William Lane Craig goes after me for ignorance of religion and science

August 22, 2011 • 6:23 am

An alert reader brought to my attention a 13-minute video that Baptist theologian and debater William Lane Craig—known for his approval of Biblically-based genocide—made in response to my piece in USA Today arguing that science and faith aren’t compatible.  Craig has two main responses: first, that I don’t understand religion, and second, that science, like religion, is based on faith.  He also faults me for tone, saying that my piece is imbued with a “bitterness and anger” toward religion that he finds puzzling.  I contend that my piece is neither bitter nor angry, and that I have plenty of reasons to oppose religion so my behavior is hardly puzzling.

Here’s Craig’s response:

His main points are these:

  • I conflate religion and faith, which are really different things.  He defines “religion” as “a body of doctrine and practice that has to do with God,” and sees faith as “trust or commitment in something.”  Because we can have faith in stuff other than God, I shouldn’t be using the terms interchangeably.  Granted, one can have “faith” (which I define as “belief without evidence”) in stuff other than God—like homeopathy. But it’s clear in my piece that I was using “faith” as a synonym for religion, so his complaint is irrelevant.
  • He argues that the purpose of religion is not “an explanatory enterprise,” but rather mainly a “prescriptive” enterprise: one that tells us how to live and behave.  That, of course, is bogus.  Theologians have always argued that the purpose of religion is to give us answers to the “Big Questions” about life, and that’s explanatory. Here, for example, is Catholic theologian John Haught, from his book Deeper than Darwin (p. 133; we’ll hear a bit about Haught this week because I’ll soon be sharing a platform with him, and have been reading him as an exemplar of “sophisticated theology”):

“What’s going on in the universe? Is there any point to it all? Why are we here? How should we live? Does God exist? Where did the universe come from? Why does anything exist at all? Why is there so much suffering? Why do we die? Do we live on after death? How can we find release from suffering and sadness? What can we hope for?”.  . “It is the main business of religion to answer the big questions.”

I would argue, of course, that although theology asks the big questions, it has no way of answering them—or at least determining answers that are correct.

So yes, I think most theologians, save Craig, think that religion’s main value is to explain why we’re here and what our “purpose” is.  Those are explanations, not prescriptions. I would not for a minute, however, deny religion’s prescriptive (moral) function, though I’d maintain that insofar as morality comes from religion, it’s either based at bottom on secular reason or (as in Craig’s own justifications for Old Testament genocide) pernicious.

  • In an unintentionally humorous assertion, which really shows that Craig doesn’t understand science, he claims (4:55) that religion has made inestimably important contributions to science. These include “the plan of salvation” and “how to find eternal life”.  It gives us a “moral code” for living.  What these have to do with science escapes me.  He also claims that the framework of modern science originated in religion (especially Christianity), for religion produced the notion of a world  separate from God and subject to rational investigation.  That’s a common claim, but I don’t think the advance of science had anything to do with its being pushed by Christianity. It’s based on simple human curiosity, and would have arisen whether or not the Church was around.  Further, the Church has often discouraged rational investigations of the world if they threaten scripture; evolution is but one example.
  • While I argue that faith is “belief without warrant,” Craig says this is simply not true, for many faiths are based on historically verifiable events.  Christianity, for example, is rooted, says Craig, “in events that actually happened, people that actually lived, things that actually went on.”  And he says that religion can come within the purview of the historian, and that “Professor Coyne” maintains that as well.  What I have maintained is that certain claims that accompany belief in a theistic God can be tested, like the efficacy of prayer.  Further, some of the miracle claims of the Bible are either palpably false, like the Adam and Eve story, or so improbable that, using Hume’s criterion, they’re almost certainly made up (e.g., the Resurrection).  But certainly the major events of the life of Jesus, like the virgin birth and Resurrection (some would even say Jesus’s existence) don’t pass any credible scientific test, since they are documented in only one book that is known to be largely fictitious.  Nevertheless, Craig argues that we have tons of evidence for the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and those come from the very credible Gospels.
  • Craig argues that science itself is permeated with assumptions about the world that cannot be scientifically justified, but are based on faith.  One of these is the validity of inductive reasoning: “Just because A has always been followed by B every time in the past is no proof at all that  A will be followed by B tomorrow.”  To suppose the latter requires faith.  I wonder if Craig worries every time he gets on an airplane, or whether the sun might not rise tomorrow.  What he doesn’t seem to realize is that the assumption that things will operate in the future as they have in the past has always worked (as Hawking says, “Science wins because it works”), and so the assumptions are not mere faith; they are justified by their results. If the assumption wasn’t justified, for example, we couldn’t send people to the Moon.

Craig cites three other articles of faith accepted by scientists, articles that can’t be proven:

  1. We assume that the velocity of light is constant in a one way direction, but all we can measure is the round-trip velocity of light. Therefore, light could go out at one speed and come back at another, with the round trip velocity always being the same. I would find it extraordinary if this were true.  The assumption of constancy is based on parsimony, and to me doesn’t seem equivalent to believing in the Resurrection, for which there’s no parsimony explanation, but simply tons of counterevidence that dead people don’t come back to life.
  2. Another article of scientific faith is the assumption that there is indeed a real external world that can be described accurately by our senses.  We could, after all, be brains in vats, or creatures in some giant simulation run by aliens.  This is a very common tactic used by the faithful equate science and religion; Haught also makes this claim.  My answer is that every bit of evidence shows that we have evolved to detect realities in an external world, and those senses help us survive. This argues for the reality of an external world that is at least somewhat accurately perceived by our senses, and other of other creatures.  After all, if we don’t run when we think we perceive a large, angry felid coming toward us, we will perceive that we get eaten.  As Dan Dennett argues, “such an appeal to the power of information-gathering organs would be in danger of vicious circularity were it not for the striking confirmations of these achievements of natural selection using independent engineering measures.  The acuity of vision in the eagle and hearing in the owl, the discriminatory power of electric eels and echolocating bats, and many other cognitive talents in humans and other species have all been objectively measured, for instance.”
  3. Finally, Craig argues last-Thursday-ism: that it’s an article of scientific faith that the world has had a real past that we can discover, rather than having been created only five minutes ago with all of our memories of our lives, and knowledge of the past, created as well.  I have two counters here.  First, even if that’s true, we can still find out stuff about how things work now from using information about that supposedly fictitious past, and make verifiable and verified predictions based on that information, so in some sense it doesn’t really matter.  Second, for a religious person like Craig to believe this entails not only the notion of a deceptive God, but also one who created the illusion of Jesus and the events of the Bible for reasons that we can’t fathom.

Clearly we’re going to hear more about science’s reliance on philosophical naturalism as being an “article of faith” equivalent to belief in the divinity of Jesus.  This is an increasingly popular argument among both religious people and accommodationists, so I’d like to hear readers’ responses.

335 thoughts on “William Lane Craig goes after me for ignorance of religion and science

  1. ?? typo inserted to confuse me?

    “…the assumption that things will work in the past as they have in the future…”


        1. Don’t they teach kids anything these days?

          That’s, “Tachyons willunt haven to is discoveringed tomorrowday.”

          Conjugation! Get it right or you’ll wind up marrying your own grand-widow.



    1. I’m confused by your reasoning. Coyne suggests that because there was never a resurrection before there couldn’t have been one ever. The purpose of the resurrection was to show that what he was talking about was true. If God created the universe then certainly he could have risen someone from the dead. You don’t believe God created the universe you say? Well, how did it just randomly appear? If evolution was true it would still require a designer to guide the process. I’m sure most of what you own was created. Would you say something you own just appeared out of nothing?

  2. Ah yes, the inductive reasoning thing.

    So you could argue that we don’t “know” that tomorrow gravity will turn off and we’ll float off into space. But we’ve observed that in the past it won’t. So that’s a faith of sorts. But the faith of religion has absolutely no observances in the past.

    And like the Hawk says, it works.

    Very good post breaking down this guy’s arguments.

  3. He seems to believe that the only way to measure the speed of light is with a flashlight, a mirror, and a stopwatch.

  4. The one-way speed of light is certainly harder to measure than the two-way speed, but it is by no means impossible. The simplest way is simply to measure the average speed of light as it bounces between two moving mirrors (so that it spends unequal amounts of time moving in the two directions). While two-way speed measurements are precise to parts in 10^(-17), one-ways speeds have been measured directly at only the 10^(-13) level. [The one-way speed measurement is limited in its precision by the speed at which we can move the mirrors. In order to do a really precise measurement, we must rely on the Earth’s orbital motion, for which v/c is about 10^(-4).] But that’s still a very precise measurement. [In fact, we can even do better, by looking at the rate at which very energetic electrons emit radiation; this also depends on the one-way speed of light. The method is not quite as straightforward as the direct measurements, but it constrains the speed of light at a 10^(-16) level of precision.]

    1. Craig’s comments on the speed of light are stupefying. He just needs to turn on gps location services to test our understanding of one-way light speed, or type four words into Google Scholar.

      But Craig is engaged in nothing less than outright fraud, which is why his ramble is a sequence of transparent falsehoods.

      1. “But Craig is engaged in nothing less than outright fraud, which is why his ramble is a sequence of transparent falsehoods.”

        made harder to hear/understand clearly by all the wet noodles he’s throwing against the wall, at that. the noise is killing me!

      2. ” . . . gps location services . . . .”

        If I read correctly, the mathematics of GPS involves imaginary numbers. I wonder what Craig’s take on imaginary numbers is.

        Or is it possible that, as per Lawrence Krauss’s tongue-in-cheek T-shirt (if I remember it correctly), “2 + 2 = 5 for very large values of 2.”

        Just as with the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” (Eugene Wigner), so with that of science. They both work.

        1. You ought to read Craig’s critique of A Brief History of Time, particularly the Hawking-Hartle No Boundary Universe, which relies on imaginary numbers. Craig basically dismisses them as… well, imaginary.

          1. Craig’s ignorant and self-serving views on imaginary numbers are a two second Google search away: “Imaginary numbers are useful when computing certain equations, but one always converts back to real numbers to yield a physically meaningful result.”

            No. GPS, which involves demodulating the GPS satellite’s signal, is a good counterexample to Craig’s nonsense. In this case, the imaginary number representing the phase offset of the GPS satellite’s carrier is is the physically meaningful result:

            “Real” demodulation of the signal cos(ωt+φ):

            “In-phase” channel: ∫cos(ωt+φ)cos(ωt)dt = cos(φ)
            “Quadrature” channel: ∫cos(ωt+φ)sin(–ωt)dt = sin(φ)

            “Imaginary” demodulation:
            ∫exp[it+φ)]exp(–iωt)dt = exp(iφ) = cos(φ) + isin(φ)

            The answer you want is a complex number, whether you write it as one or not.

          2. Issac Asimov in Asimov on Numbers has an amusing anecdote about an argument he had with a philosophy professor on the topic. It seems to be excerpted here (on a really wretched looking BlogSpot website).

      1. Well, technically, it’s merely the most delicious way, not the easiest. And you’re only measuring the wavelength and trusting the manufacturer’s representation of the frequency. Aside from that….



        1. Well, which other experiment (to measure the speed of light) can you carry out using just what you have in your kitchen?

          There’s probably a greater error in measuring the distance between melts than in the nominal frequency. But this can still get pretty close to the (single) value.


          1. My kitchen? None I can think of, though I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Feynman could have come up with something. But the staff kitchen at Fermilab…?


      1. The state of the art results are tabulated (with references to the original literature) in arXiv:0801.0287 — although there’s a fair amount of formalism to master. (If you’re going to be systematic about measuring the speed of light under different circumstances, there are a lot of different ways it can vary.)

  5. Sorry, Jerry. I listened to 6 minutes of him. My eyes start to gloss over after a few seconds of hearing him talk anywhere.

    He can hold forth for hours on end and spew nonsense the whole while. It’s really a gift. Consider one of his interviews where he talks about angels and souls being concrete objects – apparently, you can fondle angels if you really, really put your mind to it.

    If he wants to define science and its foundations as faith, I’m fine with that. We’ll just have to come up with a new word for the garbage he has. Oh, no we don’t!

    Science is faith-based – religion is imagination based.

    Having no understanding of science, he’s of the mind that if one is sufficiently clever with redefining terms and constructing intellectual vacant arguments, one has actually done explanatory work. This is, I imagine, why his response to “what is the age of the Earth” is 13 billion years old – facts don’t matter to him; wordplay alone does.

    1. apparently, you can fondle angels if you really, really put your mind to it.

      I wonder if that’s what all those Catholic priests envision as they actually fondle young boys?

      1. Oh, that reminds me of a scene from The Name of the Rose; not angels, but Mary:

        [Ubertino is talking man-to-man with Adso, showing him a statue of the Virgin Mary]
        Ubertino da Casale: She’s beautiful, is she not? When the female, by nature so perverse, becomes sublime by holiness, then she can be the noblest vehicle of grace. [in Latin] Beautiful are the breasts that protrude just a little.

        IIRC, Ubertino is caressing Adso’s head at the time… ?


  6. Is life not too short to spend time arguing about ‘theology’.

    Let the theologians collect independently verifiable evidence that god exists. Once we can independently verify this fact we can have ‘theology’.Until then we have sophistry and word games – I grew up with it and I can spot the gobbledegook arriving anytime.A good game of Scrabble is a better way to play with words and contributes more to the world than all the ‘theology’that has ever been ground out by these mentally constipated idiots .
    Tell us some great stuff about evolution or even cats Jerry and save us this tiresome drivel !!!

    1. 1. It’s Jerry’s web site. He can talk about whatever he wants to.
      2. The discussions about religion are germane because there is a large percentage of the population that rejects solid science — especially the fact and theory of evolution — due to religious reasons. 40% of the American public believes in the literal Genesis creation story, complete with god poofing all animals into existence whole and intact with nothing more than magic words, and creating man from mud and woman from a man’s rib. If we can’t overcome the pernicious effect of religion on society, we are doomed to become a second-class former world power.

    2. Let the theologians collect independently verifiable evidence that god exists.

      they’ve had thousands of years to do that, and failed. Hell, we are on the cusp of rejecting the existence of Higgs-Boson FFS, and that only took what? a few decades at most in theory, and far less than that in practice.

      nothing short of entirely materialistic appearance of a deity itself would suffice at this point in time.

      1. …and even that wouldn’t do the trick. What’s the more parsimonious theory: Jesus really manifesting, or a hoax perpetuated by space aliens with a warped sense of humor? Solid evidence of a violation of conservation or that we’re in the Matrix?

        No, that ship’s sailed, sunk, and been subducted under the seabed.



        1. “or a hoax perpetuated by space aliens with a warped sense of humor? ”

          the point is… there would at least be something tangible to test against.

          rather than a null set.

  7. faith as a word is just becoming more and more useless if we insist on defining it in a hundred different ways. Faith is a religion, faith is a belief in things you can’t prove, faith is trust, faith in humanity. One of these many of us would have no trouble using. Which of course the religious faithful will use to say we have faith. My personal favorite is when they say scientists have faith, because at some point we’re going to have to trust that physics actually work the way we think, or we’re not in a dream/The Matrix.

    1. Of course, if the world is a simulation, then so is Christianity. So it’s pretty much a waste of time.

      I agree with your complaints about the misuse of ‘faith’. Faith is a variable that always needs to be matched with a probability (and that probability is based on empirical evidence). I have faith that my car will start, but I still have jumper cables. And if the battery starts to display signs of aging, my confidence level in my faith will also vary… all forms of faith (except religious nuttery) are constantly subject to re-evalution.

      1. if the world is a simulation, then so is Christianity

        Yes, and if inductive reasoning is untrustworthy, then it is untrustworthy for Christianity as well. All the arguments about the “faith” aspect of science apply equally to religion, which in addition has the bit about gods thrown on top. Undermining reason will not save religious belief.

      2. “Of course, if the world is a simulation, then so is Christianity. So it’s pretty much a waste of time.”

        I’m always stunned when theists use this argument. It’s disingenuous because they certainly don’t believe it’s true, it’s just an attempt to get the gullible in the crowd to see that faith is inescapable for everyone.

      3. I’d say that when a non-unary probability is associated, it’s actually “trust” or “belief” rather than “faith”. I would prefer to reserve “faith” to refer only where a premise is taken as P=1 true without justification by any philosophical prior.

        Similarly, I’d agree that if one is going to be precise, it’s valid to insist on not using the term when referring to religion – although I think Craig’s definition is a bit narrow, based on my recent fondness for Dale Cannon’s “six ways” book. That said, unless one actually equivocates between the two different meanings in an argument, it’s at most a semantic quibble.

  8. I’ve hit the “what if reality is all in our minds” argument with two different ways – 1. if you truly believe what you’re arguing, then we don’t have anything more to talk about; 2. Maybe so, but can we agree that in this reality it appears we have experiences in common that are best explained by science and not religion.

    Mostly I find this argument tendentious and annoying and, if I’m feeling cranky, will ask the person to kindly step into traffic and put their money where their mouth is.

    1. My personal favorite challenge to this is to invite a person whose hand might not “really” be at the end of their arm to put said hand into a meat grinder of sufficient capacity and power and hit the “on” button.

      Haven’t had a single taker, yet.

      1. Yes, my variation on your theme is to suggest that we have the discussion while they are standing on train tracks with a train bearing down on them. Somehow they never seem to go for it.

        1. It seems appropro to mention the mildly infamous Yahzi BaseBall Bat Test.

          Step 1. Obtain a bat.

          Step 2. Fix your mind firmly on the notion that reality is all in your head.

          Step 3. Strike yourself in the head with the bat until step 2 is no longer possible.

          It’s a guaranteed winner – either the subject accepts external reality, or, at the very least, ceases to object to the concept of external reality. It’s also quite the crowd pleaser.

  9. To me, the whole “well, other things require faith too” argument just seems like a loser’s argument. When has “he’s doing it too!” ever worked? Especially when, even if you confuse the definition of faith as trust and faith as a belief completely without evidence, there is always a gradient. People aren’t skeptical of things that aren’t very fantastic, and it becomes increasingly hard to be believing the more fantastic things get.

    WLC seems to just make arguments to reassure believers, not to actually convince anyone.

    1. “WLC seems to just make arguments to reassure believers, not to actually convince anyone.”

      Absolutely. Craig has zero interest in convincing anyone on the side of reason of his position; he’s just hamming it up for his intended audience who think he’s smart because of his book-learnin’ and big words.

  10. I seems that WLC is using the good ol’ attempts to redefine words to make his nonsense sound better. Hate to tell him, but his religion is his faith and they are indeed the same thing in this context. I do understand why they so desperately want to run away from the word “religion” considering how theists have shat all over that concept with their actions. I do also enjoy WLC’s attempt to claim that he doesn’t use religion as an explanation. That’s just a big fat lie. And that faith has anything to do with science, another lie dependent on willful ignorance on WLC’s part. I do wish I could put people like him on some “reservation” so they wouldn’t have to be bothered by the science they so decry and have the privilege of praying that they don’t expire from diarrhea.

    1. This actually mildly reminds me of a youtube video done by a user named, um, pigwig who makes ’15 second science’ videos – they’re largely comedic in nature. One of them starts out showing a laptop, explaining that two separate videos are being made. One using the laptop and modern science and technology. Then the camera pans right to a bible – pigway saying all the while something that the other will be uploading using prayer and faith.

      Then he asks: which do you think you’re watching?

      I guess I just have to take it on “faith” that it’s the laptop/science/technology one and not the prayer/faith one.

  11. If it was up to me, I’d ignore this man (Lane Craig). He has proven to be as skilled at talking sophisticated sounding nonsense (theology) as he is as bringing it in a vindictive and nasty way. A hypocrite if I ever saw one. Jesus would’ve hated his ways.

    Regardless, kudos for meeting him head on. His arguments have no merit (never have) and you showed it expertly.

  12. WLC is a windbag. I’m not sure why many theists, or more specifically Christians, tout him as their champion. On a purely logical basis he loses arguments the moment he begins them by asserting unfounded premises and then returning to them in spectacularly circular fashion, in typical theological fashion. But this ‘critique’ of Coyne is truly reaching deeply into the realm of inane and absurd. ‘Well we can’t trust our own sense, we don’t even know for sure there is such thing as an objective reality, etc.’ Really? But we can trust your book which some how is ontologically (and I suppose existentially) seperate? Wow.

    1. “We can’t trust our senses, therefore Jesus is totally real and I will meet grandma in heaven.”


      It’s basically Pascal’s wager. We can’t trust our senses (which tell us, BTW, that there is nothing supernatural), therefore we should believe in supernatural things.

      What nonsense.

  13. It’s telling that while apologists argue from a position opposed to science and its ability to make accurate predictions about reality, they don’t live this way, at all. That is to say, they behave just like atheists do in mundane matters, like looking both ways before crossing the street, and so on.

    They realize at some level—consciously or not— that behaving in a scientifically rational and naturalistic fashion is a requirement for survival.

    I didn’t watch his video, as I don’t like to listen to people if I’m not reasonably sure that they’re a legitimate believer and not a Liar for Jesus™. (I would rather pay attention to an honest but misguided believer than someone who lies to make a buck by swindling same.)

    1. Which suggests that a good tack in a debate with WLC would be to simply toss something like a pencil at him. In order to gauge his reaction, of course.

  14. Craig: “[Christianity is a historical religion and historians support Gospel’s account of Jesus’ life]”

    Historical and archeological study of the Bible devastates any truth claims about the Bible’s historical narratives, both in the New Testament and Old. Below is Hector Avalos (as others have pointed to) speaking in a talk titled “How Archaeology Killed Biblical History” about the state of knowledge of the truth claims of the Bible.

    JC has been critical of theologians for their terribly, meaningless, or immoral arguments, but given current scientific knowledge of the falsity of the Bible’s historical narrative, it is now fair to criticize theologians like Craig for engaging in willful and transparent fraud.

    For any who judge this conclusion to be too harsh, listen to Avalos on the absolutely discredited state of Biblical history:



    Avalos here is simply reporting widely known facts about the falsity of Biblical history in both the New and Old Testaments:

    Deconstructing the walls of Jericho
    By Ze’ev Herzog, Ha’aretz, Friday, October 29, 1999
    Following 70 years of intensive excavations in the Land of Israel, archaeologists have found out: The patriarchs’ acts are legendary, the Israelites did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, they did not conquer the land. Neither is there any mention of the empire of David and Solomon, nor of the source of belief in the God of Israel. These facts have been known for years, but Israel is a stubborn people and nobody wants to hear about it

  15. Jerry, I’m on your side on this one, but I think we need to take the argument against induction a little more seriously than you seem to in the piece. Since you so lovingly cited Hume regarding miracles, you ought to take him equally seriously regarding induction. Apparently, Karl Popper was so convinced by Hume’s argument that he sought in his own philosophy of science to give an account of how science works that did not rely on induction.

    1. Induction is only a serious problem for philosophers, who don’t really understand that concepts don’t exist independently of brains.

      To state that induction works is to state that the universe is lawful – that what happens from one moment to the next is predictable and consistent. If the universe were not lawful, we wouldn’t be here to wring our hands about whether or not a reliance on induction is justified.

      1. But how do you know that the “law” is, for example, “gravity makes stones fall”, rather than “gravity makes stones fall, until August 24th 2011, after which they will rise”? Even allowing that there can be “laws” which (all things being equal) are eternally true (which claim, of course, is itself an induction, and therefore cannot itself be validated by induction), how do you know you’ve inferred the right law? How do you know the law does not have a temporal component that you have yet to encounter? How do you know that emeralds are green and not grue?

        1. Grue is a pseudoproblem. No scientist thinks emeralds are green because of simple enumeration alone; they think they are green (under such and such conditions to such and such observers) because their colour under such situations is determined largely by their chemical composition. The latter does not spontaneously change over a long period of time under said conditions.

          (This is an instance of consilience – a feature of science and ordinary reasoning which is still poorly understood. It is likely also an instance of “inference to the best explanation”.)

          1. their colour under such situations is determined largely by their chemical composition. The latter does not spontaneously change over a long period of time

            …which is, of course, an induction, and precisely of the same nature as the notion of “grue” itself.

        2. The assumption that there is some pattern (formally, one recognizable by an ordinal degree of Turing hypercomputation) allows as inference a means of competitively testing alternative descriptions against one another for probable correctness, based on a formalized sense of Simplicity or Parsimony. (“Goddidit” doesn’t qualify as simple; translating it into the mathematics, it’s an incomplete description, and completing the description renders the description too long.)

          The existence of an all-encompassing pattern isn’t taken by induction, but as a primary assumption, without justification from other priors. It’s just as valid to take the Refutation rather than Assertion; but in that case, it becomes a necessary implication that any appearance of order is a local illusion of pure coincidence.

          The answer to most of your questions thus becomes “the current description is more probably correct”.

    2. We don’t actually have a choice. Have someone throw a ball to you and then catch it. Your reaction times are at least a few milliseconds behind the actual occurrence. But note how easily you can track and catch the ball despite having to do it all “after the fact”. You don’t even have to think about it, just stick your hand out and ba!

      But even better, Bayes’ Theorem can tell us whether induction works. Use Bayes’ Theorem to predict the probability of several events, and then do an experiment to determine the “actual” probability. Were your predictions better than chance? Then induction works, and that’s really all there is to it.

      Popperian falsificationism is a type of induction, by the way. It only works if hypotheses stay falsified, which they don’t necessarily without induction. Then again, falsificationism is just a special case of Bayes’ Theorem which we’re already using to figure out whether induction works. And it does.

      I have a lot more on how silly it is to think that induction might not work. For instance, why bother to say “induction might not work” in English? If induction doesn’t work, you can’t count on words in the English language meaning the same thing to different people. You can object, “but English speakers have understood me in the past!” but that’s using induction. So if you’re arguing that induction doesn’t or might not work, you may as well make up your own language in which to say so, since it’s every bit as likely your audience will understand that as they will understand you speaking in English.

      The argument gets absurd really fast. Cognition would be impossible without induction.

      1. Cognition would be impossible without induction.

        That would make a nice, succinct debate response to WLC.

    3. It deserves a little more seriousness, but the mathematics is “trivial” — in the Feynman sense; the proof for the needed theorem has already been published.

  16. All these solopsistic arguments involve an argument reminiscent of Pascals wager and like that question they fall apart when the actual numbers of choices is revealed.
    We are told the choices are
    A. God (religion is right, science is wrong)
    B. What if we’re living in the matrix, dude!
    C. Last Thursdayism
    D. The scientific consensus.
    In fact the first three options could be extended indefinitely with different versions of these three choices.
    It’s important to tackle the solopsistic argument as it’s one that can confuse the general public. Many people haven’t considered the matter in some detail and can be misled to think the religious argument involves a simple 50/50 choice between religion and the scientific consensus. 

    1. Well, my replies would be.

      A. Evidence required, I’m afraid. What we see over and over and over again is science destroying the foundational assumptions of religion.

      B. And if true, that means god isn’t any more real in the matrix, either. You don’t solve the problem of an invisible, undetectable, noninterventionalist deity by making what we can detect “unreal”. If anything, it only makes such a proposition even less likely.

      C. See B. This doesn’t do religion any favors. If everything is an illusion, then so is Jesus, and you should stop wasting your life based on illusory benefits that can’t be proved.

      1. This. The mental compartmentalization is stunning to me. Making arguments you don’t believe in order to discredit your opposition, without realizing that those arguments make your own position even less tenable. Makes no sense until you understand just how good (religious) people are at seeing the one but not the other.

    2. Agree that pointing out the false dichotomy is the most compelling response to Pascal’s wager – although there are, of course, several compelling responses!

  17. Damn, that hurt.

    Craig pulled out that most shameless and blatant of lies that Jesus is better-evidenced than (in this case unnamed) major historical figures. Just to pick one obvious example, for Gaius Julius Caesar, for a surprisingly small amount of money, you can buy a coin minted during his lifetime with his likeness upon it; there are innumerable other statues, busts, and inscriptions, again contemporary; we have his autobiography, with multiple events confirmed by archaeological digs; we have correspondence between him and others; we have public works projects all over Europe; and plenty more that I haven’t even hinted at. For Jesus, we have nothing even vaguely resembling any such thing.

    We have physicists here who are better qualified to comment than I, but I should think that Michelson-Morley was adequate to establish that the speed of light is constant on a round trip. Even if not, I can think of two experiments off the top of my head to do the trick, and they’re the sort of thing any college physics lab should have no trouble with. The first would be something demonstrating interference patterns — but that’s basically what Michelson-Morley did. The second would be to set a pair of lights flashing on and off at a particular distance. You would set the one light to a fixed interval, and then adjust the frequency of the other so they are flashing synchronously. You could then wander between the two lights and confirm that the pulses are phasing in and out of synch as you would expect if the speed were constant.

    Somebody remind me again why anybody takes Craig seriously when he can’t even think his way out of undergraduate-level history and physics exam questions?



    1. Because he’s saying exactly what his audience wants to hear. Oh, and he uses big fancy words like teleology, and cosmological argument (makes it sound like’s a Big Deal), and moral epistemology.

      And empty tomb.


    2. The mathematician Archimedes has vastly more evidence for his existence than Jesus. Why? Because some of his mathematical treatises have survived, and nobody could forge one of those unless he also had mathematical talent of the highest order. By contrast, any ordinary literate person in the late Greco-Roman world could knock off a “gospel.”

      1. Though true, it wouldn’t be a very effective argument. The believer would simply counter that the Bible is chock full of great moral truths that couldn’t possibly have anything other than a divine origin; ergo, eat this cracker.

        …and then you get bogged down in listing the horrors the Biblical “protagonists” commit wholesale while the believer retreats into mass child rape apologetics….



        1. Name one…

          Surely not the “golden rule”…that was in existence long before Jesus co-opted it.

          What else, then?

          1. Oh, there aren’t any, to be sure. But that’s not my point.

            My point is that, as a rhetorical device, making the comparison with Archimedes — though accurate — isn’t likely to be convincing to a believer. That the Bible is all sweetness and light is one of those axioms that it doesn’t really occur to Christians to question, for the most part…and, for the rest…well, they’re Calvinists and therefore impervious to reason.

            If you had already established that the Bible is void of “great moral truths,” then it might be rhetorically useful. But, at that point, you’ve pretty much already won the battle….



    3. The one-way trip speed of light measurement is actually one of the earliest ever made, by Roemer, based on astronomical data about the positions of Jupiter’s moons.

      The Michelson-Morley set-up (and any other interferometry measurement, like Fizeau’s method) relies on bouncing light off of mirrors, so it can only measure a round-trip.

      Of course, if you know how to use Wikipedia, congratulations, you are more interested in actual knowledge than William Lane Craig: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_of_light#Measurement

      And, of course, all of this is very silly. Apart from the direct measurements of the one-way speed of light, there’s an overwhelming convergence of evidence, from the verification of Maxwell’s equations and relativity.

      1. But doesn’t Michelson-Morley depend entirely on the interference pattern produced by the split beam…well, interfering with itself?

        If the reflected beam had a different speed from the direct beam, that would have shown up as clearly as a difference in speed due to differential propagation in the aether.

        Maybe I’m missing something here…?



        1. There is a dependence in the Michelson-Morley experiment on the one-way speed of light, but it’s second order (thus, too small to be measured). There is, on the other hand, a strong dependence on any differences in speeds for light beams traveling at right angles (i.e. in different arms of the interferometer).

          1. In a Michelson-Morley interferometer, both beams of light, after the split, bounce off of a mirror, then recombine. I’m taking the “round-trip” argument to mean that the speed of light might change upon reversing (or otherwise changing) direction.

            The ether-wind was thought to change the speed of light, depending on whether the beam was going along with it (faster) or against it (slower); the orthogonal beam would be unaffected by the wind. Still, it seems like Craig is impugning the assumption that, say, the unaffected beam goes both ways at the same speed. Of course, Craig very likely isn’t *really* interested in any of this, as mentioned in a comment or so above.

            1. My mistake: The beam traveling perpendicular to the ether wind would have a velocity component along the direction of the wind.

              Just putting this out there to be minimize any incorrectness I’ve contributed to The Internet. 😛

      2. I just wanted to comment that the Wikipedia article gives a good account of the various methods traditionally used to measure the speed of light; however, the experimental measurements it talks about are about forty years out of date. (It’s true that the speed of light was “defined” to be 299,792,458 m/s in 1983, but that definition only makes sense if you assume from the start the the speed is the same in all directions and all frames. Since that time, people have continued testing this assumption experimentally.)

        1. In case anyone is reading these comments and wants to do some “light” reading, search for “Tests of Lorentz Invariance” in, say, Google Scholar. (And then please summarize your reading for me!)

    1. Good example of implied (I think) “chiasmus.” Check out Dr. Mardy Grothe as an outstanding source for this rhetorical device. (Re: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – JFK)

  18. Those deeper questions, like:

    Where did the universe come from?…

    Well, isn’t that special. Your book of magic stories never mentioned any universe, now, did it? Maybe passing reference to heavens, but it’s all geocentric. Only from scientific exploration have we become aware of the rest. And now the Haughts and Craigs are going to explain from whence it came. GMAFB

  19. My god Bimmer created the universe 1/100th of a second ago just so She could laugh at WLC. Prove me wrong.

  20. Clearly we’re going to hear more about our reliance on philosophical naturalism being an “article of faith”, as that’s an increasingly popular argument among both religious people and accommodationists

    This tu quoque thing the religious and their sympathizers do is annoying and stupid. I suppose they know it’s annoying and that’s why they make it, and they don’t care that it’s stupid because even though it can’t stand the shallowest scrutiny, they know it won’t be scrutinized at all by their target audience.

  21. I can understand one’s reluctance to be dragged further into this mind-numbingly tedious vortex, but I would like to recommend Anthony Kenny’s short work “What is Faith” for a generally sensible discussion on whether or not it’s rational to have faith. In the best of philosophical tradition, he doesn’t reach a definite conclusion, but the discussion is worth reading. As I recall, his definition of faith in the first two pages is much more in accord with yours (Jerry’s) than WLC’s.

  22. I note that WLC monkeyed with a rather grainy low res image of you (compressing it vertically) while for himself he’s using his clean-cut, young & all-American Amazon image that’s been up there for a few years now. However I would still buy that used car from you Jerry !

    He’s a tiresome fraud

  23. People who try to equate science and everyday knowledge with faith always speak as if belief is an all or nothing proposition. Of course, it isn’t. They’ll accuse us of having faith in traffic signals, or in the chair we sit down on without testing it first. But belief is not an all or nothing proposition. Instead, we have varying levels of certainty about things. Since “belief” is not all or nothing, I would define faith as having a greater level of certainty about something than is rationally justifiable.

    When I sit om my chair without testing it first, there is a very very small chance that due to some structural flaw (or a practical joker with a hand saw), the chair will collapse. I don’t deny this possibility, I simply choose to accept the risk. If I believed there was truly no possibility that the chair would collapse, only then would I be guilty of having faith.

    I typed all this on my iPhone so I sure hope it saves. I guess I don’t have much faith..

    1. I wonder if WLC believes that a bumblebee’s flying is a “miracle.” Not a few ministers at the pulpit have so held, and not a few secretly free-thinker congregants have held their tongues and put their brains out of gear, just to keep the peace and not have anyone boycott their businesses.

      If he stands on the good Earth and holds an object at arm’s length, does he think that there is a chance that it will remain floating in space?

  24. I think Tim Minchin addressed this issue of faith in science being equal to the faith of fundamentalists quite well in his beat poem, “Storm”. He says, “Science adjusts its views based on what’s observed. Faith is the denial of evidence so belief can be preserved”. This argument will continue to be made by those who believe in unfounded things to try to reconcile the inconsistencies of their beliefs within their own brains.

  25. >He also claims that the framework of modern science originated in religion (especially Christianity), for religion produced the notion of a world separate from God and subject to rational investigation.

    Judeo-christian cosmology has traditionally assumed a static universe, an assumption which impaired Einstein’s thinking when he rejected the implication from his own equations that the universe could expand. Hubble provided empirical evidence of the universe’s expansion, a discovery which caught Western people off guard.

    1. Consult Richard Carrier for a discussion of Greek and Roman science, and how Christianity suppressed, stole or lost it during their thousand year reign from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Rennaisance.

  26. Even Forest Gump said smarter things than William Lane Craig. Craig’s ‘points’ are truly stupefying. He knows he has lost the argument.

  27. Craig is a professional apologist. His goal isn’t to make intellectually solid arguments. His goal is to make arguments that Christians will find plausible, so that they can feel that their faith is an intellectually credible position. As such, he can afford to baldly claim things like that the resurrection was a historical event. Obviously its a stupid thing to say, but its a stupid thing that Christians are predisposed to find plausible. His target audience will accept it, and his goal of reassuring them will be accomplished.

  28. If we were brains in a vat then there’s no way of knowing if Christianity is true either. Theologians can try to attack the naturalistic underpinning of science all they want by playing the philosophical skeptic, but all that would accomplish is a relativistic endgame in which all methods of discovering knowledge have the same chance of being correct. Therefore science is the same as God, which is the same as whatever the Hindus call their creator god, which is the same as the Cosmic Butterfly Outside of Space and Time.

    Debasing science does nothing for the religious. Criticize it all you want, but there is no other way to objectively know anything.

    (BTW this is my first comment, but I am a longtime reader. Love your blog.)

  29. Craig’s argument that naturalism is faith-based simply reiterates long-standing arguments by radical skeptics about induction, memory and the external world. These arguments may not have conclusive refutations, but the point is they are not threats to naturalism or science specifically. Doubts about the reliability and foundations of knowledge, if they impugn naturalism, equally impugn theism or any worldview in between. And we don’t need to defeat the radical skeptic in order to justify the claim that there are real and important differences between faith and empiricism, which is the real bone of contention here.

    Skepticism about induction doesn’t erase the distinction between claims with an evidential basis in intersubjective observation and claims based only in faith, intuition, authority or revelation. Our belief that observed regularities in nature will continue as before isn’t on a par with belief in the existence of intersubjectively *unobserved* supernatural phenomena, e.g., gods, spirits and souls. The former belief is held by those of all worldviews and is a necessary operating assumption when modeling reality, the latter is held only by those who put stock in non-empirical claims to knowledge.

    Craig argues that Christianity is supported by the historical evidence, but of course radical skepticism about evidence (that the world was created last Thursday) applies to his claims as well. So it doesn’t advance his cause to say that naturalists may not be able to *ultimately* justify their trust in the historical record.

    To make his case against naturalism, Craig can’t merely play the radical skeptic; he has to show the superiority (or at least the viability) of an epistemic alternative to empiricism when deciding what’s true about the world. But thus far theologians haven’t made the case that empiricism has any rival when it comes to generating reliable knowledge by which we can live our lives, the practical proof of reliability, http://www.naturalism.org/epistemology.htm#rivals

  30. “What is faith? This entry focusses on the nature of faith, although issues about the justifiability of faith are also implicated.
    The concept of faith is a broad one: at its most general ‘faith’ means much the same as ‘trust’. This entry is specifically concerned, however, with the notion of religious faith—or, rather (and the difference is important), the kind of faith exemplified in religious faith. Philosophical accounts are almost exclusively about theistic religious faith—faith in God—and they generally, though not exclusively, deal with faith as understood within the Christian branch of the Abrahamic traditions. But, although the theistic religious context settles what kind of faith is of interest, the question arises whether faith of that same general kind also belongs to other, non-theistic, religious contexts, or to contexts not usually thought of as religious at all. It may perhaps be apt to speak of the faith of—for example—a humanist, or even an atheist, using the same general sense of ‘faith’ as applies to the theist case.
    Philosophical reflection on theistic religious faith has produced different accounts or models of its nature. This entry suggests that there are three key components that may feature, with varying emphases, in models of faith—namely the affective, the cognitive and the volitional. Several different principles according to which models of faith may be categorized are noted, including

    * how the model relates faith as a state to faith as an act or activity;
    * whether it takes its object to be exclusively propositional or not;
    * the type of epistemology with which the model is associated—‘evidentialist’ or ‘fideist’;
    * whether the model is necessarily restricted to theistic religious faith, or may extend beyond it.

    There is, of course, no ‘established’ terminology for different models of faith. A brief initial characterisation of the principal models of faith and their nomenclature as they feature in this discussion may nevertheless be helpful—they are:

    * the ‘purely affective’ model: faith as a feeling of existential confidence
    * the ‘special knowledge’ model: faith as knowledge of specific truths, revealed by God
    * the ‘belief’ model: faith as belief that God exists
    * the ‘trust’ model: faith as belief in (trust in) God
    * the ‘doxastic venture’ model: faith as practical commitment beyond the evidence to one’s belief that God exists
    * the ‘sub-doxastic venture’ model: faith as practical commitment without belief
    * the ‘hope’ model: faith as hoping—or acting in the hope that—the God who saves exists.”

    (“Faith,” by John Bishop. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2010: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/faith)

  31. One point in your response which I don’t agree with, Jerry: when you say that the resurrection & other events of Jesus’ life “are documented in only one book” – it is not just one book but a number greater than or equal to 3 (Mark’s gospel having resurrection appearances tagged on at the end, and it is also mentioned in other NT books besides the 3 other gospels). As many Christians do well to remind us, the Bible is a library more than it is a book. We would argue that these purported documentations of his life are not necessarily independent (and when they do appear to be independent, they are contradictory!), but I wouldn’t like for a believer to pick up on the mistake & make out like you don’t know as much about them as Jesus, weakening your other arguments!
    Of course, I agree with the rest of the statement “that is known to be largely fictitious” 😛

    1. The Bible is a book, not a library.

      A library is a building with a lot of different books in it. The Bible is not a building. It is a book. It is a book with material by many different authors over a long period of time. That is not very unusual — many books do this, they’re often called “anthologies.” This does not make them “libraries.” They remain books.

      It was put together by a particular group of people at a particular time for a particular purpose — to shore up the historicity of the execution and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, it was put together from a subset of a much larger body of literature. If the Bible is a library then it’s got a lot of empty shelves.

      1. Hmmm…I doubt historicity was much in doubt at Carthage, except to the extent of the doctrinal battles with the gnostics…which were pretty much done by that point.

        Rather, the reason of the Council was to establish an orthodoxy and settle what they thought were the last of the remaining doctrinal disputes.

        That is, that Jesus spent time in Judea almost four centuries earlier would have been universally agreed upon; which descriptions of his visitation were the most acceptable would have been the subject up for debate.

        To put it in context, Galileo was tried by the Inquisition about as long ago today as the Bible was canonized after the reign of Augustus. And this was in an age looooooong before the printing press, and even longer before the formalization of the scientific method. Questioning the historicity of Jesus might not have even been comprehensible to the attendees.



        1. I disagree. Early Christianity was more heterodox than modern Christianity. I’m not sure the variety of Christian thought in the 4th century is comprehensible to us.

          1. Oh, there’s no doubt but that early Christianity was utterly bizarre by modern standards.

            But I’ve never gotten the impression that there was substantial disagreement in the fourth century about the historicity of Jesus — just the nature of his incarnation. Maybe there was and I’m oblivious; certainly wouldn’t be the first time.



            1. Comes from some suggestive quotes from early Greek Christians that I’m pretty sure I originally saw in an essay on ebonmusings. Maybe this one?


              There was one along the lines of a Greek Christian philosopher trying to defend Christianity from people saying stuff like “they eat the flesh and blood of their savior,” and “they worship a convicted criminal.” He said something like, “You [pagan] Greeks also tell stories,” probably referring to pagan Hellenic mythology. I’m having trouble finding it.

              1. The most prominent example of an apologist such as the one you describe would be Justin Martyr, the original Christian apologist, writing in the first half of the second century. And he was most definitely an historicist.

                He was obsessed with cataloguing all the pagan demigods whose stories were indistinguishable from Jesus’s. However, he did so in two ways: first, to reassure the pagans that Christians weren’t quite so bizarre as they seemed…and, secondly, to discredit the pagan demigods. You see, it was Martyr’s thesis that there were evil demons gifted with the power of prophecy who knew that Jesus would come for real, and so they planted all those stories about pagan demigods ahead of time first so as to deceive honest people from the truth of Jesus, and secondly to discredit Christian accounts of Jesus when he did come for real.

                He lays it all out in his First Apology, which is widely available on the ‘Net and an easy read (if you can hold down your gag reflex). If you just want to cut to the chase, search for “sons of Jupiter” and read just those paragraphs.

                Oh — and, last I heard, Martyr’s theory is still the one officially espoused by the Catholic Church to explain the parallels between Christianity and paganism. Which is hardly surprising, considering that Martyr’s response to Trypho regarding the mistranslation of Isaiah that resulted in a prophecy of a virgin birth remains the standard one today, as well.



              2. Definitely wasn’t talking about Justin Martyr. I thought it might be Origen I was thinking of but I’m really not sure.

                If you look at how sophisticated some of the Greek philosophy was between 400 BC and 1 AD, it doesn’t seem implausible to me that some of the guys blending Platonism with Christianity would take a similarly Apollonian, rationalist approach to it.

                OTOH, I’m sure you’re correct that the vast majority of Christians even then were historicists, or perhaps more precisely, would have had trouble distinguishing between history and myth.

            2. By the fourth century, as far as I can tell, the gnostics and other “weirdoes” (i.e. stuff that became non-canonical) were pretty settled. There were disagreements, of course, whence the need to standardize. But it wasn’t about “historicism” by then.

        1. In that case, every encyclopedia volume, every book of history with more than one author, and every text written for pedagogical purposes is also >1 book. Which is a silly way to look at things I think.

          1. Why is it silly? They were (potentially, perhaps not in reality) independent authors, writing about the same story (in the case of the gospels) so are clearly multiple books but bound together. In the case of text books & encyclopedia, they have multiple authors writing about different topics, or at least part of 1 narrative. To say the Bible is ‘one book’ makes it sound as if there is only one source, when in fact there are several sources for certain events, all contained within the Bible. We can argue against their historicity without reducing it to a single source.

            1. It’s silly because it’s a stupid semantic game. Yes, you can come up with some nonstandard definition of “book” such that the bible doesn’t qualify. Why should anyone use your definition?

              Having multiple sources has nothing to do with it. The bible is presented in one volume as a coherent whole (whether or not it is). It consists of a set of interrelated writings gathered together explicitly because they were deemed to be interrelated and shows every sign of being edited to solidify the impression of being a coherent whole.

              Every instance of such a thing I have ever come across was called a “book” — Grimm’s Fairy Tales, 1001 Nights, these are all books. Calling them books is not controversial and does not weaken anyone’s argument about anything.

              1. Neither of the examples you give are directly comparable to the Bible, at least not in a way that really address my point about the Bible appearing to be from multiple sources; neither Grimm’s Fairy Tales or 1001 nights are presented as being historical accounts.
                The point I’m trying to make is that I think it’s a mistake to label the Bible as “only one book” in the sense of these fantastical claims being documented nowhere else – that’s because the different accounts were compiled together into one bound document that yes, is in the form of a book.

      2. If the Bible is a library then it’s got a lot of empty shelves.

        and the librarians must have employed some rather arbitrary and biased censorship as well.

  32. Ah the old “demonize the messenger” tactic. Usually works. Our brains love to personalize complex and unsettling matters.

    “The problem is not the overwhelming evidence of evolution — it’s Jerry!!” Bingo. Problem solved.

    In the US science and scientists are usually shouted down. In the rest of the world they are treasured, honored and respected. Well, except in dictatorships.

  33. Religious people are seeking “perfect” answers. If perfection isn’t there, they reject the whole concept out of hand. They allege that their beliefs are perfect and that it’s only in the execution that imperfection arises. None of that can be refuted because it’s all made up.

    Predictive validity is not perfect. But, if your car doesn’t start some morning, after it usually does, there is a REASON. Mice chewed the wiring (an unfortunately common reality here in rural America), you’re out of gas, it’s too cold and you don’t have an engine heater, etc.

    In Carl Sagan’s example of throwing the stick, maybe one day it lands in a tree or on the roof, but that’s still a REASON why it didn’t land on the ground.

    If an outcome is statistically significant and predictively valid, even if it’s not perfect, that is still useful information. Not all people respond to a given medical intervention for an ailment, but if most people do, wouldn’t you rather give it a try than not? L

  34. More plausible tripe from Craig, playing into the confirmation biases of the credulous and feeble-minded. And, as a devout hypocrite, his “arguments” are comically larded with spite, rank dishonesty and condescension.

    Let’s face it, anybody who seriously advances the Kalam Cosmological Argument (a masterpiece of fatuous question-begging) as a justification for rank homophobia, is either a dunce or a fraud.

  35. Craig’s comment about the one-way speed of light shows that he really doesn’t understand science. If he raised it as an issue with the Michelson-Morely experiment (which did measure round trip velocity), a physicist would try to think of a situation where you could measure the one-way speed. Several commenters above mentioned clever ways this can be done. But for any phenomenon, a physicist would want to know if there is any situation, any experiment, that would yield different results based on which case were true. The important point is that if there was no such case, then a physicist would say the simplest case, that the speed is the same in both directions, was probably true. But they wouldn’t be dogmatic about it if the difference really couldn’t be observed in any possible way. If the simplest model always gives the right answer, that’s the one I’ll use. Other than that, it doesn’t make sense to ask what is “really” happening.
    Obviously he doesn’t know about Feynmnan’s many paths approach to quantum mechanics. Not only will a physicist say that you can’t tell which path a particle took, it may have taken all possible paths.

      1. naww, I’m not too worried about that.

        I think Deepak might sue him; quantum woo is his schtick, after all.


  36. If “faith” is defined as “unjustified/unwarranted or insufficiently/inconclusively justified/warranted belief”, then there is nothing specifically religious about it.

    “”Science and faith are fundamentally incompatible.” (J. Coyne)

    But what exactly is fundamentally incompatible with what?

    Scientific belief-formation and -justification (grounded in perception and reason) and religious belief-formation and -justification ((allegedly) grounded in “transrational” divine revelation and inspiration)?

  37. It strikes me thta Craig is arguing for a modern day Catastrophism vs science’s Uniformitarianism. So you could probably use many of the arguments of the time.

    After all if science depends on Uniformitarianism as a matter of faith (retch) then so does Religion! Otherwise the OmniGod might not always have been so Omni…

  38. Craig is simpply a broken record, playing the same bad arguments over and over again. I could have composed his response by posting some YouTube videos of him from years ago. Anyways, in response to Craig’s assertion that Christianity made science possible: the Greeks were doing rational investigation of the world long before Christianity came about. On the other hand, Christian civilization let a lot of discoveries to be forgotten, and when “natural philosophy” came about, investigation into the natural world was hindered by the belief that God could intervene at any time and in any way. For more on this, the curious should read Charles Freeman’s critique of the book “God’s Philosohers” in the New Humanist magazine, available online.

  39. Of course, scientists do place reliance on our natural sources of justification and knowledge, mainly on sense perception, and indeed there is no non-circular meta-justification for their doing so, because any argument for the objective reliability (truth-conduciveness) of sense perception would have to appeal to perceptual experiences.

    1. 1. There is no information available to us that is not mediated through sense perception. So what else would you have scientists rely on? What is it you think everybody else relies on?

      2. To imply that scientists merely “place reliance” on sense perception is misleading. Scientists also qualify and quantify the extent to which sense perception is reliable. For example, scientists have quite firmly established that our eyes can detect only a sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum. Furthermore, since our eyes only detect three distinct frequencies, we can only resolve a certain amount of the color information in the light that we can see. We have no way of detecting the phase or polarization of light with unaided eyes.

      So they don’t simply “place reliance on” sense perception. Scientists actually study sense perception and explain what is reliable about it and what isn’t.

      Here’s an example of how you can test the reliability of your senses using your senses: set up two light emitting diodes of different color, then go three hundred yards away and see whether you see two colors or just one. You’ll probably see just one color, the combination of the color of each LED. By doing many such experiments you can determine in which situations your perceptions are in accord with experimental conditions and in which situations they are not and thus determine in which ways your senses are reliable and which are not.

      The fact that you can actually quantify what you call the “truth-conduciveness” of the senses across a range of possibilities suggests that not only can we use our senses to determine whether our senses our reliable — we can use our senses to determine precisely how reliable our senses are.

      1. Science uses well-characterized *indicators* to go beyond our senses. For example, the light meter can detect the UV and X-rays we cannot see or feel. The difference between this and the “unseen” of the godly is obvious: where is the god meter which can be independently characterized? Nowhere.

    2. We’ve done pretty well with the sense-perception mediation thang in sending human beings on round trips to the moon and landing probes on Mars (when the right hand has made sure to convert to metric the English units provided by the left).

  40. Not being a scientist and being very queasy about using the word “faith” for anything other than religious believing, I prefer to use the word “trust”. I trust the _process_ of science to deliver results that can be confirmed over time and, of course, are always subject to revision.

    1. “The doxastic venture model is a model of faith under the intended conception. According to this model, faith involves beliefs which are held ‘by faith’, in the sense that holding them is an active venture which goes beyond—or even, perhaps, against—what can be established rationally on the basis of evidence and argument.”

      (Bishop, John. “Faith as Doxastic Venture.” Religious Studies 38 (2002): 471-487. p. 471-2)

      There is nothing specifically religious about faith in this sense.

      1. There is nothing in that definition that rules out racism, either. In general we have noted that holding views against all rational evidence leads to bad outcomes.

  41. Great post and really interesting comments. I think it is important to conceptually separate the stuff that is stupid because it is just plain wrong from the stuff that is stupid because it is unhelpful and/or assassinates the Christian (and every other) position just as readily as the atheist one, as others have pointed out here. The former we should denounce. The latter we should concede but point out the logical conclusion of such a scenario, which generally involves an incredibly deceitful higher power trying to trick us into thinking we are in a world where science works.

    Denying such things are (philosophically) “problems” can do the atheist position much more damage than admitting that yes, we rely on certain underlying assumptions of the scientific method to be true. We trust them (or have “faith” in them if you semantically choose this meaning) because we observe that they work – I wouldn’t be typing these words without the products of such assumptions. The believer, however, will often say the same about their faith – they have observed it “working” for them, whatever that means. Thus, this argument by itself does not get us very far.

    Instead, we should accept it but make one thing very clear: you do not have to accept these assumptions but, if you do, evolution is an irrefutable truth. Rejecting these assumptions does give the Creationist a “way out” but, as the comments here show, this way out ultimately dooms their own position.

    I am happy to meet any willing Creationists at these assumptions and then take them on a walk to that ultimate conclusion; I think this is more persuasive (if that is the goal) than starting by saying “that position is stupid”, which just raises defences and ends dialogue. (Regrettably, I am yet to meet such a willing Creationst but I was one myself once, so I live in hope!) Ultimately, if you think it through, the position *is* stupid but not everyone *has* thought it through – a fact that the apologists rely on, I suspect.

    1. “I am happy to meet any willing Creationists at these assumptions and then take them on a walk to that ultimate conclusion;”

      there lies the rub.

      creationists willing to examine their beliefs critically rarely remain so, regardless of any hand holding we might offer.

      as the old saying goes:

      You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

  42. “…simply tons of counterevidence that dead people don’t come back to life.”

    Very funny. It just doesn’t get any more basic than that.

  43. It seems that all (religious or nonreligious) philosophical beliefs are at least partly motivated by subjective preference rather than objective evidence. In this sense, faith is belief grounded in passion.

    1. I concede that I subjectively prefer objective evidence. I prefer to see reasonable support for a proposition or claim than to see no support or, worse, to see claims for support which are hollow or ludicrous on their face.

      This is because I cannot, by definition, believe anything that’s shown to be unsupported, implausible or plain old false.

      Faith is opinion grounded in passion & wishes supported by rhetoric. If faith can be called a “belief” it is a belief held despite lack of evidence, or in the face of contradictory evidence.

  44. Re: the idea that Christianity was required for the origin of science… this has become an article of faith amongst the more credulous evangelicals, and they got it from certain historians decades ago, but it is not a position that would be endorsed by critical, mainstream historians today.

    Here’s part of a post I made on a creationist blog criticizing the “only Christianity could produce science” view:

    I recently learned that “Christianity was necessary for the development of science” is itself one of the science/religion myths that historians look down upon. They include it in the collection in this book: Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion. The idea seems to have started with Whitehead & Jaki, and has become a major talking point amongst conservative evangelical apologists and ID fans. But the actual evidence is dubious at best. Source:

    Efron, N. J. (2009). “Myth 9: That Christianity Gave Birth to Modern Science.” Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion. Edited by R. L. Numbers. Cambridge & London, Harvard University Press: 79-89.

    Rodney Stark’s argument specifically is criticized.

    A key bit:

    pp. 85-88 of Efron (2009):

    Modern science rests (somewhat, anyway) on early-modern, Renaissance, and medieval philosophies of nature, and these rested (somewhat, anyway) on Arabic natural philosophy, which rested (somewhat, anyway) on Greek, Egyptian, Indian, Persian, and Chinese texts, and these rested, in turn, on the wisdom generated by other, still earlier cultures. One historian has called this twisting braid of lineage “the dialog of civilizations in the birth of modern science.” Recognizing that modern science grew out of the give-and-take among many cultures over centuries does not denigrate the crucial role of early-modern Protestants and Catholics in casting the models in which modern science grew. Ignoring this fact obscures something of fundamental importance about modern science, however: the rich diversity of cultural and intellectual soil deep into which its roots extend.

    Even if you look no farther than Europe during “the Scientific Revolution” for the origins of modern science, religion is only part of what you will find. One historian has recently argued, for instance, that commerce had as much to do with the rise of modern science as Christianity did… […] Further, the early-modern voyages of discovery and the rapid establishment of new maritime trade routs in short order flooded Europe with new information, new goods, and even new plants and animals, all of which sparked new lines of inquiry and new theories about nature and, in particular, natural history. […]

    Historians have also concluded that a great many other forces affected the growth of modern science in Europe. […]

    [I won’t type out the whole thing, but Efron includes: new technology, changes in political organization, inspiration from Europe’s legal systems, growth of other secular institutions, early scientific societies were made up of pious Christians of various denominations, but were explicitly aimed at transcending religious affiliation; and the increasing influence of skeptics of traditional theism in the 1700s and 1800s.]

    When boosters insist that “Christianity is not only compatible with science, it created it,” they are saying something about science, they are saying something about Christians, and they are saying something about everyone else. About science, they are saying that it comes in only one variety, with a single history, and that centuries of inquiries into nature in China, India, Africa, the ancient Mediterranean, and so on have no part in that history. About Christians, they are saying that they alone had the intellectual resources — rationality, belief that nature is lawful, confidence in progress, and more — needed to make sense of nature in a systematic and productive way. Aobut everyone else, they are saying that, however admirable their achievements in other realms may be, they lacked these same intellectual resources.

    Often enough, what these boosters really mean to say, sometimes straight out and sometimes by implication, is that Christianity has given the world greater gifts than any other religion. Frequently, they mean to demonstrate simply that Christianity is a better religion.

    Real science arose only once: in Europe. China, Islam, India, and ancient Greece and Rome each had a highly developed alchemy. But only in Europe did alchemy develop into chemistry. By the same token, many societies developed elaborate systems of astrology, but only in Europe did astrology lead to astronomy. Why? Again, the answer has to do with images of God.”

    [quoting Rodney Stark, “False Conflict,” The American Enterprise, October/November 2003: 14]


    This anything-your-religion-does-mine-can-do-better attitude jiggers one part condescension with two parts self-congradulation, and one wonders why some find it appealing. Yes, Christian belief, practice, and institutions left indelible marks on the history of modern science, but so too did many other factors, including other intellectual traditions and the magnificent wealth of natural knowledge they produced. Assigning credit for science need not be a zero-sum game. It does not diminish Christianity to recognize that non-Christians, too, have a proud place in the history of science.

    Historian Ronald Numbers called the idea a “Christian conceit” when Bruce Gordon from the Discovery Institute, and various other people, were trying out the line that Christianity was responsible for the origin of science:

    2011 ASA Annual Meeting

    Methodological Naturalism Panel Discussion (IVC-3) Kathryn Applegate, Robert Bishop, Bruce Gordon, Ronald Numbers, Joseph Spradley

    6:46 into the recording:

    Bruce Gordon, Discovery Institute: …as many of the speakers have pointed out, the history of science bears evidence that the Judeo-Christian conception of reality is what gave birth to the investigation of Nature, the idea that there’s contingency…

    Ronald Numbers [laughing]: There’s no reputable historian of science would agree with that statement. I do not know one.


    Bruce Gordon, Discovery Institute: What are you diagreeing with?

    Ronald Numbers, historian: That science came exclusively from the Christian tradition. That’s a Christian conceit.


    1. Also, the parties to the dispute have to characterize very clearly what is involved in science. (This is why Bunge says somewhere that the history of science needs the philosophy of science as an input.) Then, depending on what is done, can one take a different tack with the incompatibility thesis. Of course, even if it *used* to be the case they were compatible (which I deny) the point about them being *still* compatible still has the burden of proof on the compatibilist.

  45. Hey Nick,

    I haven’t done much work in this area, but I do know that Numbers is staunch enough an anti-Christian that we might want to be as wary of his work as we are Christian historians like James Hannam (“The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution”).
    Incidentally, from what I have read, Hannam’s view is more orthodox. Its rather common among historians of science to attribute Christianity a unique and important role in the formation of science.

    Loren Eiseley (Prof. of Anthropology & History of Science; 36 honorary degrees): It is the Christian world which finally gave birth in a clear articulated fashion to the experimental method of science itself . . . It began its discoveries and made use of its method in the faith, not the knowledge, that it was dealing with a rational universe controlled by a Creator who did not act upon whim nor inference with the forces He had set in operation. The experimental method succeeded beyond man’s wildest dreams but the faith that brought it into being owes something to the Christian conception of the nature of God. It is surely one of the curious paradoxes of history that science, which professionally has little to do with faith, owes its origins to an act of faith that the universe can be rationally interpreted, and that science today is sustained by that assumption. [Darwin’s Centenary: Evolution and the Men who Discovered it (Doubleday: 1961) 62.]

    Also, cf. Michael Foster, “The Christian Doctrine of Creation and the Rise of Modern Science,” Mind 43 (1934): 446-68; “Christian Theology and the Rise of Modern Science,” part 1, Mind 44 (1935): 439-83, and part 2, Mind 45 (1936): 1-27; Stanley L. Jaki, The Savior of Science (Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1988); Stanley L. Jaki, The Road of Science and the Ways to God (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978); Christopher Kaiser, Creation and the History of Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981); A. R. Hall, The Scientific Revolution, 1500-1800: The Formation of the Modern Scientific Attitude (Boston: Beacon, 1954).

    1. Sure, anyone who doesn’t give the Catholic church all the credit for everything ever discovered by scientists is “anti-Christian,” and anyone who does is completely unbiased.

      I think it was the “36 honorary degrees” that finally convinced me.

        1. Hi Dan.
          James Hannam also specializes in the historical relationship between Christianity and Science. But Dr. Hannam also is a Christian, and more importantly has also said some apologetics-like stuff before. Given the abundance specialists in this topic, it seems to me that both parties should seek neutral specialists who don’t show an interest in apologetics for OR against Christianity. In that respect, Ronald Numbers falls short (though, saying he’s an anti-Christian might go too far). At the very least, Numbers ostensible claim “There’s no reputable historian of science who would agree with [the notion of Christianity birthing science]. I do not know one” should be put to rest.
          The scholars I cited seem to be generally immune charges of possible bias. (Though, I confess to not having researched them at any length).

          1. Much of the work you cite, by Jaki, etc., is generations old, however — see the Efron article for an update:

            Efron, N. J. (2009). “Myth 9: That Christianity Gave Birth to Modern Science.” Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion. Edited by R. L. Numbers. Cambridge & London, Harvard University Press: 79-89.

            …no one is saying that Christianity had *nothing* to do with the origin of science, just that it was one factor amongst a great many, so it is hard to argue that it was uniquely required. IMHO there is about equal evidence that Christianity helped and hindered science. Christian authorities over the centuries took actions that went in both directions.

          2. As Moewicus mentioned above, Charles Freeman makes a strong case that James Hannam’s God’s Philosophers presents a distorted view of the medieval period and the development of science that suits Hannam’s Catholic agenda.


            1. Interestingly, Freeman’s review indicates that someone thinks that Hannam is just popularizing the work of Ronald Numbers and his colleagues like Lindberg!

              One supporter of Hannam, a medievalist who clearly knows more about the literature on medieval science than I do, states that “his work is simply popularising several decades of research by leading historians of early science like [Ronald] Numbers, [David] Lindberg and [Edward] Grant”. Hannam has frequently gone on record to say that Edward Grant is his mentor. However, as the quotations I will provide from Grant’s recent major summary of his ideas, From Aristotle to Copernicus: Science and Religion 400 BC –AD 1550 suggests, Hannam certainly does not slavishly follow him. (1) Certainly God’s Philosophers is a popularising book, with all the strengths and weaknesses of the genre. It is written with brio, full of lively characters and overall “a good read”. Although I could not see how the second half of the book related to Hannam’s main argument, this provided a wide-ranging and enjoyable romp through a variety of “scientific” thinkers of the sixteenth century. I can understand why so many readers have enjoyed it.

        2. Yeah — Numbers is not “anti-Christian” in any meaningful sense of the word. He is respected on all sides. Heck, that talk I quoted is from the 2011 meeting of the American Scientific Association, the association of evangelical Christians (these days, the ASA is mostly theistic evolutionists) which Jerry sometimes criticizes. They *invited* him to the ASA meeting; and he has published in their journal, although I think he is an agnostic.

          I suspect his beef here is that he doesn’t like seeing history get twisted for apologetics uses. Probably for the same reasons, he often resists tying ID to creationism, even though the evidence is overwhelming there. I suspect it bugs him that it was the hard-core anti-creationisms activists that made the strongest historical documentation of the ID/creationism link.

          But, whatever you think of his position there, it does show that he’s not some kind of knee-jerk anti-religionist.

      1. Though I love Eisley’s writing, I disagree with the man with “36 honorary degrees”. The idea that the universe can be rationally interpreted is no more an “act of faith” than believing the sun will rise each morning. Birds do it, plants do it, we do it. There IS order to the world that is plain to see.

        Religion gets no credit for pointing out the obvious.

      1. It’s my understanding that had at least as much to do with his “heretical” religious beliefs as any scientific conclusions he might have had.

        still, as Nick noted, the society that fostered xianity helped about as much as it hindered.

        I myself do not believe the conditions for fomenting early scientific discipline were unique to the xian world; it might not have even happened there “first”; just like with many things, it just got recognized there first in surviving print.

        In short, I think the idea that ANY religion was conducive to the formation of the scientific method is superfluous at best, and only relates in how political and economic structures are influenced by the organization of that religion.

        there is NOTHING inherent in any Abrahamic texts, over say, ancient chinese texts, that serve as a unique basis for forming the scientific method.

        1. Charles Freeman, op. cit.:

          Hannam has an obsession with the point that Giordano Bruno (who was burned to death in Rome in 1600) was not burned to death for his science (pp. 306-10). This was a period when it was impossible to distinguish ‘science’ from the full range of intellectual activities that ranged over astrology and alchemy and into mysticism so the point hardly makes much sense. Why not concentrate on the fact that the Church could burn to death those whom it considered, for whatever, often arbitrary, reasons, it considered heretical. Of course, in Hannam’s typical style, it was all Bruno’s fault for challenging an essentially benign church. “His combination of new fangled and absurd theology with an unerring ability to rub people the wrong way meant that he could rarely stay put for long.” When a Venetian patrician took Bruno in, his ultimate fate was sealed… “the experience of having Bruno in his house was quite sufficient to cause any sensible Catholic to hand him over to the authorities”. Can’t Hannam see how crass this statement is, and how offensive it must be to his fellow Catholics? The Church, as Hannam appears to suggest, really could not have done much else with this recalcitrant figure than burn him and get him down to hell as soon as possible, although Hannam is prepared to criticize the Inquisition for taking this “renegade” seriously at all.


          1. Why not concentrate on the fact that the Church could burn to death those whom it considered, for whatever, often arbitrary, reasons, it considered heretical.

            yeah, that’s exactly my point.

            all the documents I have seen published suggest that “science”, at best, was an excuse for burning Bruno.

            the final setences were related to ones of religious heresy based on his religious ideas, not his “scientific” ones.

            IOW, he wasn’t burned for agreeing with Copernicus, he was burned for “new fangled and absurd theology with an unerring ability to rub people the wrong way”

            this theology was mostly unrelated to his scientific endeavors.

            Now if the point is to emphasize that the then church could snuff someone out at any time for arbitrary reasons, and that this was hardly an atmosphere conducive to free inquiry, then fuck yeah.

    2. The Christian *world*. Not Christianity, and (debatably) not complete or orthodox Christians, at least in some cases. Descartes, for example, is clearly not a Christian if one is careful enough in analyzing what he did and said. (Only once went to church as an adult??) Newton would *still* be regarded as a heretic, etc. Leibniz would likely insist he’s neither a Catholic nor a Protestant, etc. Kepler was pretty close to being a sunworshipper. Boyle is probably the most orthodox of the usual bunch (Copernicus aside, whose work I do not know well). But even Boyle worries tremendously about whether his scientific work could be regarded as unchristian.

  46. Craig makes a false comparison, hoping no one will notice. When he compares belief in the ressurecrion to the scientific “belief” that the sun will rise tomorrow, he is simply playing a trick, One that he himself may be fooled by.

    The real comparison is between belief in the resurrection and the sun NOT coming up tomorrow. After all, these are both “miracles” in that they go against all available evidence.

    Don’t let him crap on reason and then try to blame it on “science”. That shit ain’t gonna fly.

      1. I wonder what that version of “Annie” would look like…

        “The sun won’t come out, tomorrow… bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, it will be dark….”

    1. The real comparison is between belief in the resurrection and the sun NOT coming up tomorrow. After all, these are both “miracles” in that they go against all available evidence.


  47. Bloody hell, how did you manage to listen to that unsupported, contentless nonsense?

    “This is an increasingly popular argument among both religious people and accommodationists, so I’d like to hear readers’ responses.”

    Easy, science works. Its findings should be repeatable and testable. What does religion have to compare? Religiots are constantly making up excuses for why prayer does not work or why god is silent, or see “answer” to prayer when there is no reason to see it and no means to test whether it has been answered. Sience can at least test things.
    Trying to seek equivalence is almost like an admission that they have no solid foundation to their claims. Believing a new drug will cure cancer does not make it so. Science will at least see if it does cure cancer.

  48. Even if you presume that European Christians were largely responsible for what we now think of as science, I don’t see how that matters to any of the issues. The (presumed) fact that they were partly motivated by an erroneous belief that, due to the Christian god, the world was subject to rational inquiry, means . . . what? Unless the history has changed, Columbus was looking for Asia, not the Americas. He was totally mistaken about one thing, how to get to Asia, but is remembered for his inadvertent “success.” So what if Xtian scientists thought they were looking for their God’s rules? They actually found something else that’s at least as good. I would have guessed that’s ironic as opposed to proof of God’s existence, word games relating to the meaning of the term “faith” notwithstanding.

  49. “… the framework of modern science originated in religion …”

    That’s simply not true; the framework was built over a very long time (well, a short time for geologists). The ancient Greeks investigated the natural world; Eratosthenes for example measured the girth of the earth (he knew the earth was spherical, but Pythagoras had already established that earlier) and estimated the distance between the earth and sun, while Hipparchus produced an excellent estimate of the distance between the earth and moon. During the Middle Ages the Arabs rediscovered much of the ancient Greek writing and added their own knowledge. The “western world” would rediscover the ancient knowledge much later (though many things were never really forgotten even in the western world) and add to that as well. The most important contributions to modern science which developed in a christian dominated society led to William Gilbert’s excellent work on what would later be known as the Scientific Method. Gilbert wrote extensively on his method of investigation and suggested that it was not perfect but perhaps a good starting point for establishing the correctness of ideas (many of Gilbert’s own scientific conclusions were later shown to be incorrect, but even he understood the nature of progress in investigating the natural world). I am not aware of any of the original scientific work of the era being credited to the “glory of god” – that came much later. The fact was that scientific inquiry, ranging from the exploration of anatomy to the newer developments in astronomy such as the Copernican model, were viciously discouraged by the reigning catholic church; other christian sects of the time under the influence of the likes of Martin Luther and John Calvin were equally brutal in suppressing genuine learning about the world. Modern science developed despite religion, not because of it. Over the years many religious people would make significant contributions to science, and some would even claim that they did it in their quest to reveal the wonders of their god, but the facts indicate that christianity deserves no credit for modern science.

  50. “Another article of scientific faith is the assumption that there is indeed a real external world that can be described accurately by our senses.”

    Huh. Oh, that’s just so wrong I have no idea where to start. Even Plato’s Socrates challenged the validity of the senses – the ancient Greeks knew full well that the senses were not absolutely reliable. The quest for absolute reliability reached its somewhat absurd conclusion with Rene Descartes who proclaimed that he can think and therefore he must exist, so thought and existence are at least two basic undeniable truths. Ancient civilizations independently invented weighing scales because humans were known to be notoriously poor at estimating weights. Humans were also known to be awful at estimating volumes, so civilizations created their own standards of volumes. Throughout history we have created tools to help us reliably measure things because the human senses are very obviously limited.

    1. “Another article of scientific faith is the assumption that there is indeed a real external world that can be described accurately by our senses.”

      indeed. How many articles regarding various sensory illusions have been published on this very blog, er website, alone?

      of course, what you have to realize is that when the religious use phrasing like this, what they really are referring to is philosophical materialism, which isn’t a presumption of science, but materialism itself is a prerequisite for ANYTHING attempting to accomplish any useful explanation of the world around us.

      IOW, science doesn’t reject non-material causation a-priori, it’s that there is no method ever devised to begin to test non-material causation, nor has there so far ever been a need to invoke non-material causation to explain anything.

      so, it has nothing to do with “scientific faith”, that’s just gibberish.

      as to the assumption of a real world, everyone, including the writer of that gibberish, makes the same assumption on a moment-moment basis.

      Always have, always will.

      1. This is a website. The notion that it is a blog is an illusion. Even though empirical evidence suggests it’s a blog, we know it is a website because Ceiling Cat tells us so.

        On a serious note, I read recently (but of course cannot recall where) that science is dependent on methodological naturalism but not on philosophical naturalism. So, is there a meaningful distinction between the two? It seems to me that if there is a real difference then we have no reliable way of knowing what that difference is…


        1. On a simple level, I guess the difference would be that “methodological naturalism” is about how you perform your job as a scientist, no matter what your “philosophical” beliefs may be. I think I’ve heard Eugenie Scott make that point before.

          I don’t know that you can “see” the difference, except in the work that is done. In other words, the truth doesn’t care what you think, as long as you’re doing good science.

        2. science is dependent on methodological naturalism but not on philosophical naturalism

          yeah, just an attempt to apply specific words to the situation I described.

          again, science is NOT “dependent” on methodological naturalism, it simply can’t operate in any other fashion.

          there is a difference.

          if someone, someday, figured out a method for employing methods for examining a NON naturalistic hypthesis, science as a whole would fully embrace that as well.

          I can think of only one way that might proceed…

          An entity that can demonstrate it is not bound to material cause and effect can demonstrate how that works.

          In short… we would have to get lessons from Dumbledore or Gandalf in how magic works.

          and, in the end… most likely this would result in a simple modification of the term “naturalistic” to include predictable forces based on say, the application of human will or something.

          this, btw, is the primary reason ID fails:

          There is no designer to explain how his “un-naturalistic” methodology applies in the world, thus there is no way to test for such a being’s “designs”.

          fortunately for us, we haven’t ever needed utilize anything OTHER than naturalistic methodology. It has worked just peachy.

          I’m betting we never will, either.


          1. OK, I see: I was misled by Jerry’s assertion: “Clearly we’re going to hear more about science’s reliance on philosophical naturalism…” 😉

            So, no dependence, no reliance, … Science is, perforce, methodologically naturalistic.


            1. well, Jerry’s quoted words are exactly accurate.

              we WILL endlessly hear about “science’s reliance on materialism” from the religious.

              very much like conservatives have made some kind of bogey-man out of the word “liberal”.

              what we NEED to keep hearing though, is just how inane saying “science relies on materialism” is once you realize what the words actually mean.

              and to point out that the opposite, the assumption of NON-naturalistic explanations, which IS the presumption underlying religious dogma, is the thing that should be correctly identified as not only untenable, but unsupported.

              the longer the religious play the anti-materialism card, the more they doom themselves to eventual oblivion.

        3. The two collapse, historically. One concludes, as was mentioned, through a few thousand instances of inference to the best explanation, that materialism, etc. is true. Then it is learned why it is a presupposition, and becomes one. Scientific method is not static, and that includes metaphysics.

  51. The most notable advances in science through all the various cultures has always been linked to economic prosperity. Not just merchant trading, but functioning banking systems, viable number of wealthy individuals, etc. In the 3rd and 4th centuries, the economy collapsed with the roman empire, as well with a large loss in populations. Part of the reason it took so long to re-energize was the christian doctrine on interest and loans. Currency almost became meaningless and the culture regressed to a quasi-barter system.

    The question seems to me is, would the economy have recovered faster, and therefore science would have more likely advanced more quickly, with a different religion in power? This seems pretty obvious, any religion with less absurd doctrine on loans and interest would have been better overall.

    1. The question seems to me is, would the economy have recovered faster, and therefore science would have more likely advanced more quickly, with a different religion in power? This seems pretty obvious, any religion with less absurd doctrine on loans and interest would have been better overall.

      makes sense to me. No way to test it though…

      or is there?

      we’ll see just how far the US will regress in the coming decade.

      might get a chance to test that theory after all.

  52. Craig:

    science, like religion, is based on faith

    It’s amazing how, whenever the religious want to criticize something, the very first thing they do is compare it to…


  53. Ahhh, the ‘go meta’ gambit – dissolving any contentious issue that might arise from scientific inquiry by reducing the process to an abstract and showing it’s limitations… All recorded and broadcast on the internet of course!

  54. Hey, Jerry…

    If you ever get the chance, I wonder what how Craig would view the imminent rejection by of the existence of Higgs-Boson particles (it’s very close now, not much area for it left to hide in)?

    If it happens (pretty likely), it only took science a decade at most to reject the existence of the “god particle”, and most are entirely ready to explore whole new models past the standard model at this point. Would they do that if they had “faith” in the standard model?

    Religions have had millenia to find evidence for their proposed deities and failed. Somehow, they conclude that’s just fine though.


    1. There are standard model predictions for a light Higgs, so it’s best just to wait for the harder-to-detect data to come in. A Higgs-particle-of-the-gaps—whose range of physical properties can be predicted—cannot be compared to a god-of-the-gaps.

      1. It’s my understanding that there is only a very narrow bandwidth left to test.

        so what… less than a year left until final conclusions are made?

  55. WLC would have made a great sophist in the time of Socrates. He’s basically a professional debater/seducer who’s purpose is to twist any argument he can to appeal to his evangelical/fundamentalist audience or he’s a man who has systematically misunderstood every scientific argument he has ever heard, not sure which. He clearly knows at least the outline of key scientific arguments given that I’ve seen him debate Carrier, Hitchens, Pigliucci, Stenger, Krauss, even Dawkins in a 4 way debate etc etc (all online) his chief tool is to dig into a comment someone makes and heap ridicule upon it when it only reflects his deep misunderstandings or making mountains out of molehills, all along the line contradicting his own points when they are challenged. I personally find him entertaining, eg compare with the nasally irritance of D’souza for example. I think he’d make a great PhD thesis for a psychology major on the power of obstinacy and the systematic misuse of logic (ie the power of faith). In truth, he’s an expert in rhetoric and nothing else, just like the sophists.

  56. his chief tool is to dig into a comment someone makes and heap ridicule upon it

    a form of red-herring attack more precisely labeled:


    yes, the red herring is a favorite of religious apologists.

    as is the ad-hominem.

    of course, because they are, you know that they also will project this as being the tool of their opposition. Which, of course, they do. In spades.

    how often have you heard a religious apologist accuse a secularist or atheist of ad-hominem attacks?


    nothing but projection, employed as a red herring.

  57. Dead people have come back to life. These cases are called “near death experiences”.
    Some number of them are actually death experiences because all brain activity had ceased.
    Jesus of Nazareth was dead for a little over 24 hours.
    It was what he did after he came back from the dead that is really significant.

    1. Got any evidence for that claim about Jesus? Preferably dating to within, say, less than a century after the “fact”?


      Didn’t think so.



    2. More significant was what the Roman Empire managed to do by mangling the story of Jesus four centuries after his death: transmute the shrinking physical empire of ancient Rome into what’s now a global spiritual empire with more adherents/income sources than even the most voracious Caesar could ever have dreamed. With the later reinvention of Vatican City as a pretend country – complete with UN privileges – the Roman Empire still gets to call itself a state and still has enormous sway with governments across the globe. Its power is so great it even got to run, with impunity, a child-rape and slavery ring across the globe for the better part of a century.

      All that, just by smashing together pagan traditions with the Greek-ified tales of a Palestinian cult leader who may or may not have even existed and calling it the official state religion of Rome.

      Christianity is a political invention and Jesus, if he lived at all, would bear little resemblance to the version that’s rammed down our throats at every opportunity.

    3. It was what he did after he came back from the dead that is really significant.

      *looks for records of Jesus’ activities after his supposed resurrection*

      uh… if you mean that he did “nothing”, and that it is significant that he did nothing, then yeah, hard to disagree with that.

      1. If you have no knowledge of what the Bible says about Jesus’ activities after he rose from the dead then you really ought not post until you find out.

        1. Oh, Barb! We know what the Bible says Jesus did then. But you seem to be labouring under the same delusion as Anselm, that the Bible constitues historical evidence!

          Where is there any extra-Biblical confirmation?


        2. Barb, as far as this ex-Catholic understands, it is not the activities that Jesus alleged did after he revivified that are important, but the mere fact of his revivification. It was the event of the “resurrection” itself that allegedly proved his godhood — the aftermath was just his dog-and-pony show of getting his apostles to “fondle his intestines” (TM Ben Goren) and convince them he was back. No event of theological relevance occurred post-raising (with perhaps the exception of his alleged ascension into the Christian heaven, but that is far less important theological than him coming back to life).

          At least that’s what I remember from Sister Benita’s religion class.

    4. “Dead people have come back to life. These cases are called “near death experiences”.

      you should apply a bit of skepticism before accepting this as a general phenomenon.


      moreover, why do you consider these phenomena to be supportive of the supposed resurrection of christ?

      by description, they hardly match now, do they.

    5. Why would near death experiences be at all relevant to one who believes, most likely through childhood indoctrination, that Christ is their resurrected Saviour? That was a one-off special event.

      1. My point is that his resurrection from the dead was not a one-off experience. What he did after his resurrection is a one-off.

          1. Every time that someone comes back from the dead it is a miracle.
            If you don’t call that a “miracle” then you would never use the word “miracle”.

            1. No, it isn’t. See my reply to you elsewhere.

              See also Benjamin Radford’s article, “‘Drowned’ Boy Reveals the Psychology of Miracles.

              Nor would I use the word “miracle”, except in close proximity to the words “a”,“as”, “no”, “thing”, “there”, “such” and “is”.

              Calling something that is quite natural, if unlikely or rare, a miracle is mere hyperbole. I’d reserve that for “something that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws” [NOAD] More strongly, something that utterly flouts established scientific theories and naturalistic principles.

              Saying “someone coming back from the dead” is quite imprecise in any medical sense, although it might be used as a figure of speech regarding someone revived after clinical death. But such a revival can be explained by naturalistic means — for example, we know that “hypothermia … is highly protective of the brain when it is starved for oxygen and blood flow”. There’s no need to appeal to a divine agency; ergo, it’s not a miracle.

              In fact, “miracle” is used so often by Christians to describe (somewhat) unlikely but personally fortuitous events that plainly lack divine agency, which seems (to me) irreverent and insulting when compared against the miracles that, they believe, were performed by the Lord Jesus Christ.


        1. I’ll grant you that much.

          I don’t recall ever hearing any stories of near-death experiences where the resurrectee later went on a speaking tour with holes in hands and feet and a gaping chest wound where the climax was inviting attendees to fondle his intestines through said gaping chest wound.

          But why, prey tell, should you think that this story is any more credible than Night of the Living Dead or that this particular zombie is friendly? Especially since this particular zombie practically comes in his toga every time he speaks of how he’s gonna torture people after they die and he’s constantly inventing a never-ending list of the most banal of trivialities which he’ll use as an excuse for torture?

          I’m generally not one to judge people’s kinks, but this one is really quite unhealthy. You really should seek counseling to try to set at ease whatever issues you have that you’re masking with this fantasy. And, please, do this before your play-acting gets out of hand and somebody gets hurt!



        2. The Gospels aren’t reliable sources of information about the life of the Jesus. They are copies of copies of copies made by often-illiterate scribes (keep in mind that reading and writing are different skills) who were writing down stories that had been circulated orally. The oldest copies anyone has found in 2000 years were written in Greek, so they could not have possibly been written by the working-class, illiterate, Aramaic-speaking followers of Jesus. They are riddled with contradictions and, to top it all off, we don’t even have the first damn clue who actually wrote them. Not a single thing I’ve said is controversial amongst serious students of early Christianity of the history of the Bible.

          1. Actually, I think it’s most likely that the original Gospels were in Greek, for the simple reason that Christianity is an unabashedly Hellenistic pagan religion.

            Compare with Orpheus, another demigod cast in the role of Osiris / Dionysus. Does anybody ever mistrake him for a Thracian demigod? Heavens, no! Sure, the story is set in Thrace and Orpheus is cast as a Thracian, but the religion is purely Greek (or, at least, Greco-Roman), soup to nuts.

            And it’s the exact same situation with Christianity.

            Don’t believe me? Just read Justin Martyr and Lucian and recall the origin of the concept of the Logos. It’s all right there, in plain language, in the documents the Christians most like to cite as evidence of historicity.



  58. WLC’s later argument contradicts his earlier argument.

    At earlier, he says “religion produced the notion of a world separate from God and subject to rational investigation.”

    However, his later claims, that there may be no real external world or that inductive reasoning cannot be proved or that the world may have been created five minutes ago with the illusion of a past, all of these are worlds which are not subject to rational investigation.

    Yes, the “world as illusion” would also mean “Jesus as illusion”.

    It’s quite clear that Craig is just making up arguments based on unprovable propositions to undermine science. Fact is, science works extremely well, and none of these propositions has ever been seen to be false. He won’t apply those same propositions to his religion and indeed his religion gets away with relying on the truth of different unprovable propositions which have never, ever been seen to be true.

  59. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that the assumption that things will work in the past as they have in the future

    should be:

    What he doesn’t seem to realize is that the assumption that things will work in the future as they have in the past

    As a last-Thursday-ist I object to you (or Craig) ridiculing last-Thursday-ism.
    It is a perfectly valid belief system and has served me well for over 50 years.

  60. Please picture me holding a pipe and wearing a tweed jacket with patches on the elbows. Also, my voice sounds exactly like Richard Attenborough’s.

    (Sits down in an armchair to start philosophizing.)

    The way I see it, there are two reasons to believe something is true. The first and most obvious is that the evidence dictates the belief. The second is that the belief is required in order to make sense of reality.

    Taking a break to smoke my pipe. Now taking the pipe out of my mouth and pointing it at you

    I would put the belief that other minds exist in that second category. Sure, it’s possible all of reality is an illusion, but I can’t make sense of reality if I go there. So I believe that other minds exist, that reality is more or less what it appears to be, and that I can mostly depend on my senses. A key difference between this ‘faith’ and religious faith is that one is required to make sense of reality, while the other isn’t. For that reason, I don’t think it’s fair to give both positions the same label.

    As for theism in general, belief in god is not justified by evidence, and is not required to make sense of reality. So I reject all claims that it is a properly basic belief.

    1. In typical fox news style, they claim that atheists are:

      running shy of the challenge

      which they then entirely fail to note is complete bullshit in the very next paragraph, when they quote why people aren’t taking him seriously, and thus not debating him:

      Polly Toynbee, pulled out of an agreed debate at London’s Westminster Central Hall in October, saying she “hadn’t realized the nature of Mr. Lane Craig’s debating style.”


      pulling out a a debate with Gish doesn’t mean there is a challenge that is being ignored, it means that it is a waste of time to play the Gish Gallop.

      likewise, debating someone as intellectually dishonest as Craig will engender a lot of “polite refusals”

      has nothing to do with the veracity of his claims, and everything to do with him using logical fallacies in machine-gun fashion.

      1. it should really be a wake-up call to self professed “theologians” that their:

        foremost apologist for Christian theism

        engages in little more than the standard Gish gallop.

        Theology is entirely intellectually bankrupt at this point in time, and its way past time we continued supporting it as an academic endeavor.

        let the theologians re-apply for jobs in the philosophy department.

      2. I really wonder why Luke over at Common Sense Atheism talks so highly about Craig as a debater. While Craig is good at arguing and making a good case for the audience, he can engage in quite dishonest and deceptive rhetoric in order to advance his position. If anyone is to debate Craig, it’s much more important they be skilled in debating – not in arguments.

        It doesn’t seem something worth praising really, especially when he uses the same arguments every debate irrespective of any objections or replys.

        1. If anyone is to debate Craig, it’s much more important they be skilled in debating – not in arguments.


          It doesn’t seem something worth praising really, especially when he uses the same arguments every debate irrespective of any objections or replys.


          as to your question:

          “why Luke over at Common Sense Atheism talks so highly about Craig”

          haven’t a clue. I see no redeeming qualities to his level of debate, his topic of debate, or even his debating tactics.

          so… *shrug*

          ask him and let us know what he says.

  61. Jebus had a “near death experience”?

    Not according to the New Testament. Those blokes said he actually carked it.

    He wasn’t “pining”.
    He passed on!
    He was no more!
    He ceased to be!
    He expired and went to meet his maker!
    He was a a stiff!
    Bereft of life, he rested in peace!
    He was pushing up the daisies!
    His metabolic processes were (at that point at least) history!
    He fell off the twig!
    He kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!
    He was an ex-saviour!

    Do I make myself clear?

    1. He had a “death” experience as others have had. I made that clear. Did you read what I posted?
      Calling him Jebus is insulting. Are you an adult or a child? If you are a child you can be forgiven for talking like a child.

      1. Perhaps he was just “mostly dead” … like Wesley?

        Are you an adult or a child?

        It seems to me that you’re the one indulging in childish fantasies here. Where’s you evidence that this “Jesus” of yours ever lived, let alone died and rose again on the third day?


        1. I am not discussing the idea that Jesus never lived. Others can do that (and have).
          I am focusing on an aspect of this that has never been considered before. Namely that Jesus had a death experience and we are familiar in our day with such an experience.

          Having a death experience is not unheard of. What Jesus did when he came back from death is what makes him unique.

          1. What Jesus did when he came back from death is what makes him unique.

            Which was, exactly? As I pointed out earlier, I was taught as a Catholic that it was the mere fact that Jesus was revivified that was the Big Deal, in that it proved he was a god. Once one is up and about after death, what’s so special about hangin’ out with your buddies again, and getting them all worked about your zombification?

            1. Tulse, if you were taught as a Catholic then you were not listening. But you can catch up now. Up to you.

              Also, people living today who have had death experiences are not zombies. Quite the contrary.

              1. Oh, Barb: What is a “death experience” and how does it differ from, say, “death”?

                If somebody has died, they’re dead and cannot be revived.

                If someone shows no apparent signs of life, but can be revived — like that “drowned” boy who was in the news recently – then they were not actually dead! (Hence, that The Princess Bride reference earlier wasn’t entirely facetious!)


              2. if you were taught as a Catholic then you were not listening. But you can catch up now.

                Well then, the sisters at Corpus Christi Elementary School would be profoundly disappointed in me. But I’m sure you can set me right where they could not — what precisely is it that Jesus alleged did after returning to life that was more important than the mere fact of rising from the dead?

          2. What, so someone can die and rise again even if they haven’t lived?

            Of course you’re making an assertion about whether or not Jesus actually lived!


            1. People ought to acquaint themselves with the “near death” experience accounts. Some of those cases are actually death experiences.

              Your statement that
              “If somebody has died, they’re dead and cannot be revived”
              is factually incorrect.

              That people can come back from death is something we now know from clinical accounts.
              Jesus went beyond just that, as we can see from what is documented about his activities after he came back.

              1. I’m fully aware of what NDEs are — and what they aren’t.

                Regarding my factual incorrectness: “Death was historically believed to be an event that coincided with the onset of clinical death [that is, the cessation of blood circulation and breathing]. It is now understood that death is a series of physical events, not a single one, and determination of permanent death is dependent on other factors beyond simple cessation of breathing and heartbeat.”

                So, yes, we know from clinical accounts that people who were clinical dead — like the “drowned” boy — can be successfully revived. But please cite a clinical account of someone who was successfully revived after being permanent death… oh, you can’t because that’s a “married bachelor”.

                Even in extreme cases — autoresuscitation after failed cardiopulmonary resuscitation — the patient clearly wasn’t permanently dead, even if declared dead by attending physicians. On doctor has said, “Perhaps it is a supreme hubris on our part to presume that we can reliably distinguish the reversible from the irreversible, or the salvageable from the nonsalvageable.”

                So, are you suggesting that Jesus was only clinically dead but not permanently dead when he was (allegedly) placed in the tomb? What, then, to make of Corinthians 15:19-20: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Pace your view, most Christians would regard the Resurrection as the central doctrine of Christianity — the true crux, if you will.


              2. * people who were clinically dead

                * being permanently dead (or just “permanent death”)

                * One doctor

                Quotations from Wikipedia, btw. Oh, and the Bible.


  62. Speaking of the origins of science from Christianity, C.S.Lewis, of all people, points out in his “The Discarded Image” how much of the medieval conception of the Cosmos was non-Christian, derived from the late Pagan thinkers- though, then, Christianity itself was born of a mix of Judaism and Neoplatonism.

    The idea of an Unmoved Mover who establishes regular and unchanging laws (at least in the Higher Spheres)is quite far removed from Yahweh, who spents so much ofHis time meddling in this and that.

  63. Two quick things:

    1. In my former church, we recited creeds that DID explain “where it all came from and where it was going”; it sure as heck was prescriptive. And remember that “faith” was required for “salvation” (whatever the heck that means); belief itself was considered a virtue.

    2. He seems to equate “just making stuff up” with scientific postulates (you know, when you drop something it has never just levitated but how do we know it won’t levitate the next time: FAITH.

    Ergo it makes sense to believe in Jesus.

    His video will make some of the current believers feel a bit better about themselves but that is about it.

  64. 2.Another article of scientific faith is the assumption that there is indeed a real external world that can be described accurately by our senses. We could, after all, be brains in vats, or creatures in some giant simulation run by aliens.

    This is truly a self-defeating argument if used by a theist. For if we are trapped in a simulation then all this stuff about the Bible and Jebus is part of that simulation too. Then there is no reason to have faith in anything whatsoever. Occam’s Razor and lack of evidence make me assume that we are nor part of a simulation.

  65. Harping again on a regular theme of mine…

    All of Craig’s “assumptions” actually can be taken as inferences from a more basic assumption: “experience has some pattern”. This ultimately DOES need to be taken as an assumption; claiming that it may be justified by the results is technically an error, since showing the existence of any results requires taking that precursor assumption. And in fact, it is perfectly valid philosophically to take the Refutation rather than the Assertion; in which case, all appearance of order and pattern is a local illusion of a type that Ramsey’s Theorem makes inevitable in a sufficiently large sea of chaos. Taking the Refutation is just considered silly, as it leaves you unable to identify hawks or handsaws, let alone distinguish them.

    Trivially, science also relies on the foundational assumptions of mathematics — the Zermelo-Fraenkel axioms being the usual gold standard. These Axioms also are taken as valid without justification from philosophical priors, and thus a form of “faith”. Again, it’s possible to take Refutation rather than Assertion for any of the ZF axioms, or to take reducibly equivalent alternatives (such as the von Neumann-Bernays-Gödel axioms).

    However, science ONLY relies on these primary assumptions; from these, a version of Occam’s Razor may be derived as a theorem. The “assumptions” Craig suggests are all testable thereby, and follow as implications, not as unjustified priors.

    As to the equivalence between this assumption and the divinity of Jesus… well, no. Or at least, I don’t see how the divinity of Jesus can be taken as an meaningful assumption without first taking the existence of Jesus; which in turn generally relies on the account of the Bible, and thus in turn on the existence of the Bible; and determining that the Bible exists is usually taken as an inference under the assumption that the universe we experience has some pattern.

  66. Clearly we’re going to hear more about science’s reliance on philosophical naturalism as being an “article of faith” equivalent to belief in the divinity of Jesus. This is an increasingly popular argument among both religious people and accommodationists, so I’d like to hear readers’ responses.

    Interesting you should say so Jerry. Indian Nyaya thinkers (what would be called as empiricists by some) hold that pratyaksha or sensory perception is the most reliable, and that all logic is ultimately grounded in empirical observations. Almost 1500 years later in the 8th century CE, Jayarasi Bhatta, a very late materialist, declared even pratyaksa unreliable, because how could anyone be sure of their senses even – then what to say of anumana and sabda (inference and testimony). So forget Craig’s blabber, it is the other way round. The inductive inference is based on observations. But why am I surprised that Craig a dissembler is now talking without thinking?

  67. Coyne: “he claims (4:55) that religion has made inestimably important contributions to science.”

    Actually, Craig said that “religion adds lots of things TO science” in the sense that it adds knowledge outside the purview of science, e.g., the plan of salvation, etc. In other words, science is not the only source of knowledge (“scientism” is wrong).

    Coyne: “But certainly the major events of the life of Jesus, like the virgin birth and Resurrection (some would even say Jesus’s existence) don’t pass any credible scientific test, since they are documented in only one book that is known to be largely fictitious.”

    The point is that the Christian points to historical evidence to warrant his belief, not just to “blind faith.” And the consensus position of historians affirms not only the existence of Jesus, but the core narrative presented in the Gospels and the letters of Paul (see http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/crj_recentperspectives/crj_recentperspectives.htm)

    Coyne: “What he doesn’t seem to realize is that the assumption that things will operate in the future as they have in the past has always worked (as Hawking says, “Science wins because it works”), and so the assumptions are not mere faith; they are justified by their results”

    But whether something “works” is measured by a subjective standard of something “working” for our purposes. It has “worked” for us in the past–why does that mean we can say it is an unalterable truth? By that standard, if a religion “works” for us by providing comfort, then it is true–which makes no sense.

    Coyne: “My answer is that every bit of evidence shows that we have evolved to detect realities in an external world, and those senses help us survive.”

    Yes, but all of that “evidence” comes from the very external world that is at issue in this thought experiment. Craig is saying that you are perfectly justified in believing in the external world because it is a “properly basic” belief, but not because it is justified by science. And theism can also be a properly basic belief (see http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth06.html).

    1. The point is that the Christian points to historical evidence to warrant his belief, not just to “blind faith.”

      Oh, what bullshit.

      Even the sorriest of apologetics doesn’t even pretend that there’s any evidence for Jesus that can be dated to closer than a century after the “fact,” and that’s a fragment of G. John that doesn’t even have his name that’s “dated” by guessing at the style of handwriting.

      We have literally an entire library of original contemporary documents (in the form of the Dead Sea Scrolls) that was authored by Jews in Jerusalem before, during, and after all possible dates for Jesus’s life. None of them even vaguely hint at anything about Jesus or any of the events in the Gospels.

      We also have (copies-of-copies) of most of what Philo of Alexandria wrote. He was King Herod’s brother-in-law, the Jewish philosopher who incorporated the Greek Logos (the “Word” of John 1:1) into Judaism, and a diplomat who recorded his account of his embassy in the 40s to Caligula to protest the unjust treatment of Jews at the hands of the Romans. Again, no mention of Jesus or the Gospel stories.

      And there’s Pliny the Elder who was into the whole supernatural thing but who noticed nothing. And there’re all those Roman satirists whose stock in trade was exactly the sort of political humiliation Jesus heaped upon Pilate and the Sanhedrin, who also noticed nothing. And literally dozens more first- and early-second century authors who, again, noticed nothing. When people finally did notice something, all they did was report on the antics of a bunch of lunatic nut-job wackos.

      Hell, even the very first Christian apologist, Justin Martyr himself, practically made a career out of detailing all the ways in which Christians stole Jesus’s biography from the pagans, though, granted, he placed the blame on time-travelling demons creating the fake gods long before Jesus came for real.

      So, I have no clue what sort of “historical evidence” you think “warrants” your belief, but one thing is for certain: it’s no more based in reality than the “historical evidence” of Luke Skywalker’s heroic battle to save the galaxy from his evil father.



        1. “The position that Jesus never existed (if that is what you are arguing for)”

          funny, I don’t see where anyone mentioned that, or that even you mentioned that Jesus’ mere “existence”, accurate or not, was the issue?

          any more red herrings for us?

            1. I went to school with Jesus.

              Well, Joshua, but it’s the same name.

              You remind me, though, of a quote somebody offered up here that I think was attributed to Dennett. Paraphrased, “Santa Clause is real! He lives year-round in Florida, his name is Harold Wiedermann, and he hates children.”

              Unless the Jesus in question was a charismatic preacher crucified by the joint order of the Sanhedrin and Pilate on a Pesach Shabbas in the first third of the first century and later seen alive (or at least reanimated), I think we can safely conclude that it’s not the Jesus we’re looking for. And even that Jesus is trivial to prove nonexistent, the exact same way you’d prove the nonexistence of a herd of angry velociraptors running through whatever room you’re in right now.



        2. So?

          The academic integrity of historians in general is often suspect; they too often make statements of unwarranted certainty based on evidence that would be laughed at in any other discipline.

          More to the point, the overwhelming majority of “historians” who have “studied” Jesus are Christians at Christian institutions. Their salaries and (they believe) their salvation depends utterly on the Jesus of the Gospels being entirely historical.

          But never mind that.

          If it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus was an historical figure, it must first be possible to define who, exactly Jesus was (after all, the name was quite popular in first century Judea); and, secondly, support the claim of historicity with solid evidence.

          I’d be surprised if you’ll even attempt the first, and I’ll eat my shoes if you can come up with any evidence that can be objectively and reliably dated to within a century of the commonly claimed date of the Resurrection.

          (Never mind me eating my shoes — you’ll make al the front pages if you can pull off the latter.)

          (Oh — in contrast, for a few hundred bucks, you can buy a coin with any of the Caesars’s likenesses minted during their lifetimes, and that’s just scratching the tips of the icebergs of hard, physical evidence for each of them.)



            1. Since the readership here is unlikely to have that book at hand while you apparently do, would you be so kind as to let us know, say, the three most convincing pieces of objectively-verifiable evidence Ehrman uses to bolster his argument of an historical Jesus?

              What’s that? He doesn’t have any?

              Well, then, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof, why should anybody pay any attention to somebody who makes bold statements of fact without even a shred of evidence to back up any of it?

              Arguments from authority are bullshit. Go to the authorities to learn from them, and then argue for yourself based on what you’ve learned. If you can’t, you haven’t learned anything from the authorities and you’ve thereby demonstrated said authorities to be useless.



            2. whee!

              we’re now completely arguing against a strawman of your original argument!

              I’d say well done, but I don’t want to encourage such inane behavior as the propping up of strawmen in favor of legitimate debate.

              1. Anselm, just to clarify Icthyic’s point (if I may), your original claim was, “[t]he point is that the Christian points to historical evidence to warrant his belief, not just to ‘blind faith.'”

                You’ll note, I hope, that every one of my responses in this thread has been about the actual evidence or lack thereof. And in none of your responses have you even vaguely hand-wavingly pointed to any sort of evidence.

                So, if you decide to post again, do please be so kind as to let us know exactly what historical evidence it is that Christians point to to warrant belief as opposed to blind faith?



              2. To Ben Goren (sorry, don’t know how to get comment to post under Ben Goren’s last comment): in lieu of covering ground that has been covered extensively elsewhere, e.g., in the Craig-Carrier debate (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqoRVplbW5Q), which would seem redundant here, is it your point that Christians have NO historical evidence to point to, or that their evidence is insufficient? It seems incontrovertible that Christians “point to” evidence; if so, they are not acting in “blind faith” (even if you view their evidence as insufficient).

              3. That’s just it. All the historicists ever do is “point to” evidence, without ever actually offering up any evidence.

                As you yourself have just done.

                And, on the rare occasion when one actually does offer up something, it’s instantly revealed as not actually being evidence.

                I rather doubt you yourself will actually offer up any evidence. Either you really aren’t aware of what’s usually offered — which would be quite common — or you are aware, in which case you know you’ll just get laughed at…the same way a ten-year-old boy would get laughed at for pointing to his Superman comics as evidence for Clark Kent.

                Since you can’t even honestly point to any evidence, don’t you think you owe it to yourself to reevaluate the conclusions you’ve based on that nonexistent evidence?



              4. Ben Goren,

                Ok, so I understand your view to be that Christians have absolutely NO historical evidence to “point to.” Thanks for clarifying that.

              5. Just to remind you of your original claim, Anselm:

                the consensus position of historians affirms not only the existence of Jesus, but the core narrative presented in the Gospels and the letters of Paul

                So while Ben and others have repeatedly asked for evidence of Jesus’ mere existence, you are claiming that all the events described by both the gospels and Paul actually happened? You do realize that this is a much bigger claim than mere existence, right?

              6. I suspected as much.

                Your first link opens with a well-known forgery inserted into the works of a man who wasn’t even born yet when Jesus was supposed to have been crucified. It continues with another highly suspect passage by a younger man still that merely describes the beliefs of a bunch of whack-job lunatic cultists. Next up is a quote from an even younger man in a parody where he offers hearsay evidence of how idiotic the Christians were to be duped into believing all sorts of bullshit by a mad con man.

                Do you even want me to continue? I rather doubt it.

                I tell you what. Why don’t you list, right here in this very thread, just one objectively-verifable piece of evidence that dates to the first century which supports the existence of Jesus and his biography?

                Just one reference. That can’t be too much to ask for the greatest story ever told, can it?



              7. Ben Goren,

                Your problem seems to be that you don’t accept the Gospels and letters of Paul as historical evidence (different parts of which can be given more or less creedance based on standard historiographical criteria); well, the consensus of even the “skeptical” and “secular” scholars like Bart Ehrman (e.g., the “Jesus Seminar”) disagrees with you. Do you just think they are incompetent (since they obviously have no pro-Christian bias)?

              8. Well, of course I don’t accept the Gospels as historical evidence of Jesus. They’re a bunch of late, undated anonymous documents addressed to a Greek audience by native Greek-speaking Greek-educated Greek authors written in scholarly Greek that recount universally-popular Greek myths that Greek parents had been telling to their Greek children for as long as there had been Greeks…but set in Judea.

                Worse, they’re run through-and-through with the most fantastic of bullshit, from virgin births to mass zombie invasions to demon pigs.

                In short, they’re even less credible than Star Wars — at least we know who directed that movie.

                Now, if even a hint of anything mentioned in the Gospels had actually happened, the contemporary (as in, “early first century”) local (as in, “Judea and other eastern Mediterranean”) authors must have noticed, right? I mean, it’s not ever day that hordes of zombies descend upon a Roman garrison to protest the unjust execution of their zombie king.

                So how do you explain the fact that the quite-extensive contemporary record is silent, and it’s not until at least a century later that anybody seems to have thought to have written anything down?



              9. Ok, I take that as “yes”, you think Ehrman and the other secular scholars are incompetent. Cheers.

              10. Anselm: Well, they certainly look less than competent on that basis. Do they even address the issue of the lack of contemporary accounts?

                Ben: It’s all Greek to me! 😉


              11. So, anselm: how would you characterize an historian who based his conclusions not upon an entire library of original relevant documentation but instead upon a millennium-old mish-mash of faery tales of unknown provenance?



              12. you don’t accept the Gospels and letters of Paul as historical evidence (different parts of which can be given more or less [credence] based on standard historiographical criteria)

                These are unacceptable as historical evidence for the life, or even existence, of Jesus because the very earliest hard evidence we have for the New Testament comes from the second century fragment P52 of John 18:31–33. And this solitary first century fragment we have does not actually contain Jesus’ name, though it is reasonable to infer that its missing parts would refer to Jesus.

                There is no historical evidence whatsoever from year 30, and not even any evidence from the first century. The status of the historical evidence for the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are much worse, as the earliest hard evidence we have for these does not appear until the third and fourth centuries.

                We cannot trust the “hard” historical evidence we have of Roman authors who were both Jesus’ contemporaries and refer to Jesus in extant manuscripts, as the earliest manuscripts we have come from the 11th century, more than one thousand years after Jesus died:

                As with Josephus, so with Tacitus our observations must be tempered by the fact that the earliest manuscript of the Annals comes from the 11th century. —John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume 1, p. 100

                That is why no reputable historian or biblical scholar accepts the Gospels as historical evidence for the life of Jesus—we haven’t any historical evidence at all for the Gospels or for Jesus’ life, and mountain of the evidence we do have from Jesus’ time is all notably silent on the remarkable events surrounding Jesus’ life.

                Without first unearthing some credible evidence from the first century, you are flatly wrong that any historical credence whatsoever can be given to the New Testament.

              13. To add to Steve’s point about the actual evidence, I’d like to point out that P52 has never been objectively dated; rather, the date is merely assumed based upon the writing style. Were we to apply similar techniques to my diploma, one might conclude that I had graduated some time in the mediaeval period.

                I believe our very own Michael Kingsford Gray has asked to perform a radiometric dating of the dust in the scroll’s case — a process which is self-evidently non-destructive — and had his request denied. That right there should tell you that the official date estimate is almost guaranteed to be wildly optimistic.



              14. Your problem seems to be that you don’t accept the Gospels and letters of Paul as historical evidence

                Um, anselm honey, that’s what’s called “begging the question”. What we’re trying to establish is their historicity with evidence independent of them. Can you provide any independent contemporary evidence?

              15. To add to Ben’s point about the distrust we must place in the New Testament’s historical narrative, there is the famous case of a clause actually being added to the Bible some time during the Early Middle Ages: 1 John 5:7–8, i.e., the Comma Johanneum. This clause was added to add New Testament support for the doctrine of the Trinity, a concept otherwise absent in the Bible. The Johannine comma, a transparently fraudulent addition to the Bible, shows why Bible manuscripts and references to Jesus after the first century cannot be given any credence at all.

              16. Steve Smith,

                It’s unusual that you would cite John P. Meier, but then go on to say that “no reputable historian” accepts the Gospels as historical sources, because Meier DOES use the Gospels as historical sources (applying the standard historiographical criteria to sift out the historical core from the whole). Isn’t he a “reputable historian”? (Admittedly he is a Catholic, not a non-believer like Ehrman).


              17. @ anselm, you … say that “no reputable historian” accepts the Gospels as historical sources

                You misrepresent what I wrote, and misrepresent Meier’s history. I wrote that no reputable historian accepts the Bible’s narrative as evidence for that narrative. To the best of my knowledge, this is true of Meier, who accepts the Biblical account on faith, then explores the consequences of that account in light of extra-Biblical knowledge.

                I also note that aside from muddying the water, you have completely ignored the fact that fact the Bible’s historical narrative has been almost entirely discredited.

              18. Steve Smith,

                I think you are just wrong about Meier. As the article I linked to says, “Central to Meier’s undertaking in this and other volumes are the criteria of historicity developed by New Testament scholars in the mid-20th century…Meier’s project involves applying these criteria to practically everything in the Synoptic Gospels (and occasionally to John) and discerning what may be attributed with confidence to the historical Jesus.”

                Meier uses the Gospels as historical texts, but treats them skeptically, applying standard criteria used by secular scholars to sift the historical from the non-historical. That’s just mainstream, secular New Testament scholarship, and it is why Craig is on firm ground when he asserts that the Christian case for the resurrection is based in historical fact and not “blind faith”

              19. @ anselm, the Christian points to historical evidence to warrant his belief, not just to “blind faith.”

                No, you are wrong. Your original statement has been shown to be wrong because there simply isn’t any historical evidence to warrant Christian belief, including the sort of historical analysis done by Biblical scholars such as Meier.

                I’m not going to further waste my own or anybody else’s time asking you to produce such evidence because everyone knows that this cannot be done, and because you have consistently attempted to change the subject from the salient answer (to your original point) that the entire Bible’s historical narrative has been almost entirely discredited.

            3. Steve Smith: “Your original statement has been shown to be wrong because there simply isn’t any historical evidence to warrant Christian belief, including the sort of historical analysis done by Biblical scholars such as Meier.”

              Excuse me, but you are the one who cited Meier as an historical authority–and you were right to do so. He is an eminent historian, entirely within the mainstream of historiography. And he regards the New Testament documents as sources worthy of mining for their historical core. It is the position “Jesus never existed” or “the Gospels provide no historical evidence” that is the fringe position (analogous to the Rick Perry position on climate change).

              1. What will it take to convince you that we care nothing for authorities, and only of evidence?

                On what evidence does Meier base his assertion that Jesus was an historical figure?

                Evidence, man. Evidence!



    2. The point is that the Christian points to historical evidence to warrant his belief, not just to “blind faith.”

      uh, then they are lying to themselves.

      How Archaeology Killed Biblical History:


      Avalos is hardly the only biblical archeologist to have noted that so far, the amount of evidence in support of various aspects of biblical history is far, FAR, outweighed by the evidence against.

      IOW, there are good reasons to reject most of the historical accounts cobbled together for that volume.

      so, if xians are pointing to historical evidence, they are pointing to an empty space.

  68. I made a blog post on faith and evidence.

    tl;dr version: a position like “all beliefs must be evidenced” is easy for Craig to attack, because he point out inconsistencies: atheists hold beliefs in induction and reality which aren’t evidenced. So that position isn’t tenable. It’s more fruitful to ask whether we should expect evidence for religious beliefs: clearly we should, because Christians wouldn’t accept another religion without evidence; and because nobody can entertain radical scepticism about reality for long, whereas it’s very hard for an educated person to keep up their religious faith.

    [People criticising Craig as if he’s saying that he doesn’t believe in external reality or induction have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Craig believes in those things without evidence, as more or less everyone else does, and he doesn’t think there’s a problem with that.]

    1. It’s more fruitful to ask whether we should expect evidence for religious beliefs

      you have a good point there, Paul.

      it underscores the fact that the reason a lot of people don’t want to debate this clown, is for exactly the same reasons they don’t want to debate Gish.

      most rational people like to debate on the merits of the arguments themselves, instead of playing rhetorical games and utilizing shady debate tactics.

      If the idea of a debate is to educate the listener, and not to “win”, then Craig’s approach of course entirely fails, and it’s no wonder nobody wants to be on a stage with him that actually cares about educating the audience.

    2. You’re neglecting the option that the Christian can have “dual warrant” for his belief. It can be both properly basic (like the belief in other minds) AND warranted by sufficient evidence-based arguments (cosmological, fine-tuning, the moral argument, historical evidence for the resurrection, etc.). As Craig says, the Christian can KNOW his faith is true by proper basicality, but will SHOW his faith is true to a non-believer through evidence and argument.

      1. Just like a paranoid person KNOWS that he is being watched and when asked is able to present you with evidence (Like: “There was a strange blue van parked across the street where I live.”)

        You are completely delusional too. I’m sure nothing will be able to convince you that your ‘evidence’ and your arguments don’t hold up to scrutiny. I will not even try.

        1. How did you know about the van? You’re one of them! Aren’t you? I always knew it, but see, now I can prove it!

      2. I’d be careful about borrowing jargon from Plantinga to bolster Craig. Craig disagrees with Plantinga on the subject of properly functioning faculties because Craig thinks that’s not What The Bible Says, hilariously enough. It’s not clear that Craig’s account of Christian belief means that such belief has Plantinga-style Warrant. Does Plantinga think it does? I’ve not seen any comments on that.

        In any case, my point was to answer Craig by providing a well-motivated distinction between religious beliefs and those commonplace beliefs threatened by radical scepticism. It is clearly not appropriate to take religious beliefs “on faith” without some account of why that’s warranted, and the tu quoque argument that atheists do it too won’t wash because atheists don’t do it too.

        Plantinga’s work is an attempt to show how taking Christian beliefs on faith could be warranted. I’m pretty uneasy about that since it seems broad enough to accommodate warrant for a whole bunch of crazy things, but I’m not going to get into that on Jerry’s blog.

        1. It is somewhat fascinating to read what Craig writes there. At first it resembles what a perfectly reasonable philosopher could have written, even if you would disagree with the arguments. At least there are still arguments and there is an appearence of logic being applied. But then he goes entirely off the rails and writes stuff such as this:

          As Paul Moser has emphasized, on the Christian view it is actually a matter of relative indifference to God whether people believe that He exists or not. For what God is interested in is building a love relationship with us, not just getting us to believe that He exists. Even the demons believe that God exists—and tremble, for they have no saving relationship with Him (James 2.19).

          The man is completely nuts. “Even the demons believe that God exists.” That’s like saying that even centaurs believe that unicorns exist.

          If this is sophisticated theology, then the latter is best viewed as a medical condition.

      3. … warranted by sufficient evidence-based arguments (cosmological, fine-tuning, the moral argument, historical evidence for the resurrection, etc.)

        You think these arguments are evidence based? Srsly?

        Cosmological: Where is your evidence that everything that exists has a cause? (What is the cause quantum fluctuations, or of radioactive decay?) Where is your evidence that the universe cannot spontaneously arise (from nothing)? See Hawking, Carroll, Stenger, et al.

        Fine-tuning: Where is your evidence that life with human-like intelligence and consciousness cannot arise in a universe with different parameters? Where is your evidence that ours is the only universe with human-like intelligence and consciousness? See Hawking, Carroll, Stenger, et al.

        The moral argument: I’m guessing that you’re referring to the “argument” that morals come from God… ? Well, that’s against the evidence.

        Historical evidence for the resurrection: As Ben and ichthyic have asked to a resounding silence: What is the historical evidence for the resurrection? Please cite at least one extra-Biblical source for this!


  69. You know what the strangest thing is? His book on the cosmological argument is actually pretty good. I assume it was basically his PhD thesis. I don’t know why he decided to give up on scholarship. If you look up on youtube his debate with Arif he gives up on argument entirely by the end and reduces himself to crazed proclamation about how atheists have no reason not to rape people and the like.

  70. Via my friend Gareth, the obligatory Less Wrong post is Where Recursive Justification Hits Bottom:

    Should I trust Occam’s Razor? Well, how well does (any particular version of) Occam’s Razor seem to work in practice? What kind of probability-theoretic justifications can I find for it? When I look at the universe, does it seem like the kind of universe in which Occam’s Razor would work well?

    Should I trust my brain? Obviously not; it doesn’t always work. But nonetheless, the human brain seems much more powerful than the most sophisticated computer programs I could consider trusting otherwise. How well does my brain work in practice, on which sorts of problems?

    When I examine the causal history of my brain – its origins in natural selection – I find, on the one hand, all sorts of specific reasons for doubt; my brain was optimized to run on the ancestral savanna, not to do math. But on the other hand, it’s also clear why, loosely speaking, it’s possible that the brain really could work. Natural selection would have quickly eliminated brains so completely unsuited to reasoning, so anti-helpful, as anti-Occamian or anti-Laplacian priors.

    So what I did in practice, does not amount to declaring a sudden halt to questioning and justification. I’m not halting the chain of examination at the point that I encounter Occam’s Razor, or my brain, or some other unquestionable. The chain of examination continues – but it continues, unavoidably, using my current brain and my current grasp on reasoning techniques. What else could I possibly use?

  71. Craig modifies Plantinga’s model of warranted Christian belief, but agrees with its basic thrust, as he says in the article you linked: “Such a modified model seems better suited than Plantinga’s original model to serve Christians as an account of how Christian belief is warranted. Nonetheless, it is still so close to Plantinga’s approach that he seems correct that if Christian belief is true, his model or something very similar is likely to be correct.”

    Paul Wright: ” It is clearly not appropriate to take religious beliefs “on faith” without some account of why that’s warranted”

    Sure, but such an account is what Plantinga and Craig are giving. Plantinga wrote a several-hundred page book giving just such an account (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/plantinga/warrant3.toc.html)

    Paul Wright: “and the tu quoque argument that atheists do it too won’t wash because atheists don’t do it too.”

    Well, they do with regard to the external world, the existence of the past and the reality of other minds, don’t they? Yet they tend to accept these on “blind faith,” without a detailed account of how such acceptance might be warranted. As Craig points out in the article you linked, referring to Plantinga’s argument that “no naturalistic account of warrant and, in particular, proper functioning is forthcoming, or his claim that naturalism cannot be rationally affirmed, since the naturalist can have no confidence that his cognitive faculties produce true beliefs as opposed to beliefs merely conducive to survival”

  72. Tulse, you can learn for yourself what is documented in the new Testament about his activities after his return.
    Even minimally educated people know that.
    Use google if you need help.

  73. Ant Allan:
    “So, are you suggesting that Jesus was only clinically dead but not permanently dead when he was (allegedly) placed in the tomb?”

    You are the one who is talking about something less than death. Not me.

    1. You implied it when you likened Jesus’s resurrection to people who “come back from death” that “we now know from clinical accounts”.

      All those people’s revivals were quite natural because they were only clinically dead not permanently dead; see my reply to you elsewhere.


      1. There are documented cases of brain flat-lined people being revived. But I am not getting into a long, tedious argument about that. Research that for yourself if you wish. That is not my highest interest.
        What Jesus did after his return is what sets him apart from others who have come back from death.

        1. Oh, look! I anticipated your reply, just below!

          Further, re “There are documented cases of brain flat-lined people being revived.”: a flat EEG “is sometimes also observed during deep anaesthesia or cardiac arrest”. [Wikipedia]


        2. Oh, and… 

          What Jesus did after his return is what sets him apart from others who have come back from death.

          Now, what was that again… oh yes, getting his erstwhile followers to fondle his intestines, &c., &c. (Thank you, Ben.) Yes, that really sets him apart from everyone that has been revived after clinical death and (temporary) cessation of brain activity.

          If that’s your highest interest, you’re nothing but a zombie groupie.


            1. But what about me, Barb? I asked for specifics on what Jesus did after his revivification that was so special (and even talked up Catholic theology to boot). You still haven’t said what specifically what was so important about Jesus’ actions post-tomb. Even if you’re not speaking to Ant Allan, won’t you at least tell me?

              1. Tulse, I have already said that you can find that info out on your own.
                If you cannot make that tiny effort yourself, why should I use up my time on it.

              2. You keep deflecting Barb — is it so difficult to provide one event or example? As I have said, my Catholic religion classes told me that the theologically relevant event was the Resurrection, that that’s what told us Jesus was who he said he was (i.e., a god). That’s why Easter is a bigger religious holiday than, say, the Ascension, or any other post-tomb Gospel event.

                You keep avoiding giving specifics, and instead tell me vaguely to read the New Testament. Now, I don’t know what Christian sect you belong to, but despite what Protestants might say, Catholics do indeed read the bible, and the good sisters at Corpus Christi Elementary School, and the good Basilian fathers at St. Thomas High School, and the lovely gentle Cistercian monks of Gethsemane Abbey all taught me the bible pretty well. So I’m not trying to trip you up here, or mock you — I genuinely have a theological question, and you seem extremely reluctant to answer it, despite having raised it yourself.

                I think I’ve been pretty straightforward and polite with you, Barb, but all I’ve gotten back is vague handwaving. I’m asking for you to simply discuss your claims in good faith, which means providing support for them when asked in a reasonable and polite fashion…which I believe I’m doing.

            2. Probably not, if you can’t formulate a coherent rebuttal to any of the points that I’ve raised.

              Which is a shame, as I’d really like to have read your responses on miracles, on Paul, and so on. I don’t regard your belief as rational, but surely you have a rationale for it… ?

              (In fact, Ceiling Cat would normally ask you for evidence for what you believe — see “Da Roolz,/a>”, nr. 3. But who am I to speak for him. I am not worthy to lick the crumbs from his bowl.)


    2. Barb, I owe you an apology: You did state earlier what you meant by “death experience”: “Some number of them are actually death experiences because all brain activity had ceased.”

      But you are still wrong! Cessation of brain activity is not an indicator of actual (permanent) death. Further to my comments about clinical death, you should note that brain death is “the irreversible end of all brain activity” [Wikipedia; my emphasis]. If people were revived, then that cessation was clearly not irreversible.

      Note that “diagnosis of brain death needs to be rigorous, in order to be certain that the condition is irreversible”; I’m pretty sure that brain death is sometimes misdiagnosed, and people may still be successfully revived.


  74. Tulse, if I was in your shoes and I really was interested I would already have said something like – do you mean for example the incident with Doubting Thomas? etc etc etc.
    But you have done nothing like that.
    That is how I know that you are just laying back, waiting to find something to criticize.
    I have been in many, many situations like this and I know the signs very well.

  75. Tulse, if I was in your shoes and I really was interested I would already have said something like – do you mean for example the incident with Doubting Thomas? etc etc etc.

    Seriously, Barb? As opposed to have said something like, oh, I dunno, like perhaps “What specific events do you mean?” You really expect me to guess what you’re thinking?

    You clearly have absolutely no interest in discussing things in good faith. I have been more than patient with your vague pronouncements and continual refusal to back them up with any sort of specific support. I have been very clear about the issue of theology at stake, and have provided arguments as to why your vague pronouncements are contrary to my formerly Catholic understanding, at least as far as I can understand your vague pronouncements. Your disinterest in clarifying makes it obvious that you simply don’t care about rational debate, but instead just want to parade your superior, smug, supercilious attitude.

    If this is your idea of witnessing, I hate to tell you, but you’re lousy at it.

    1. It should be obvious that I am not “witnessing”. I am presenting a completely different way of understanding the Jesus account – not in the way that Christians do.

      People here do not even realize that what I have said is already vastly different than any of the ideas they have ever heard before.

      Even if I said no more, I have already laid out an entire new way of understanding the New Testament. One which Christians would certainly not agree with.

      1. People here do not even realize that what I have said is already vastly different than any of the ideas they have ever heard before.

        Well, at least Tulse and I, if not others, found it puzzling that you so blithely dismissed the importance of the Resurrection. So, yes, that’s different, maybe even vastly different from canonical Christian ideas. But we’ve heard a lot of other woo, too, so… maybe not so vastly different from some of that.

        Even if I said no more, I have already laid out an entire new way of understanding the New Testament. One which Christians would certainly not agree with.

        If you have “laid it out” then you’ve done so in a belligerently enigmatic way. It may well be that “Christians would certainly nor agree with” it, but maybe you should give them (& us) a chance of understanding it clearly in the first place.

        However, you seem to think, instead, that we should play Mrs Doyle to your Fr. Todd Unctuous.

        You really, really are exasperating, Barb.


  76. @anselm: I wrote a reply with links and everything but the blog ate it. Trying to recall what I said, but I’m afraid you’ll have to Google for the material this time.

    Craig says Plantinga’s idea of a faculty for sensing the divine is “a doctrine that finds no support in Scripture”, which is fighting talk between evangelicals. If P is right about warrant and C is right about how God actually works, it looks like Christian beliefs don’t have P-warrant, because they don’t meet P’s 4 conditions for warrant.

    Taking a step back, P’s stuff is about addressing “de jure” objections to Christianity, that is, methodological objections like Coyne’s “beliefs should generally have some evidence for them, and yours don’t”, rather than “de facto” objections like “If God loves us, why is there so much gratuitious suffering?” Roughly, P wants to come up with a general account of what makes it reasonable to believe something and then show how it could be reasonable to believe Christianity without evidence. We should care about P-warrant if we think that P is right about what makes a belief reasonable.

    So, Craig decide he doesn’t care, that P is wrong, and attempt his own account of how believing Christianity without evidence is just fine, but he can’t piggyback on Plantinga’s account, because he disagrees with it in some fairly fundamental ways.

    In my original response, I’m specifically addressing Craig’s tu quoque aregument by differentiating between what atheists (and everyone else) does with beliefs about the external world and whatnot, and what Christians do if they believe “on faith”. This disposes of the tu quoque and in fact should make us wonder why Christians don’t think it’s OK for Muslims or Mormons to believe “on faith” (assuming they don’t think it’s OK).

    You’re right to say that other arguments, both in favour of Christian faith (like P’s warrant stuff) and against naturalism (like P’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism) should be addressed by atheists. Of course, if you go and look up this stuff, you’ll find that they do address it. One link I did find again: Larry Hamelin (who himself links to, but disagrees with, Stephen Law’s own critique of the EAAN) is worth a read. He’s saying that the EAAN should bother us about as much as problems with underdetermination of scientific theories bother scientists 🙂

    Craig’s quoting P’s EAAN is odd given he seems to disavow proper functionalism (or at least applying it to Christianity), though: an evangelist like Craig isn’t going to get far saying there’s “no naturalistic account of P-warrant is forthcoming” if Christians don’t have it either. I think he’s trying to have his cake and eat it there. Naughty Craig, no biscuit (or cake).

    1. There is really very little daylight at all between Craig and Plantinga on either the proper basicality of belief in God, as seen here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8595
      or the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, which Craig appears to entirely endorse here:

      As to Mormons and Muslims believing “on faith”–it’s not that Christians think it is wrong for them to do so. It is that their claim to do so in no way undermines warranted Christian belief IF Christianity is true. Objections to Christian belief must be de facto, because if it is true, it is necessarily warranted.

  77. Ant Allan posted:
    “Cessation of brain activity is not an indicator of actual (permanent) death. Further to my comments about clinical death, you should note that brain death is “the irreversible end of all brain activity” [Wikipedia; my emphasis]. If people were revived, then that cessation was clearly not irreversible.”

    Note something interesting about this definition. It is completely circular.
    Brain death is defined as the “the irreversible end of all brain activity”.
    Consequently if someone is revived then it was not brain death.

    So this rules out anything outside that tight little circle BY DEFINITION.
    It rules out BY DEFINITION the idea that someone could be completely and absolutely dead but then come back.
    But reality is not limited by our definitions.
    It would be good for someone here to acknowledge what I am saying, since people may have been confused on this point.

    1. Oh, hello again!

      No, it’s not circular; it’s logically consistent.

      Of course reality isn’t limited by our definitions. But our definitions should reflect our best understanding of reality.

      We know that someone that a lay person might regard as dead can be revived — for quite natural & un-miraculous reasons. So, which is the better fit to reality: That someone can come back from the dead? Or that we need a better definition of death?

      You seem to prefer the former; whereas the latter seems to me far more rational.

      It is reality that dictates that someone who is “completely and absolutely dead” — in any rational sense — cannot come back, cannot be revived, by any naturalistic means. 

      Thus, the ressurection of someone who is “completely and absolutely dead” must be supernatural. But, then, that‘s just not real.


    2. Note something interesting about this definition. It is completely circular.

      That isn’t interesting other than telling us that this is empiricism, that is absolutely filled with circularity. That is beneficial, since observation base the circular chain and more results follow than with isolated “one observation – one result” methods.

      For example, a valid definition of gravity is “acceleration of test masses by other masses”, and a valid definition of mass is “that which is accelerated by gravity”. Observation constrains what are gravity – mass systems from others, say electromagnetism – charge systems.

      And then we get to facts and theories, where the purpose is to *achieve* circularity! Observed facts are used to make a predictive theory, and a predictive theory is used to predict the facts it is made of. A fully tested theory is completely circular with the facts in that sense.

      [Circularity can then be broken in any number of ways. All theories as of yet are incomplete, so new observations will need theory. Or new observations can invalidate the theory in some new sector. Et cetera.]

      The telltale of folk science is that someone is bothered by circularity, which seems to be a philosophical “no-no”. But then philosophy doesn’t do observation, and consequently not science. (Or at least not very well.)

      So we may be confused, but that is solely by seeing someone arguing against circularity in these areas. We are not confused by the observation of brain death, that nowadays are the basis of the clinical definition of death. (At least here in Sweden.)

    1. Oh, I get what you’re saying, Barb, I really do. It’s just that it’s horseshit.

      It’s no more circular than arguing that you can’t have a married bachelor or an atheist that believes in God.

      But if you think your view of reality is superior, fine. Go and knock yourself out with your zombie friends.


  78. I don’t think science assume *anything* but is validated by experiments, it works, but FWIW here are my answers:

    1) One way light speed.

    I believe Craig’s argument is rooted in an old and erroneous philosophical analysis of relativity that I have seen before. The original proposition is that you can’t decide one-way speed in some formulations because then – you need to do experiments! Or change formulation of the theory, see below on validation.

    I wasn’t aware of the mirror experiments, but I know the astronomical one.

    Also, of course it isn’t an assumption but part of a theory, so it is validated with the success of the theory. And relativity is very successful indeed!

    2. A real external world.

    You have perhaps seen this analysis of mine before: a testable prediction from realism is that constrained action gives constrained reaction, i.e. not everything goes. Sits at the basis of both classical mechanics (action – reaction law) and quantum mechanics (observation – observables law).

    3. Last-Thursday-ism.

    Rejected by quantum mechanics requirement of no hidden variables. You can’t glue a “now” physics with a different “then” physics that behaves the same but have different variables, in effect having a hidden sector.

    You can propose it, but then it is a religious proposition that “magic occurs”.

    1. Finally–a simple, succinct rebuttal to Last-Thursdayism, the stupidest proposal I’ve heard purportedly intelligent people propose in the last half-century or so…

  79. Ant Allan and Torbjörn Larsson do not want to acknowledge what I am saying about the circularity of the argument. Anyone else?

    1. So? You don’t want to acknowledge that the remarkable feat you point to Jesus as having done after he was resurrected was to command his thralls to fondle his intestines through his gaping chest wound.

      I’d say your own willful ignorance is far more shameful than the willful ignorance you’re falsely accusing them of.

      But that’s your problem. You’re the one who has to live with yourself and the fact that you worship a zombie monster as part of a death cult that likes to dress up in comfy wool sweaters.



  80. “Further, some of the miracle claims of the Bible are … so improbable that, using Hume’s criterion, they’re almost certainly made up (e.g., the Resurrection).”
    Can one have a probable miracle though? What makes it a miracle is that it runs contrary to the expected laws of nature.

    “To suppose the latter requires faith. I wonder if Craig worries every time he gets on an airplane, or whether the sun might not rise tomorrow. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that the assumption that things will operate in the future as they have in the past has always worked (as Hawking says, “Science wins because it works”), and so the assumptions are not mere faith; they are justified by their results.”
    To use past results of the success of induction to justify induction is to beg the question. Quite simply no amount of corroboration could ever justify induction. Most of us rely on it anyway though because it seems right to do so. A theist could argue this belief is given to us by God, a naturalist could argue that as nature has hitherto proved uniform, natural selction has led to a faith in induction being present in all of us. Either way there is no logical reason for accepting “truths” derived from induction. Still, I doubt Craig worries whether the sun will rise tomorrow – he has faith that it will.

    “After all, if we don’t run when we think we perceive a large, angry felid coming toward us, we will perceive that we get eaten.”
    Will we? Not that I’m eager to give it a go, but we cannot know what would happen until we personally put it to the test.

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