of that post. You didn’t address any of the points. And it seems you continue to embarrass yourself. (2) isn’t supposed to follow from (1). (2) is just another positive existential claim to be considered alongside (1). I’m sure your next attempt to expose the argument as a transparent word game will be far more impressive though.

“I do love how Christians accuse atheists of a lack of humility while claiming certain knowledge of that which cannot be known - the exixtence of an invisible being inhabiting an imperceptible realm - but also to know the MIND of this being and to be among his most favoured subjects. Ah yes, how humble.”

No I don’t accuse atheists of a lack of humility, I’ve accused you of a lack of humility. And tell me, is it arrogant for me to assume that you like me if you told me? Surely not. Well would it be arrogant of a Christian to claim to know God’s thoughts and favour if God had revealed that to her? No. Of course the entire contention is whether God has given such revelation. So your arrogance objection is question-begging.

“It's like when Christians tell us how "offensive" our beliefs are (wrong already, incidentally. Atheism isn't a belief. It's the absence of a belief. A-theism, not Athe-sim)... I believe that when you and I die, exactly the same fate awaits both of us. YOU believe that when I die, I will be made to suffer for all eternity, and, moreover, that I DESERVE to be made to suffer for all eternity. And *my* beliefs are offensive?”

I haven’t accused you of being offensive so I don’t get why you’ve brought this up. Nice argument from outrage by the way. In addition I notice how you love your sweeping statements about what Christians believe and do. And tell me, do you assent to the proposition “there are no divine beings”? If you do then you must have some strange sort of assent that doesn’t count as having a belief. How interesting.

Martin said...

“Historicity of the plagues of Egypt; no mention of this has been found, except purportedly by Christian apologist William Albright; the documents he presented were found to refer to a far earlier historical period than the supposed time of the Exodus. Modern day Israeli scholars (Israel Finkelstein, Zeev Hertzog) now acknowledge Genesis and Exodus as folk mythology (despite political pressure to do otherwise).”

I don’t claim any knowledge in this area so I shan’t debate this point.

“Historicity of the Nativity: Luke & Matthew have Christ conceived during the reign of Herod the Great (37 BC-4 BC), but also during the governorship of Quirinius, which began ten years later in AD 6.”

“Quirinius, at the time of King Herod's death was doing military expeditions in the eastern provinces of the Roman empire (Tacitus , Annals 3:48; Florus, Roman History 2:31), with some evidence indicating that he either was a co-ruler with the governor of Syria (the somewhat inept Quintilius Varus) or at least placed in charge of the 14-year census in Palestine. Varus was famous for the later fiasco at the Teutoburger forest in Germany (9 ad) and at his appointment as Gov.. of Syria in 7 BC was largely 'untested'. The census was due in 8-7 BC, and Augustus could easily have ordered his trusted Quirinius (fresh from subduing the Pisidian highlanders) to assist in this volatile project. Herod I had recently lost favor of the emperor and was probably dragging his feet on taking the census--a process with always enraged the difficult Jews! This would have pushed the timeframe into the 5 BC mark, which fits the general data.” http://www.christianthinktank.com/quirinius.html (with more relevant info in that article)

“Pi=3: 1 Kings 7:23

Bats are birds: Leviticus 11:13-19

Flat earth with four corners: Revelation 7:1”


I agree with Nick’s treatment of these verses.

Martin said...

“They can be, and have been, and have been discredited by all but apologists.” 



This is kind of like saying that evolution has been rejected by all but evolutionists. What on earth is significant about that?

“I don't respect the "scholarship" of the likes of WLC because what he practises is not scholarship or science, it's apologetics.”

But of course, Craig can’t be a scholar, after all he only has a PHD in Philosophy and Theology. You erroneously assume that scholarship cannot support the Christian faith.

“A scholar or a scientist assesses the evidence and proceeds towards a conclusion. An apologist STARTS with the conclusion (the Bible is true, or at least broadly true - not all apologists are YECs) and then actively seeks evidence to support it, ignoring everything else.”

Asserted not shown and also demonstrates the use of the genetic fallacy.

“No, it just means there's absolutely no reason to accept that either of those things is true. The Bible's SOLE claim to authority is its own insistence - and its followers's acceptance - that it is The Inerrant Revealed Truth Of God. Without this, it's merely an interesting collection of folk legends. Since nothing which contains demonstrable factual errors and/or internal inconsistencies CAN be classed as "inerrant", the Bible's foundational claim is shown to be false, and therefore there's no reason to accept any of its other claims on face value. Where the Bible DOES tally with extra-Biblical accounts I'm happy to take it on board as another source of information, but I'm afraid the existence of the Bible is evidence of nothing other than the fact that somebody wrote a book called the Bible.”

No, not every truth claim in the Bible can necessarily only be accepted by accepting the claim that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. I suggested that the resurrection of Jesus is one such example. You confessed that you were largely unfamiliar with leading proponents of these arguments so maybe you should retract this claim until you’ve examined them?

Martin said...

“Oh I dunno, Genesis? On the evening of the third day, God made some really big lizards?”

Have you even read Genesis? You know it talks in VERY general terms right?

“Well in Genesis 1:26 God gives man dominion over all other living things on Earth. had whoever wrote Genesis know about bacteria and viruses he would have known that such things frequently have dominion over us.”

You’re familiar with the doctrine of the fall right? Right?

“That's the thing about the Bible; for something that's supposed to be the product of divine revelation there's no actual information in there which wasn't known to, or couldn't have been made up by, the people of the time. Case in point; Christ was supposedly possessed of diving knowledge, and yet while during his ministry he's content to cure the sick - and rather, flashily, revive the dead - why didn't he tell people about germs? Why didn't he instruct his followers in simple food hygiene? How many MILLIONS of lives would that have saved?”

Interestingly you (incorrectly) accuse Christians of being arrogant in claiming to know the mind of God and here you are claiming you know what God ought to have done. Of course why stop at food hygiene, why didn’t Jesus just devote his life to the development of transhumanism? Guess God has a different idea of what’s important. You claim that the Bible doesn’t reveal anything that wasn’t already known by other people of the time. Well that might be more or less true if you ignore the differences in Israelite theology compared to her ANE contemporaries. Y’know, theology ... the focus of the Bible?

“Cheap shot, but "flied"? Oh dear.”

I’ll give ya that one for free ;)

Martin said...

“It's GOD. God isn't supposed to make errors AT ALL. Even if Pi is an infinite number in decimal terms, it's easily expressed as twenty-two sevenths. How hard would that have been?”

I agree with Nick’s response.

“Fair enough, but you've got to admit at least that the notion of a geocentric universe was important enough to Biblical doctrine for Gallileo to be threatened with torture and excommunication for debunking it.”

I don’t think it has any such importance at all.

“... and here comes the old Atheists Have No Moral Standards chestnut.

Here's the thing; Morality is doing the right thing, no matter what you're told to do.
Religion is doing what you're told to do, whatever the right thing may be. Ask Abraham.”


Again you miss the point by assuming you know what I’m saying because I’m a Christian. Maybe you should take your time and listen. My argument was not “you’re an atheist, therefore to be consistent you need to be a moral relativist” it was “you’re a moral relativist, therefore you are a hypocrite for decrying the immorality of anything.”

Martin said...

“Whenever a rationalist points out to an apologist that at various points the Bible endorses slavery (Ex 21:2-6, Lev 25:44-46 and elsewhere), stoning children for disobedience (Deut 21:18-21), genocide (Deut 7:1-5), rape (Gen 19:4-8), the apologist will invariably say how you CAN'T apply modern moral standards to those passages, and besides, if Moses, the mouthpiece of God, orders his men to slaughter an entire population except the little girls, who they can keep to do what they like with (ew) (Numbers 31:7), then there's obviously some reason why in THAT instance, committing genocide and then spinning off a little paedophile slave ring off of it was perfectly fine and reasonable...”

Tell me, do you think slavery then was identical to what we commonly think of as slavery now? Do you think the “genocide” you reference is actual ethnic cleansing? Do you think Old Testament law is given as God’s ideal standard for civilisation? Do you think God endorsed Lot’s actions in Gen. 19:4-8? Do you think God gave the Israelites permission to “do whatever they wanted with the girls”?

“In other words, God moves in mysterious ways (sigh).”

How very funny. You presented a paradox, i.e. a problem that is supposed to involve contradictions. I showed that there is no such contradiction. Your argument was refuted.

“...and you've just done it again.”

Done what exactly?

“Bit late for that. You've read the book.”

Yes but your contribution only made a few incidental objections to Christianity.

“Yeah, but it was funny.”

Too true.

“Don't be so hard on yourself.

Anyway, fun though this has been, I'm supposed to be doing my tax return. Don't want to go the way of Kent Hovind. Or Jim Bakker.”


Enjoy.