Thursday, March 31, 2011

We Can Have Certinty About God's Love


One of the atheists on CARM I like the most is a guy calling himself "Dr. Pepper." I love the drink Dr. Pepper. It used to be bottled in Dallas. Dr. Pepper the poster had a good comment this morning.

Originally Posted by Dr Pepper View Post
How can God have any human characteristics since it is not human? Why is God referred to a "he" or "him" when it is more like an alien with supernatural powers. It has the ability to create an entire universe and at least one planet with millions of plant and animal species from nothing? How would any being that could do that be ANYTHING like the human animal or someone's daddy?

That's a good question because not only is it valid, logical and important, but I feel it leads to one of the better answers Christians can offer.

All religious language is metaphor and analogical. Its' all an attempt to relate what we know to that which is beyond our understanding. What we can know with certainty is what we experience. We can't necessarily relate it to others but we can experience it. One basic thing we can experience and not mistake is love. We know when we are loved and we know when we love.

We can know that God is love. That's the only thing we can be truly certain about, God, that God loves us, that God is real (which is a function of the conformation of being loved).I can see other atheists asking questions like "how do you know God is not lying?" Or "How do you know God is not really evil. Some who think they are being really tricky and clever say stuff like "how do you know that what God calls good is not really evil? so God is just tricking you into being evil?" Of cousre that would be a stupid fear because God's will is the standard so if God says it's good it is. Then of course is raised the question, well God can just order murdering babies for fun and you would say it's good.

All such questions can easily be dashed if you know God in a true personal encounter. Of course the hearty skeptic will laugh at the very notion. Yet the fact of of the confidence with which I speak of it I think is a proof that it is real experience and since it leads to stronger personhood the better ability to endure life's storms and ultimately more and deeper sense of God's presence all of that is a good indication indication, and probalby the best we can have, that God is true. It's not the case that lies and falsehood work out to make us better in a positive sense. Sure if they don't kill us we may be stronger for having endured but love doesn't work that way. I love is a lie it usually dissipates and laves one broken rather than healed. The kind of strength that comes form God's love is not this bitter taste in the mouth sort of "what kill me makes me stronger" but a nurturing sort of love one finds form the good things in life. Part of the basis of skepticism is looking at the glass half empty.

From the nature of love we can deduce several things. Han Urs Von Balthasar made the point that it's the positive basis of love and the giving out of itself nature of both and being that link the two. Love is an attribute of being itself. That connection is a good way to understand the reason why God is right, God can't be a liar, can't be evil, and is the basis of the good. Love is nurturing and building. Love and being both give themselves out to produce more of what they are. Love and Being are the original. Evil is the absense of this original and it tends toward tearing down. That's an indication that it's a mockery of what comes first, thus it can't be the good.

Love is the best means we have of understanding anything about God. We can only speak of God in analogical terms and the analogical only makes sense if we have some frame of reference. the only frame of which we can be certain concerning God is the experience of God's presence and love.

Of course all of this is a lot of raving about nothing if it isn't real. The only way to know of it's reality is to experience it. Stop reading about it on paper and go pray. As God to show you his love. Ask God to let you feel his presence of love. Stop reading...get off the net...move away from the computer...close your eyes and pray.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Atheist Argument from Incredulity


One thing I've done a lot of is documented miracles. I think I probalby have paid better attention to real miracle evidence than just about any apologist on the net. I know sounds very arrogant but consider the fact that only a hand full of sights even bother to deal any sort of actual process of demonstration. Very sights by apologists actually deal with the miracle making process of the RCC. That of cousre assumes I want to be called "apologist." I guess it's too late now. There is some very good evidence.

First, the Catholic rules, weather for saint making or Lourdes, the same people, same rules, two different committees, are the best rules. They are strict scientifically aware rules.


The paradox of human miracle assessment is that the only way to discern whether a phenomenon is supernatural is by having trained rationalists testify that it outstrips their training. Since most wonders admitted by the modern church are medical cures, it consults with doctors. Di Ruberto has access to a pool of 60 - "We've got all the medical branches covered," says his colleague, Dr. Ennio Ensoli - and assigns each purported miracle to two specialists on the vanquished ailment.

They apply criteria established in the 1700s by Pope Benedict XIV: among them, that the disease was serious; that there was objective proof of its existence; that other treatments failed; and that the cure was rapid and lasting. Any one can be a stumbling block. Pain, explains Ensoli, means little: "Someone might say he feels bad, but how do you measure that?" Leukemia remissions are not considered until they have lasted a decade. A cure attributable to human effort, however prayed for, is insufficient. "Sometimes we have cases that you could call exceptional, but that's not enough." says Ensoli. "Exceptional doesn't mean inexplicable."

"Inexplicable," or inspiegabile, is the happy label that Di Ruberto, the doctors and several other clerics in the Vatican's "medical conference" give to a case if it survives their scrutiny. It then passes to a panel of theologians, who must determine whether the inexplicable resulted from prayer. If so, the miracle is usually approved by a caucus of Cardinals and the Pope.

Some find the process all too rigorous. Says Father Paolino Rossi, whose job, in effect, is lobbying for would-be saints from his own Capuchin order: "It's pretty disappointing when you work for years and years and then see the miracle get rejected." But others suggest it could be stricter still.

There is another major miracle-validating body in the Catholic world: the International Medical Committee for the shrine at Lourdes. Since miracles at Lourdes are all ascribed to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, it is not caught up in the saint-making process, which some believe the Pope has running overtime. Roger Pilon, the head of Lourdes' committee, notes that he and his colleagues have not approved a miracle since 1989, while the Vatican recommended 12 in 1994 alone. "Are we too severe?" he wonders out loud. "Are they really using the same criteria?"

One can find further discussion of the rules in an article interviewing one of the committee members,

Franco Balzaretti. One of the most impressive miracles
is not from Lourdes but a saint making miracle. The second miracle that put over St. Theresse of Lisieux as a saint.

Society for the Little Flower (Website) FAQ (visited 6/3/01)
St. Theresse of Lisieux

"Regarding St. Therese, in 1923 the Church approved of two spontaneous cures unexplained by medical treatment. Sister Louise of St. Germain was cured of the stomach ulcers she had between 1913 and 1916. The second cure involved Charles Anne, a 23 year old seminarian who was dying from advanced pulmonary tuberculosis. The night he thought he was dying, Charles prayed to Therese. Afterward, the examining doctor testified, "The destroyed and ravaged lungs had been replaced by new lungs, carrying out their normal functions and about to revive the entire organism. A slight emaciation persists, which will disappear within a few days under a regularly assimilated diet." These two miracles resulted in Therese becoming beatified."

Of course many times when I've used this atheists have tired to shame it by arguing that it's obviously a lie and propaganda because it's on a site dedicated to that saint. There's an attitude among atheists that unless something is presented skeptically it has to be a lie. I amid it's not scholarly evidence. It's available documentation it's not best evidence. Best evidence on this particular case is hard to come by. I exchanged emails with the committee and they assumred me the X-Rays still exist and they do in fact show the lungs as new. While this is not the best evdience it's showing the existence of the case in the files and the files the OfficeMax docs that demonstrate and document the case. I don't present it as proof I present it only a reason to seek further. The atheist response to it is still very telling. I don't remember who this is but here's one response from CARM:

As for lungs growing back, that's cool. I love the power of belief, and believe in it myself. Seems strange though that God picks and chooses those "He" heals. I guess Meta's God is a Calvinist. Matter of fact, many Christians are Calvinists and just don't admit it. Christianity is the ME religion filled with egotists who think they can influence the mind of a diety by begging and currying favor. When something "miraculous" happens, they can crow that God loves a prayor better than an atheist. He would let an atheist die while allowing someone who does a Groucho Marks and says some choice magic words live..

This belief is beyond preposterous and makes mental midgets out of humans and stifles research into why and how beliefs can and DO heal people. The placebo effect is well known and ignored by those who say "God did it"
My response:
Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
you are not dealing with the evidence for miracles.

their response
tea bag says
That's because there isn't any.

Instead of dealing with the evidence presented they first try to shame it, mocking and ridiculing the idea and attacking what they see as Christian attitudes rather than looking at what the evidence shows. Then they just deny the evidence exists at all. I find they do this for almost all claims and all evidence. It's really pretty alarming how weak atheists are on evidence.

I presented my outline of argumetns on eight leves of verification for the new testament and I list over 25 scholars who I quote I showed each point that I quote them for.

Eight levels of Verification for Gospels underrigd belief in Res.

This post first saw life as an answer to other arguments I was making on the "other" board. It refers to things I have already documented and the names of the scholars I use to document them.

The argument it backs is this:

(1) There's real strong evidence to suggest that the stories that became the synoptic and John were told in the original community under controlled conditions, where eye witnesses were plentiful and could help keep it all straight.

(2) These stores were first written must 18 years , not 40, not 60 after he events. Still a major source of eye witnesses lived in order to correct the statements should they be wrong.

(3) While this hypothesis can't be proved absolutely the evidence for it is strong enough to foster confidence in the hypothesis: the resurrection is historical validated.

(4) logicians accept placing confidence in a partially proved hypothesis. so when I say that the evidence is strong enough to place confidence that means it's logical to accept the belief, especially if one has modern confirmations.*

*religious experience lending credence to belief.

the eight levels of verification

8 levels of Verification for Gospels

None of the atheist has answered these levels. A few have tried. Most have not even mentioned them. Most are just asserting they "can't be true" without even considering the facts.

those who have given it a good shot include GS and Elf, maybe a couple of others I can't recall my apologies if I can't.

those who have not even attempted yet asserting I haven't offered any evidence, even though they haven not attempted an answer include "Big thinker"Of course and Maybrick.

following is a summary of the sources I used. most of you were not willing even look at the links.

I list only 6 numberically the other 2 are a and b and c under Pauline.

1) The original pre Mark redaction

Sources of proof include Koester's book Ancient Christian Gospels, Jurgen denker,
John D. Crosson,
Ray Brown,
Philipp Vielhauer, Geschichte, 646
Peter kirby says its consensus in the field.

(2)the Pauline corups
....(a) what he got form people who were there
Quoting Paul himself: quotes James, the Jerusalem church's creedal formula and hymns.

....(b) his saying source.
Koester documents
synoptic saying source

........(c) the chruch tradition he learned in Jerusalem

(3) extra canonical Gospels such as Peter and Thomas
Koester documents
Hennecke-Schneemelcher-Wilson, NT Apocrypha 1.96

Charles Hendrick and Paul Mirecki

Ron Cameron, ed., The Other Gospels: Non-Canonical Gospel Texts (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press 1982), pp. 23-37.)

Peter KIrby's site "Gosepel of Thoams"

Stephen J. Patterson, Gospel of Thomas and Jesus

Stevan L. Davies, The Gospel of Thomas: Annotated and Explained (Skylight Paths Pub 2002)

(4) Oral tradition
Papias (from Eusebius)
Robert C. Cully,Oral Tradition and Biblical Studies

(5)The Gospels themselves which reflect the community as a whole, a whole community full of people who were there.

(6) writers who write about their relationships with those who were there.
1 Clement (the source)
Richardson and Fairweather, et al. Early Christian Fathers, New York: MacMillian, 1970 p.45-46).
F.F. Bruce, NT documents
Irenaeus, Agaisnt heresies and missing fragment supplied by Calvin

Eusebius Ecclesiastic histories
Papias, fragments (Peter Kirby, Early Christian Writings, site:
Schoedel 1967: 91-92;
Kortner 1983: 89-94, 167-72, 225-26).
Documents of the Christian Church, edited by Henry Bettonson, Oxford University press 1963, 27).

Ante-Nicene Fathers vol 1
Calvin College

Iranaeus describes works of Papis

Seteven Carlson's site:

these face statements like "the Gospels have no backing" and telling me I haven't done anything to prove anything, this is not good enough see? It's' an untruth.

Here are all the statements atheists like Big thinker have quoted to back up there view:

O gee, I forget there aren't any not 0.

not good enough see! until you answer this stuff with your own research of an equal level then you are just flapping your gums.

Their answer in summary, collectively, was something like "this can't be verification of the New Testament becuase it can't have any." A huge portion of them argued this is circular becuase it's circular to claim verification for a book from evidence in the book. The problem with that is they are thinking of the argument about the fundamentalist who says "the Bible is the word of God and my proof I shall quote the Bible where it says it's the word of God." That is circular reason. Verification is not proof the Bible is the word of God, it's historical evidence outside the bible that stacks up to show the truth of the narrative in the Bible. The evidence of this extra biblical proof is referenced in the Gospels since they are constructed out of prior writings that match up with certain kinds of historical evidence. This is a very different thing than saying "the Bible is true becuase it says it is." The atheists don't bother to think about any of that, they jsut short hand, the sec web says "no" so it's "no." BTW the details for the quotation above can bee seen demonstrate to what each scholar refers on "histoircal Validity of the Gospels," on Religious A prori.

It all goes back to the same tendency of atheists to say "there's no evidence for your God" when they are staring 42 arguments in the fact (my God argument list). Antoher area in which I have pointed out that atheist can't deal with evidence is the historical evidence for the resurrection. They basically aruge agaisnt the possibility of the concept of resurrection and just pretend the historical evidence doesn't exist. It seems clear from these cases that essentially atheists can't deal with evidence, and in the main, not all but many have only one argument, that of argument form incredulity. Argument from incredulity is a refusal to consider the other side, it says "I refuse to believe ,therefore, it cant' be true." This one of the most flagrantly fallacious ways to argue.

Atheist compare this situation to empirical evidence. they like to imagine that their side as this mountain of factual back up that proves their world view in scinece. While all they really do is sing the praises of scinece as though it's a protection form an angry god, then selectively choose that which agrees with them while mocking and ridiculing prefecture good scinece that disproves their view point, such as my 200 studies on religious experience. (for a biboliography of many of the sources see here).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Heidegger's Notion of "Dasein"


Heidegger was the next evolutionary step beyond Husserl in the development of phenomenology. Husserl dealt with objects in much the way that Descartes did; we are conscious of them, they are intentionally conscious of them. In this version of phenomenology we understand the essential structures apart form the reality of objects.[i] He regarded them as objects and his version of phenomenology is about how we regard objects as actors on stage in the Cartesian theater. This approach of Husserl is known as “transcendental phenomenology.” Heidegger takes a different approach, known as “hermeneutic phenomenology.”[ii] Heidegger deals with objects, aspects of our perceptions in being as we live our lives, in the way that fish regard water, as something so close to us, so all pervasive, so fundamental to existence that we don’t even notice it. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is his concept of “ready-to-hand.” Or an even better example would be the carpenter who is so use to his tools the use of them is second nature. He doesn’t have to be careful with the hammer he just hammers. He doesn’t think about what he’s doing because it’s so much a part of his being he doesn’t need to think about it. Such is our encounter with being and with most things in being. This is misleading because the subject is extremely complex. There is a multiplicity of opinions as to what Heidegger was really saying, and the philosopher himself doesn’t help by clarifying.[iii] Heidegger distinguishes first between a general sense of being for anything or everything, being itself, and the being of human beings that is aware of itself, what Sartre calls “being por soi,” being for itself. The being of inanimate objects Sartre calls “being en soi,” or “being in itself.” To distinguish between being in general or apart form any particular thing (being itself) and that of an individual, the use of the term “a being” is employed by translators, while Heidegger himself uses the German terms “Sein” (being) and das Seiende for the latter. Human being in particular Heidegger speaks of as Dasein, which is by its nature vested with an implied social dimension.

For Heidegger the Western tradition has erred with Aristotle in assuming humans are rational. We develop theories of rule keeping and decision making that assumes humans are rational; this turns out to be superficial. We are also irrational, we have depths and we are complex creatures, we don’t understand ourselves.[iv] The Western tradition erred with Plato in assuming that we can understand the world in a detached way by taking a step back and developing a theory of theory, “discovering the principles that underlie the profusion of phenomena.”[v] The mistake is in thinking we can have a theory of everything. Heidegger opposes the idea of a theory of everything. We cannot have a theory of what makes theory possible. This calls into question the foundations of Western thought.[vi]

Since Descartes philosophers have been struck with the epistemological problem of explaining how the ideas in our mind can be true of the external world. Heidegger shows that this subject/object epistemology presupposes a background of everyday practices into which we are socialized but that we do not represent in our minds. Since he calls this more fundamental way of making sense of things our understanding of being, he claims that he is doing ontology that is, asking about the nature of this understanding of being that we do not know--that is not a representation in the mind corresponding to the world—but that we simply are. [vii]

Heidegger sides with Kierkegaard rather than with Descartes. Cartesian doubt is phony, the Cartesian theatre of the mind is contrived and thought and awareness flow out of being rather than standing as a conclusion to a philosophical premise, “I think, therefore, I am.” As Dreyfus points out, refereeing to SK’s view “I am, therefore, I think.”[viii] Heidegger questions the concept that we gain control of our lives by clarifying the principles which govern our action. It may not be possible or even desirable to do so. These principles work best for us when they remain in the background. “What is important and meaningful in our lives is not and should not be accessible to critical reflection.”[ix] There are many ways to put the reason, because our actions “lack seriousness” or because we can’t generalize properly, but probably the best reason for this is because when we try to clearly all the principles we construct pre conceived categories that are of necessity incomplete or wrong simply because we can’t know the principles and work by them at the same time.

This is an un-Heideggerian reason, its my reason but I think it applies to what he is saying: clarified categories are pre conceived and that contradicts the way we work in categories that are hidden. The success of the way we work with the principles is that we don’t know them, or don’t know all about them, we couldn’t use them properly if we were trying to figure them out all the time. Thus the answer is to allow the sense data to suggest the categories to us. Otherwise we try to group or herd sense data into the pre conceived categories. Heidegger calls this inexplicable background (the undisclosed principles) that enables us to understand, the understanding of being. These hidden functions, the principles, operate for all aspects of our lives. They are in the meeting of every person we encounter and in every confrontation with life we endure. Heidegger’s approach to working with these hidden principles without trying to explicate them is the source of such slogans as “back to the things in themsevles.” He’s trying to get under the formalized understanding of principles and encounter the actual principles themselves as they work from within. This is what he means by doing hermeneutics form within a hermeneutical circle. [x] Heidegger’s notion of being is very important to this work, as the concept of God as being itself (or the ground of being) is the central point, and Heidegger was a major influence upon Tillich, who is the central figure carrying the ball for he notion of God as being itself. Yet Heidegger’s notion of being is extremely complex. To really do it justice would require a book in itself. Therefore, the important part for my purpose is to understand what Tillich took away form Heidegger’s understanding of being itself. One thing Tillich didn’t get from Heidegger was the notion that God is being itself. So Tillich’s admiration for Heidegger had limits. Tillich’s view that God is being itself is rejected by Heidegger, also by Bautlmann , Barth, and Reinhold Neibuhr.[xi] Nevertheless it will be important to understand some basic ideas relating to Heidegger’s concept.

The one thing that stands out about Hediegger’s notion of being, and Tillich’s, I’m sure it will be the first major criticism made of this work, that there seems to be no there “there.” There’s no clear simple obvious sense in wich one can actually define Heidegger’s notion of being. It is clearly much more involved than just saying “being is a from of the verb “to be” and refers to the existence of things. This is primarily because Hediegger didn’t really seem to want to say “this is being, walk therein.” His view turns upon the hidden nature of being. It’s almost in his interest, one could say, not to define being too sharply. He argued that the question of being was the most important and fundamental question for philosophy, yet one that could never be answered.[xii] When we get into unraveling Tillich’s position we see that the complexity is of major importance. In regard to Tillich this comes under the heading of “depth of being.” For Heidegger we can’t just blurt out an answer because being is hidden and is something transparent to us but something we work in and is to close to us to really understand, like water for the fish. For Tillich there’s more to being than the bits we can see or experience, so it’s not just hidden but has depths, it’s deep and complex. Philipse Surveys the ground of American commentary on this point and finds an array of differing views. Dreyfus says Heidegger’s notion of being is “an intelligibility correlative with our everyday practices.”[xiii] According to Sheehan being itself refers to the “analogically unified meaning of being”[xiv] For Michael Zimmerman it’s “the history shaping ways in which entities reveal themselves.”[xv] Philipse argue that these are all aspects but don’t tally with all of Heidegger’s texts. It’s clear they all deal with the human experience of our own being rather than the fundamental fact of existence apart forms any specifics. That is crucial to understanding Hdiegger’s meaning, because he’s talking about Dasin, human being, what means to engage in our own human form of being; that does have a social dimension.

Heidegger’s interest in being as a philosophical question, and the notion that it is the most fundamental question, come from his reading of the dissertation by the nineteenth century philosopher Franz Brentano, who dealt with Aristotle’s interpretation of being; the notion of the fundamental nature of the quesiotn goes all the way back to the Greek philosopher.[xvi] Aristotle recognizes distinctions in the many ways being is used, Brentano reflected the diversity.[xvii] Aristotle has four ways of understanding being: (1) (V7 Metaphysics, 1026a:33) Kata Sumbebekos, what something is said to be identically; (2) “being” in the sense of being true; (3) “being” in the sense of being potentially or actually; (4) Being as it is in the 10 categories. Heidegger analyses each of these aspects[xviii], but they are still only aspects of a reality that continually recedes the more one chases it. As Philipse puts it, “although Aristotle did analyze did analyze different meanings of being, he did not discover the one leading and fundamental sense from which the other meanings somehow derived.”[xix] Heidegger never does get to the answer, the upshot of all of his ferment is that toward the end of his life he intimated that being receded and was more hidden.[xx]

The social aspect in the analysis of human being will get Heidegger in trouble. Of course that’s his entre into the world of politics, or at least the intellectual tie to his philosophizing. I will not go into any detail on that matter. Heidegger was a Nazi, but history has allowed his philosophizing to continue despite his political blunder. Philosophers who were avowed enemies of the Nazis, such as Marcuse and Tillich, still wound up using Heidegger. Marcuse seems to have had no use for Heidegger personally after the war, but continue to think through the lens of his philosophy.[xxi] The view seems very different from America, approaching these thinkers through the sterility of metaphysics and abstract ideas about being, divorced form the political realities and concrete life that brought these thinkers into conflict. When we plug in the historical and political things make more sense.

[i] Paul Gorner, “Heidegger, Phenomenology, and the essence of Technology.” Online Journal, Philosophy: University of Aberdeen. Websties URL: visted 6/31/10

Paul Gorner is Lecturer in philosophy at the University of Aberdeen

[ii] Hubert L. Dreyfus, Being in the World: A Commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, quotations from Being and Time by John Macquarrie, 1991, 2.

[iii] Herman Philipse, Heidegger’s Philosophy of Being: A Critical Interpretation Princeton New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1998, 3. Online page number URL: visited 10/4/10. online page numbers apply

[iv] Dreyfus, Ibid, 1

[v] Ibid, 1

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Ibid, 3

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid, 4

[x] Ibid

[xi] Walter Leibrecht, “The Life and Mind of Paul Tillich,” Religion and Culture: Essays in Honor of Paul Tillich, Walter Leibrecht ed. New York: Harper and Row, 1972 (originally 1959). Notes, 355 FN 2

[xii] Philipse, 8

[xiii] Hubert Dreyfus, in Ibid, 3

[xiv] Thomas Sheehan, in Ibid

[xv] Michael Zimmerman, in Ibid.

[xvi] Ibid, 5

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Ibid, 6

[xx] Ibid, 8-9

[xxi] I say this based upon an incident recorded by Barry Katz in his Marcuse and The Art of Liberation. Apparently Marcuse made one attempt to learn how it was that Heidegger could be Nazi, he was not satisfied with he answer (which was something like “it seemed right at the time) he made no more efforts to contact his old teacher.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Atheists can't stand the assault of empircal miracles.


The atheist on CARM are wrestles, they keep bring up old therads on miracles. I deiced to oblige. Most of the old threads are just gushing propaganda pieces where one atheist after declares that miracles don't happen. But confront them with the evidence and all they do is supptter incredulity or quibble.
There are sources that show empirical scientific evidence that suggest healing by God happens.

the following caveats have to be observed:

I. There will be an epistemological gap: verisimilitude is the standard!

In any question of knowledge or truth there will always be an epistemological gap. the empiricists fallacy or epistemological dilemma cannot be resolved with out and out empirical means. You have to have a gap it will always be. Given that we can have virtual certainty or verisimilitude.

Just as rational warrant is the thing in God arguments so verisimilitude is the thing in miracle evidence.

II. We can't obtain the actual sources.

you have to use the printed material we can get as a jumping off place to start seeking and researching. It should be enough, however, to make the point that you don't have room to argue for no evdience.

example: theoretically we one is able to by the original x-rays form Lourdes, but that system is not as good as it was. I haven't done much follow up. some of the sources that talk about are not scholarly sources. The scholarship is there. The documentation is there.

Having said that the rules laid out for miracle study for the committee to follow are strong.



independent journalist with international reputation
The paradox of human miracle assessment is that the only way to discern whether a phenomenon is supernatural is by having trained rationalists testify that it outstrips their training. Since most wonders admitted by the modern church are medical cures, it consults with doctors. Di Ruberto has access to a pool of 60 - "We've got all the medical branches covered," says his colleague, Dr. Ennio Ensoli - and assigns each purported miracle to two specialists on the vanquished ailment.

They apply criteria established in the 1700s by Pope Benedict XIV: among them, that the disease was serious; that there was objective proof of its existence; that other treatments failed; and that the cure was rapid and lasting. Any one can be a stumbling block. Pain, explains Ensoli, means little: "Someone might say he feels bad, but how do you measure that?" Leukemia remissions are not considered until they have lasted a decade. A cure attributable to human effort, however prayed for, is insufficient. "Sometimes we have cases that you could call exceptional, but that's not enough." says Ensoli. "Exceptional doesn't mean inexplicable."

"Inexplicable," or inspiegabile, is the happy label that Di Ruberto, the doctors and several other clerics in the Vatican's "medical conference" give to a case if it survives their scrutiny. It then passes to a panel of theologians, who must determine whether the inexplicable resulted from prayer. If so, the miracle is usually approved by a caucus of Cardinals and the Pope.

Some find the process all too rigorous. Says Father Paolino Rossi, whose job, in effect, is lobbying for would-be saints from his own Capuchin order: "It's pretty disappointing when you work for years and years and then see the miracle get rejected." But others suggest it could be stricter still.

There is another major miracle-validating body in the Catholic world: the International Medical Committee for the shrine at Lourdes. Since miracles at Lourdes are all ascribed to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, it is not caught up in the saint-making process, which some believe the Pope has running overtime. Roger Pilon, the head of Lourdes' committee, notes that he and his colleagues have not approved a miracle since 1989, while the Vatican recommended 12 in 1994 alone. "Are we too severe?" he wonders out loud. "Are they really using the same criteria?"
The Marian Library Newsletter

No. 38 (New Series)
Summer, 1999

Since the apparitions at Lourdes in 1858, a procedure has gradually developed for verifying the cures and healings which occur there. Today, Lourdes is recognized as the Church's foremost center for investigating healings. There, medical personnel from all the world are invited to investigate the evidence for reported healings. Included among the medical examiners are those who allow and those who exclude the possibility of miraculous healings. The procedure also attempts to respects the dignity of the person who has been cured. John Paul II reminded the medical personnel of Lourdes that the verification of miraculous cures is Lourdes' "special responsibility and mission" (Nov. 17, 1988).

Marian Library (Ibid.)

"In the last one hundred years, over 6,500 individuals have reported cures to the Medical Bureau. Of these, at least 2,500 cases are considered truly remarkable, but they lack some requirement needed to allow them to advance to the next stage--witnesses, evidence, lack of agreement on the nature of the ailment. In the last twenty years, there have been reports of about twenty cases of extraordinary cures or healings, about one a year. Mr. B�ly's healing is the 66th cure occurring at Lourdes which has been officially recognized by ecclesiastical authorities. The recognition by church authorities has been a feature of Lourdes for a total of sixty- three years of its history."

just a few examples

Lourdes cures

Colonel Paul Pellegrin
3 October 1950
age 52; Toulon, France Post-operative fistula following a liver abscess in 1948. By the time of his pilgrimage in 1950, the condition had degenerated to an open wound that required multiple dressing changes each day, and showed no sign of healing. On emerging from his second bath in the waters, the wound had completely closed, and the condition never bothered him again. Recognized by the diocese of Fr�jus-Toulon, France on 8 December 1953.

Brother Schwager L�o
30 April 1952
age 28; Fribourg, Switzerland multiple sclerosis for five years; recognized by the diocese of Fribourg, Switzerland on 18 December 1960

Alice Couteault, born Alice Gourdon
15 May 1952
age 34; Bouille-Loretz, France multiple sclerosis for three years; recognized by the diocese of Poitiers, France on 16 July 1956

Marie Bigot
8 October 1953 and 10 October 1954
age 31 and 32; La Richardais, France arachnoiditis of posterior fossa (blindness, deafness, hemiplegia); recognized by the diocese of Rennes, France 15 August 1956

Ginette Nouvel, born Ginette Fabre
21 September 1954
age 26; Carmaux, France Budd-Chiari disease (supra-hepatic venous thrombosis); recognized by the diocese of Albi on 31 May 1963

Elisa Aloi, later Elisa Varcalli
5 June 1958
age 27; Patti, Italy tuberculous osteo-arthritis with fistulae at multiple sites in the right lower limb; recognized by the diocese of Messine, Italy on 26 May 1965

Juliette Tamburini
17 July 1959
age 22; Marseilles, France femoral osteoperiostitis with fistulae, epistaxis, for ten years; recognized by the diocese of Marseille, France on 11 May 1965

Vittorio Micheli
1 June 1963
age 23; Scurelle, Italy Sarcoma (cancer) of pelvis; tumor so large that his left thigh became loose from the socket, leaving his left leg limp and paralyzed. After taking the waters, he was free of pain, and could walk. By February 1964 the tumor was gone, the hip joint had recalcified, and he returned to a normal life. Recognized by the diocese of Trento, Italy on 26 May 1976.

Serge Perrin
1 May 1970
age 41; Lion D'Angers, France Recurrent right hemiplegia, with ocular lesions, due to bilateral carotid artery disorders. Symptoms, which included headache, impaired speech and vision, and partial right-side paralysis began without warning in February 1964. During the next six years he became wheelchair-confined, and nearly blind. While on pilgrimage to Lourdes in April 1970, his symptoms became worse, and he was near death on 30 April. Wheeled to the Basilica for the Ceremony the next morning, he felt a sudden warmth from head to toe, his vision returned, and he was able to walk unaided. First person cured during the Ceremony of the Anointing of the Sick. Recognized by the diocese of Angers, France on 17 June 1978.

Delizia Cirolli, later Delizia Costa
24 December 1976
age 12; Paterno, Italy Ewing's Sarcoma of right knee; recgonized by the diocese of Catania, Italy on 28 June 1989

Jean-Pierre B�ly
9 October 1987
age 51; French multiple sclerosis; recognized by the diocese of Angoul�me on 9 February 1999

all the official Lourdes miracles:

Diest says:

In all of these studies, what is ignored is all those who died and go unreported. All those who prayed just as hard, just as long, and died. The only cases that are reported on and remembered are those where something unexplainable (as yet to modern science) happened. There are NO miracles; only temporarily unexplained events.

Meta, this is one area where I think you and others are WAY off base, and create much harm in thinking that a god creates healing in some, while others don't have such fortune. To suggest that god hears the prayers of one person, and not another, is exremely bad for society. Should you, like others, contend he heard the prayer of the one who died, and allowed that to happen means that you can't change the will of god, anyway.

What you and other preayer believers think you are doing is changing God's will. I have discussed this topic for decades now. When all is said and done regrading prayer, the bible does not say prayer will be answered, but you must pray for God's WILL to be done, and to understand that. To believe some god will spare the life of someone because of a few choicely placed words is like believing a volcano god will stop a volcano just because some primitives held hands in a circle around the mountain.

Instead of people living a right life, not over eating, not over drinking, exercising, working, studying, doing what it takes, those who believe in prayer think a thrid party (God) will bail them out. This is not right, Meta, and you should know it. It is illogical, and unfair for a god to do this. It suggests a petty God; a wanton God, an egotistical God to believe in prayer.

He's got it reduced to doubt and earning God's favor. Notice he doesn't counter anything. He doesn't deal with the evidence I give nor does he deal with anything else. He doesn't have any evidence of his own. He's merely a wet blanket, "you can't trust, God, God wont help us." You have to earn God's favor but there's no favor to earn.

My father was dead then he was alive again. So these people tell I can't believe in something I've already seen work several times.

teagabsalad a handful of ill people out of the six billion people on this planet got better possibly in ways we cannot explain. This is simply nothing more than a "God of Gaps" argument.

Misdiagnosis and false positives are more than enough to explain these "miracles".

the name of the thread, they can't handle the evidence. this is merely an assumption not in evidence. Its' also obvouisly wrong to think that the cases are in material sighted. It's obviously going to be a tip of the iceberg. Then he continues with a counter miracle.

I started to suffer from stomach pains after I ate cheese (or other fatty foods). I went to my doctor who ran some tests and his initial thoughts were that I probably had a stomach infection of some description. Rather than giving me antibiotics straight away he made me keep a track of my diet for 2 weeks to better identify what was going on.

10 days or so into this I had an episode where the pain was so bad that I couldn't sleep and was in agony for around 12 hours before it subsided. I returned to my doctor he sent me straight to hospital to have a scan as he now felt (based on what I had eaten that day) that I could have issues with my Gall Bladder. The scan didn't show anything unusual - no Gall Stones, no obvious swelling.

I was then put on to a very low fat diet to see if this helped with the problem - it appear to. This pointed the finger at my Gall Bladder based on the dietary changes and blood test results. Another series of scans sometime later revealed that I did in fact have gall stones but very small ones that shouldn't be causing me a problem.

After consulting a specialist it was decided that I should have my gall bladder removed. The day before my operation I had another scan - no Gall stones!? How did that happen?

Since then I have been fine, no episodes, no pain and I can eat cheese again. Both my doctor and the specialist were confused and surprised by this and could not really offer an explanation as to what happened?

Was it a miracle? Was it just a complex condition that wasn't properly understood by the doctors and that my immune system was able to deal with once I had removed as much fat as possible from my diet?
has he proved something here? I happen to know that his mother is a Christian and probably prayed for him. So all he's telling us is that he can doubt and rationalize.

Bust Nak

I see you have dropped the scientific tag and is using empircal instead.
this is scientific data.

here's what the alled scientist says:
Originally Posted by Mat Hunt View Post
No, experical just means a curve fit, you can't tell anything from curve fits.
experimental? Well EMperical has a lot more to it than that. Its' really philosophy and scinece stole the term and trucked the concept to fit it's own method. so really it's a gimmick used by reductionism to lose phenomena.

which is all you are doing here.

Originally Posted by Hez View Post
Are you familiar with the argument from ignorance?
"This event is inexplicable, therefore it must be the supernatural"
If you apply that sort of logic then you will shut down all scinece. The only way scinece can make a conclusion is through extrapolating form data. If everything we make an assumption that extrapolations are merely argumemt from ignorance then we can't ever make any extrapolations so we can't use empirical methods n scinece anymore.

these guys are not doing this in a vacuum. they have scientific knowledge of diseases and hit rates for cures and so forth. They are using this stuff not in a pool of ignorance but in conjugation with medical scinece.

Are you familiar with what a false dichotomy is?

"Science hasn't got an explanation for this, therefore the supernatural does"
Are you familiar with what an argument from personal incredulity is?

not the case because everything else is nailed down. the only thing that can't be accounted for is the prayer. that's the one elements that's different.

again with your logic you can't do science. how would you prove smoking causes cancer without someone using your thing here?

"The theologian personally didn't know how the event could have occured, he therefore deemed it a miracle"
theolgoians are not on the medical committee. theologians don't do the research. they use medical researchers, the best in Europe. theologians don't see the cases until after the people are selected by the doctors.

Besides all that, I'm wondering:
Can you define the supernatural without invoking a negative ontology?
Oh, and no; invoking a supernatural entity to answer the question (i.e., god) won't help you.

Yes.You have no concept of what supernatural means. Your are arguing in a circle because you assert that can't appeal to God because God can't be the answer before you even examine the argument.

read this:

Now Hunt is quibbling about the meaning of the term "empirical." what they are not doing is analyzing the evidence or presenting counter evidence.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Great Discussion on the Nature of Science and Certinty of Knowledge


On my boards right now some regular posters are having one of the best discussions I've ever seen. This is really what message boards should be about. It's Atheists vs. Christians, but no ranker, no hostility, everyone one acting friendly and engaging in discussion in good will.

Quntum Troll has returned after a long hiatus and he and Feeltmouse, while not expressing identical view, represent the atheists. The Theists are represented by Tiny Thinker, Wrodgazer and the new guy, M.D. Simposon.

sample, one post out of four pages:

QuantumTroll wrote:Wow, this thread has careened away from me completely. Sorry to all y'all who have written interesting things lately, I'm going to respond to things in order, beginning with Tiny's reply to me.

tinythinker wrote:Yet again, you don't know enough to rigourously evaluate every scientific claim. Nor do you have the time or resources. Mostly you trust others to be honest, accurate experts. Knowing a little about everything is nice but it doesn't qualify one to really be able to seriously evaluate most (and I use that word to its fullest) of what is out there in anything other than a fairly superficial way. That is, as a non-specialist. I am not unfamiliar with excellent reading comprehension or the skill of seeing the larger picture, though I am probably a bit rustier at spotting iffy stats on first glance. I am at heart a systematist/integrator of different knowledge streams. I am not suggesting you can't predict things or see flaws from your perspective which others who are "too close to the data" or a particular model cannot see from theirs. But that puzzle picture and sense of fit, again, comes from faith in the people who gave us the pieces as well as those who put that picture together.

I don't understand your point.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I will elaborate on my interests here. I saw that you had written, in the previous thread, "I accept scientific facts as things that are known to be true. If I believe something, and science suggests me to be wrong, then I change my mind (after evaluating the science, of course!)." I think this describes how many people in modern industrial democracies feel. Contrary to fleetmouse's misgivings, I don't think it is a poor position to take. However, as I said to him, anyone who works in science or cites scientific knowledge should be conscious of the nature of science, including its flaws and limits. In fact, this should be a concern for anyone who relies on science. Given what I recall (or think I recall) about your background, I thought it would be instructive and fruitful to engage you on the matter to see how aware you are of these boundaries and how you would react to being asked about them. I assume that those who don't work in science or who don't have much a background in it are probably less aware of these issues than those (like you) who are.

This matters to me because even someone who specializes in one area, such as structural geology, may have only had a fleeting biology course their freshman year in college. As a non-specialist, when our geologist regularly sees that someone has found "a gene" for this and "the gene" for that, he, like many laypeople, can easily get the notion that there really is "a" gene for every trait, and, not knowing how traits are defined or categorized, may imagine that there is "a gene" for being rude, or "a gene" for being religious or atheist (someone has actually tried this already!), or "a gene" for whatever. Now to be fair, one can correlate the activity of a gene with the presence of some structure or behavior and give it a shorthand like "a/the gene for". And some genes are pivotal switches for a pathway to allow or disallow the development of such traits. But the image that seems too often to be constructed in the mind of many people of how genetics works and what such discoveries do or don't mean is often a far cry from what geneticists and developmental biologists actually think is going on.

Such people may then go on to have ideas about what science does or does not claim and the implications of it all, yet may be way off base. Such misunderstandings can have serious consequences for public debates and for policy proposals. Those who least understand what science actually looks like up close, or how tenuous or open to interpretation some claims are (especially in fields where ideas and data sets have a high turnover rate), often seem to be those who are most dogmatic about their understanding of the science they are discussing. They, for example, might have a hard time truly appreciating or agreeing with what you meant when you wrote:

Science is never about absolute certainty. All aspects of life involve trust in the people around you. I don't pretend to be able to *rigorously* evaluate *every* scientific claim, and I don't need to. All I need is to be able to efficiently internalize the relevant science when I consider an open question. I take the science as far as I can go, sometimes (rarely) to the limit of science, sometimes (more often) to the limit of my patience and interest, and sometimes to the limit of my abilities.

They would also struggle with something you wrote even earlier in our conversation (emphasis added):

I think science is a valid form of knowledge... Thus far, I've discussed only science and scientific questions. Keeping the puzzle analogy, we can see science as an image of a game board, describing the rules and playing field for existence. Everything we do is done within the confines of this board, and everything that happens is a result of the rules defined by the board. What we don't get by examining the board is an answer to questions like "what should we do", "what do we want to do", "what is it like". Questions like "what can we do", which seem to be theoretically answerable by looking at the game board, can be so complex that we only get the vaguest of answers from that quarter. For these kinds of questions, we need something that isn't science.
Not appreciating this kind of distinction leads down a slippery slope to the realm of dogmatic scientism, wherein science is presumed to always be giving the correct, accurate and complete view of the world, and where errors introduced by human flaws and biases (as I have been laying out for review) are ignored as aberrations or redefined as resulting from inadequate data. This kind of idolization of science often starts off very subtly and can be hard to detect in just a causal conversation about science. Therefore it can go unchecked or unchallenged and lead to some pretty poor thinking and some misguided conclusions. In my view this can hurt both the integrity and the image of science in the long run if it catches on among academics as well as laypeople. It can also give aid and comfort to the people fleetmouse was concerned about, who see their views as generally antagonistic to scientific ideas, by allowing them to attack the superficiality of such an idolized, unrealistic science. Conversely, they can take the idolized form as the exemplar to which science should aspire and then mock by comparison the more grounded, messy and non-linear examples of actual science. I've seen this done plenty of times in debates over creationism. I suspected you would be cognizant of the kinds of things I am concerned about as well as articulate in discussing them. I was correct (there's a first time for everything).

Additional interests in this conversation include the fact that I love to discuss topics like this, and I wanted to demonstrate that interesting and productive dialogues on topics like the nature of knowledge, the role of science, the importance of beliefs, etc, are in fact possible on this board between reasonable people of good will.

QuantumTroll wrote:Then I have as firm a basis in "what is known" as possible.
As a point of distinction rather than contention, I would say that I tend to agree with you except I would not limit what is possible only to that about which science is currently willing or able to speculate. I think it gives a pretty good idea of the contours of the game board, though.

QuantumTroll wrote:
tinythinker wrote:
QuantumTroll wrote:But what if a whole patch of the puzzle is wrong? What about paradigm shifts? Can I base a worldview on what is essentially an opinion that can change completely in a decade? Here, I like to bring up history of science, and the historical fact that science doesn't work the way it used to. It used to be that people believed one thing without sufficient cause, and then a scientific discovery overthrew the old paradigm. People believed Lamarckism not because they had evidence, but because they had no way of determining if it was a good theory. Ditto Hobbe's Plenism. If you examine the history of paradigm shifts, they've only occurred when ignorance is replaced with new data and a theory to explain it. We've never really overthrown a previous known, just a previously adored belief. And we're running out of those, quite frankly.

People believed Larmarckism because it fit their observations. It seemed consistent with how the world appeared to work. Darwin himself made strenuous appeals to ideas such as use/disuse even while he was introducing the idea of natural selection. He would later use it more and more as people poked holes in his early formulations of selection. I would be greatly amused to ask someone from 200 years in the future what they think of many of our paradigms. I suspect that if they were to use your conception of ignorance, knowns and beliefs that they would have to conclude that our biologists, chemists and physicists were believing things without sufficient cause, caught in the throws of ignorance and the adoration of cherished beliefs. All scientists have evidence for their models which are based on their basic assumptions about how things work, and these three aspects (evidence, models, and a basic idea of how things work) are constantly in flux and tension, rubbing against one another and producing friction. Some folks try to smooth over the rough edges with exceptions and special pleading, others pull at the untidy or frayed threads and unravel a portion of the patchwork. I don't hold to the notion that we are somehow more clever than our predecessors, or that our models, or how we decide what is evidence (or how to describe and use it), or our basic assumptions about the world, are one day going to appear any more or less brilliant or ridiculous than those who came before us. Just because some feel comfortable promoting what they see as proper evidence to the status of "knowns" or beliefs (as represented by their models) to the status of knowledge doesn't mean others won't come along and demote them in the future. The idea that we are running out of beliefs is almost incomprehensible to me. Paradigm shifts can involve any three of the key elements in the process becoming unsatisfactory.

We're not running out of beliefs. What I meant was that the scope of paradigm shifts is rapidly shrinking. We're not going to find another particle as revolutionary as an electron. We're not going to find a cause of disease as fundamental as bacteria. We're not going to suddenly figure out that the Earth is not a roughly 4.5 billion years old rock in an expanding universe. Humans will always be a species of large-brained mammal. Some facts are not subject to change. Today, the only fields where I believe paradigm shifts are likely to occur are the ones where there's an open admission of ignorance — some aspects of the mental sciences, social sciences, and fundamental physics.
I don't assume that in the future these must be the ways that we divide up the game board, or that there aren't whole other parts of the board we can't even yet imagine. I don't assume, therefore, that the universe is more or less known and that we have mapped out most of the fundamentals or that these fundamentals are immune to future revision or rejection. Notice this isn't a rejection of such key models or ideas, or a critique suggesting we have good reasons now to doubt them. But for all we know, people may talk in disbelief about our idea of "particles" like we may talk now about Darwin's idea of pangenes. And the scope of the world may have also broadened considerably, such that what we think we now know may seem like a drop in a child's plastic bucket. How could we have ever thought, they might wonder, that we we pretty much had the major framework of the universe fairly well fleshed out? Our physics and chemistry may be their alchemy. Given the history of science so far, I don't think these are unreasonable speculations. They may have fields of study and paradigms beyond our wildest dreams.

Quantum Troll wrote:
QuantumTroll wrote:*(This is a game I've played, actually. Someone picks a surprising scientific fact that they suspect nobody else knows, and says a topic (e.g. mammals or sex chromosomes or particle physics). The other participants invent "facts" that sound plausible but are false. Then we guess at which "fact" is the true one. Very fun and often very funny stuff! Anyway, my experiences playing this game gives me confidence in the breadth and accuracy of my scientific erudition.)

That's cool, but it is relying on working with evidence in a system based on the working assumptions of that system. What about things that are ambiguous, or which lie on the margins. What about evidence, models and basic assumptions that are not (entirely) congruous with the prevailing paradigm? And how do you verify your answers to these trivia challenges? Of course, by consulting an expert, either in person or publication. Not that this is wrong, but again, it doesn't deal with the foundations of knowledge but rather as you said an extrapolation of what is already assumed.

Hmm. "Foundations of knowledge". That sounds like something I haven't dealt with explicitly. It sounds like you're assuming that knowledge has some sort of foundation, a ground from which it is built. I don't believe that. In practice, and in my philosophical worldview, knowledge has no foundation, no ground. Knowledge supports itself circularly. I think the only way to establish whether something is false is by showing that it contradicts something that is true. And showing that something is true, well, I wish you good luck with that. Truth is shown only insofar as you can show it's consistent with everything else that seems to be true. So you see, if the "chooser" in my game chooses good science, then she is dealing with as foundational knowledge as possible because it's by definition consistent with scientific facts and practice.

God, I wish I could remember what this concept is called. It ain't new, that's for sure, but my philosophy-terminology brain is glitching...

Foundations of knowledge was just an expression, not an assertion. I am referring in that sense to the basis for currently accepted models and paradigms.

Quantum Troll wrote:
I would also add there are many part of the game board that are, by science's own self-imposed limitations, beyond its scope.

What limitations are you thinking of?

The usual. :D Phenomena that are not either unique or so big that we can't observe them repeatedly. Phenomena which exhibit some degree of regularity and predictability. Phenomena which can be readily experienced by and therefore comparatively described by nearly everyone. Phenomena which have a consistent empirical expression which can be sufficiently perceived, processed and pondered by the human mind. Other phenomena are experienced and known but are problematic to some degree in one or more of these areas, making it difficult or impossible to employ basic scientific standards and methods.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Absense and Presence: Can Intangeable Things Be Real? Can Lack of Evidence Be Proof?


There's a certain evidence atheist on CARM who thinks that since there is no actual empirical evidence for God, God is only an idea in the mind and has no reality. There's another atheist who argues that absence of evidence can be positive proof of something, although he denies that it has to be proof of no God. Even though he denies this the two ideas re made for each other, one is the completion of the other. Despite the denial when atheists read the one idea (lack of evidence) we all know they are thinking of the other "God must not be real because he' s not localized and triangulable."

First let's deal with the lack of evidence issue. Here is Darth Pringle's post:

I can't believe that some theists (more recently, ferengi and Mr. Metaphysics) still appeal to the fallacious, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". It is at least as fallacious as, "You cannot prove a negative". In the same way that some negatives can be proved (at least, beyond reasonable doubt) there are obviously situations when absences constitute evidence. Here are some examples ....
Absense of evidence for God can never disprove God, it is impossible to prove a negative. These are not fallacie, the fallacy is in creating "atheist logic" that incorporates their logical mistakes into a canon of permissible moves. One thing he's doing that makes it seem permissible is his misunderstanding of "negative." "Can't prove a negative" doesn't mean you can't use a lack of evidence to assertin the unproved nature of an unsupported propostion. Here he's confusing the distinction the faliure of rational warrant due to lack of evidence with postiive proof of an absence. "Negative" means you can't disprove something just by pointing out no evidence. The thing disproved is the assertion of backing for confidence in the hypothesis "X exists." It is not actual proof that "there is no X such that X is (whatever is in question)."

Now he gives three examples of lacking of proof that supposedly prove something positive:

1. An absence of hair on a persons head is evidence that they are bald.
2. The verifiable absence of a person at a crime scene (eg, on CCTV) when the crime was taking place is evidence that they could not have committed the crime.
3. The absence of a donkey in my lounge is compelling evidence that there isn't one there.

The idea that absences are never evidence is thus just as flawed as the idea that no negatives can be proved.
First collapse the examples becuase they are multiplied examples of the same thing. They are all examples of something a case where one views that X is not there present, thus the absence of X proves the hypothesis "there no X such that X is (whatever is in question)." Secondly, this sort of question is fundamentally different from the question of God's existence, the existence of Jesus as a man in history. Lack of evdience as proof also comes into the atheist case for Jesus mythers where their major arguments are all arguments from silence sot hey try to infer from the silence a proof that no historicity of Jesus. This is fundamentally different from the idea that "if we have no direct empirical observations of God then this proves no God." The reason is not only becuase the situations are not analogous but because the kind of questions being asked are different.

The sitautions are different because with the guy's head there is a limited space one can view directly to say "there is no hair, therefore, baldness ensues." There is no place to look in the univers to say "I don't see God here, therefore, there can't be God anywhere." Secondly it's a fundamentally different kind of question becuase hair is on object of sense data; hair is immediately within the purview of direct empirical observation. God is the basis of reality. This is what my slogan means when I say "God is not a thing, alongside other things in creation." It's a fundamentally different kind of question in dealing with the foundations of reality, because we have no idea what they are. Are they supposed to be empirically derived? We don't know. Presumably one would have to get outside of reality to look back at reality and determine if it's apprehendable, thus we can't say. Thus it cannot be argued that lack of empirical evidence for God is proof that there is no God.

It must be pointed out that absences cannot be used to defend some claims. Fir example, an absence of x at y would prove that there is no x at y but it wouldn't prove that there are no xs (unless x is omnipresent, then it would).
That's an important admissible becasue it opens the door to the argument I just made.

However, if theists expect atheists to drop the questionable, "you can't prove a negative" then theists should be dropping the equally questionable, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" because neither is universally true in all situations and thus, the applicability of such claims must be tested against the nature if the claim being made.
In a technical sense the hair thing is not an absence of evidence but an absence of hair. The evidence is the view of the head, which is not absent. It's all matter of what you construe as proof. or how you frame the question. The kinds of negatives being dealt with are fundamentally different. With the hair thing one is saying "the lack of something that should be empirically observable indicates the lack of that thing." With the God question one is saying the lack of empirical evidence of something not given in sense data (and therefore, not empirically given) is proof of the nonexistence of that or anything like it in all of reality. That's a much different sort of question. You can't prove a negative doesn't mean an absence never proves an absentee it means you can't prove the non-existence of something. You can prove the nonexistence of hair on a particular man's head but that's not really what the statement is getting at. You can't show the non-existence of a given thing in action." Here it is, here is the thing itself caught not existing. That's what's being said in the phrase "prove a negative."

In thinking about the corollary, that lack of imperial evidence means God is just an idea in the mind, there are realities that are not tangible. The intangibility of a given reality is not proof that it's only an idea in the mind. Examples: time is a reality. Time is not tangible. We can't go to a particular place and take a picture of time. We can't touch it, but it touches us always. Another example might be the laws of physics. No one really knows what they are. Atheists try to dismiss them as "merely a description of what happens in the universe" but that seems to be conflated. For example there are descriptions of possible for a universe that hasn't come to be yet. So how did the universe come to be? It could evolved out of some sort of on going process but then why does that process continue along certain lines with such great regularity? We have no proof that there are laws of nature, yet it makes no sense otherwise. To say they are merely descriptive (which not all science say and they didn't used to say) is merely to cut off the question about regularity.

Justice also seems to be a reality that is not tangible. One can say justice is surely just an idea in the mind. It even has different versions for different cultures. For some justice is equality, for others justice is punishment of the guilty, then of course that works itself into equal and fair punishment. None of that is proof that justice is not a real thing. When we don't have it the consequences of nothing having it are real.

God is surely more a reality that justice, which is probably an outgrowth of God's character or something along those lines. Yet, the reality of the concept surely indicates that there are realities beyond the concrete. Then one must face the question begging nature of the hypothesis. In other words, to assert that God is only a thing in the mind because he's not given in sense data is just begging the question with the assertion that only concrete tangibilities are real.

There is a large body of philosophical writing about the issue of abstractions being realities. Unfortuatnely I am not well versed in that body of work so I avoid being it up.