Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How is my debate coming along?

I posted a speech I made in a debate with Doug Shaver, my friend on T. Web. I had to actually shave down the content (no pun) because of a word limit, so the version posted on this blog was not the real version that is seen on T-web. What I'm posting here today is my first rebuttal. This is as it appears on the site. That's why my responses are ground down to chopping little incomplete sentences. The whole thing is little more than an outline. you can see the entire debate, in all its glory, here.

I like Shaver he's a nice guy. The issue is "that the Gospels are no historical." I am on the negation of that resolution. I made a fundamental mistake, I assumed he would not be so brazen as to make the Gospel authors out to be mere fiction writers, as though they were ancient John Steinbecks, considered only with writing good fiction. Guess what? He actually does argue that. By the time I figured this out it was in rebuttals and as I had harped upon no new arguments in rebuttals I didn't want to brake my own rule. Still I think I covered for it nicely.

His comments are indented. Mine are marked by my name beside them. This is because on T-web his comments appear blue anyway so there's no question who says what. I don't want to take the time and trouble to color his comments blue here. I think it's clear enough.

Meta's first Rebuttal

I would like to thank Doug for his comments.

On the issue of author intent, Doug says this is the entire topic.
Doug: he says, "We don’t have to know the authors minds." Well, maybe not in the larger scheme of things, but that is the subject of our debate.”
The debate is the historical nature of the Gospels. That this means the author’s minds is his interpretation. My interpretation: events referenced in Gospels are historical, and some amount of literary license is fine. My intent is to support the basis for Christian belief in the historical nature of the narrative.

Doug:The difference between fiction and nonfiction is nowhere but in the mind of the author. I made that perfectly clear in my opening argument when I defined my terms.
Meta How is he going to show us their intentions? How will he get inside their minds? There is no great body of Hebrew fiction writing that’s for that purpose. Why would they start up a writer’s camp and all move in together just to produce a fictional work?
Don’t forget, the COMMUITIES were the authors not the individuals.
If the gospels are products of communities it doesn’t matter what the individual writers intended. The whole community had to intend to write fiction. Why would they?

Doug:Insofar as Metacrock can prove they had any such intentions, he wins the debate.
Meta: then I guess I win the debate.
How could the facts possibly fit the idea that they were writing fiction when they contradict that thesis every time we look at them?
(1) Obvioulsy a religious faith spread long before the Gospels existed, we see it in the writings of Paul, we know from them that not only Paul and his friends but also the Jerusalem church worked on spreading. It had already traveled to Damascus before Paul was converted. When he started persecuting Christians you would think they would say “it’s only fiction.”
(2) The evidence I lay out proves the same material that gets’ used in the Gospels, not original writing by Mark or Mat but the words of the communities were spreading, the same people building the religion were spreading those very same words, word for word, decades before AD 70. The readings themselves before they were in the Gospels were being circultated.

(3) The notion of the empty tomb was circulating in writing by mid century, two decades before the final version of Mark was written.
(4) Clement writes about Peter and Paul being killed for their fiction writing and says he knew people who knew them (implies he knew them) why did they die for fiction? How did it turn into a real faith by 95, just a couple of decades after it’s book signing at Waldon books?
(5) Fiction writers can write stories based upon real events but they usually don’t shape their entire narrative around history as the core of the story, including historical teachings as though they want people to live by them, without intending the story to teach something. So it’s real obvious the historical nature of it tells us something bout the actual intent.
He also seems to forget all the times I argued that it doesn’t matter what their intent was because the gospels are historical by and large.
(1) I show Paul had a historical base, he knew eye witnesses and met Apostles, he had a saying source. He shows the historical web.
(2) There’s only one version of the story not multiple as myths always are. That in itself proves it’s historical, it could only be that way if they knew not to change the facts.
(3) I show that writers like Polycarp and Papias and Clement knew the Apostles and other eye witnesses and passed on the knowledge to their students. They validate the historical nature of the Gospels.
(4) I also show Philip of Hieropolis and his daughters who acted as Church historians and they have a connect to Luke and Paul. They kept the events straight.
(5) I show that the empty tomb circulated mid century and that was within the sphere of eye witnesses, I show that the controlled telling in the communities assumed that the eye witnesses were heard and the events passed down correctly.
(6) I show that the basic story was confirmed by the “off brand” groups such as Gnostics who also present Jesus as a flesh and blood man in history making messianic claims, healing, teaching, and being crucified and risen.

on the power structure issue.

I’ve already proved that the Non Orthdox groups all show Jesus as a flesh and blood man in history; he claimed to be Messiah, was a great moral teacher, healer and was crucified and claimed risen form the dead. There’s one story and they all agree to it..

He asserts we are getting history from the winners but Orthodoxy that developed was shaped by the Gospels not vice versa, the fact that the 34 lost Gospels agree with the one and only Jesus story proves that the events were historical. The Orthodox power structure did protect their doctrines but in so doing also protected history.

throughout Europe between the fall of Rome and the invention of printing, no ancient document got copied unless some church official believed that it needed to be copied.
Ludicrous! No way could they prevent writing and copying of every single copy and fragment. Empirically proved by Nag Hammadi. To the mythers the best evidence for something is no evidence that’s a sure fact it existed if there’s no proof for it. The point is no examples of all this disproof among the counter Gospels, they all agree with the major story.

Metacrock reminds us that, according to the latest scholarly consensus, the conventional dating of the gospels (Mark ca. 70 CE, John 90-100 CE) applies only "to the finished product of redaction, … I am aware that some scholars think so. I have not heard that it is the new consensus
see this link (second paragraph)

My argument is that those who produced the documents as we now have them were not under the impression that they were producing works of history or biography. In that sense, the intentions of the authors' predecessors is irrelevant.
Wrong! Predecessors are extremely important because it makes author intension irrelevant.
(1) Indivudal authors did not produce the Gospsl so their intensions are irrelevant
(2) The depth of textual chain steraching backs to the beginning proves the historical nature of the narrative and It’s acceptance as religious truth. People didn’t spread that stuff because they loved literature, they did it because it was their religious faith!
(3) Every step that puts the material further back proves historicity and disproves the writers guild thesis.


Mark’s dating
He says
, " Yes, the earlier documents must have been circulating in the mid-first century if we assume Mark was written around 70. But the evidence does not support that assumption..

The only argument he can make is that 70 is arbitrary and chosen just to be early.

(1) The destruction of the temple is the key to dating Mark
(2) I have proved pre Mark redaction circulated mid century.
(3) All the major scholars agree on this: koester demonstrates with eight other scholars in Ancient Christian Gospels Crosson agrees, and others
(4) Kirby says it consensus.
(5) He has no evidence against it he’s only asserting that it’s not true notice,

(6) We also see Luke used a different Mark than Mat did so there were at least two floating around (that’s unanswered from first speech)
(7) His assertion just rests upon not knowing the traditional reasons for the dating, which are scientific and textual.
(8) There are a lot of complex reasons why they date them as they do, they are not arbitrary not because “they say so” it’s science and it’s proved.

on Clement ‘s quotes of mark and mat

…. what Clement's writings reveal was that some of the sayings attributed to Jesus were making the rounds within his community It does not follow that the documents themselves had been written
Any quote of Q or of Gospel material especially pre dating mark is a demonstration of a religious tradition that represents a community and it’s beliefs and we have to assume indicates a huge old line of passage going way back.

We do not need the name sakes for historicity. Doesn’t matter when the version of Matthew we know now was complied and began to circulate, the material in it goes way back, thus is is historical.

Paul’s use of it pushes it back to the 40s. With every push further back it becomes more probable that it’s historical.

(1) 1 Clement quotes all the Synoptics dated 95AD
(2) Matt. vi. 12–15, Matt. vii. 2; Luke vi. 36–38.
(3) The Didache clearly quotes Mat and is pattered after it (dated 100AD).
(4) Egerton 2 ; some place it earlier than Mark. It quotes a huge number of parallels with all the Gospels:

Parallels between Egerton 2 and Canonicals

Debate over Credentials (l. 1-24) John 5:39, 5:45, 9:29, (John 3:2, 5:46-47, 7:27-28, 8:14, 10:25, 12:31)
Attempt to Seize Jesus (l. 25-34) [Further Violence Against Jesus (l. 89-94)] John 7:30, 7:44, 8:20, 8:59, 10:30-31, 10:39, Luke 4:30
The Healing of the Leper (l. 35-47) Mt 8:2-4, Mk 1:40-44, Lk 5:12-14, 17:12-19, (John 5:14, 8:11)
Debate with False Questioners (l. 50-66) Mt 22:15-22, Mk 12:13-17, Lk 20:20-26, (Mt 15:7-9, Mk 7:6-7, Lk 6:46, John 3:2)
Miraculous Fruit (l. 67-82) No exact parallels, but words and reminiscences.

Many scholars date Egerton in middle of the first century:


Metacrock claims that P52 is not the only known early fragment of John's gospel. It is, however, the only fragment that has been authoritatively dated any earlier than 200 CE. The last I checked, every other extant fragment of any canonical writing is not known to have been written before the third century. And as I have mentioned, at least one authority thinks P52 could be that late as well.
Wrong. You are using biased obsolete sources:

(1) Rylands (52) is all we need, most scholars put it at 135, and push the date of comp. to mid 90s.
(2) New trend in Europe is to put John in the 60s. he also forgets about the source that shows 60 scholars showing it early.
(3) Egerton 2 is clearly patterned after John. The major modern movement for dating puts Egerton 2 first century.
(4) Epistles of Ignatius clearly show allusion to Johannine passages and ideas.
(5) Justin Martyr quotes John probably from Memory (120).
(6) A lot of stuff on date of John from Doxa

Metacrock claims there is a quotation in the Talmud proving Matthew was written around 70 CE, …there is no way the authors of the Talmud could have had any factual knowledge relevant to a determination of when Matthew wrote his gospel
They have a record of the Rabbi quoting Matthew, They know when the Rabbi wrote that piece its part of a larger piece already dated.

He claims no unambiguous proof of Gospels before Irenaeus.


"In the case of the gospels, not even their existence is clearly and unambiguously attested before Irenaeus, ca 180 CE."
Again, that is an argument for fundies about namesakes. I don’t care about the name sakes. We DO NOT NEED THE NAMESAKES TO ESTABLISH HISTORICITY!

I established the existence of the material of the Gospels going all the way back. That’s all we need.

Then we get: "the material in Paul demonstrates his use of a saying source that is heavily synoptic and his allusions to narrative demonstrate the story was intact in the form we know it by AD 50 or so." This was in response to my claim that Well, now who is going against the scholarly consensus?
YOU ARE! The BS that the Gospel were written second century went out with high button shoes. That is 19th century. The majority of scholars laugh themselves silly. I linked to evidence on that. He said nothing about it? He has no answer.

These anti-academic guys want you to believe that schlars have no reasons for their views. Just because the armatures don’t know the reasons doesn’t mean they don’t’ exist.

He plays the myther “Paul doesn’t know the story of the gospels” card

(1) I prove textual tradition goes all the way back. Multiple saying sources establish the body of Jesus’ teachings going all the way back
a. GThomas
b. G.Peter
c. Paul
d. Eg2
e. Didache
f. Clement

All of that requires prior development and that proves they were circulating.
As for Paul’s knowledge of the narrative
(1) my chart showed at least 12 allusions to synoptic narrative
(2) Hebrews (Pauline circle) shows knowledge of Jesus life
(3) Clement shows knowledge of narrative (Mary, v brith, resurrection)
(4) Eg2 does as well
(5) One story, the 11 things I point out are never changed by any group that’s backed by the 34 lost gospels.

What Metacrock is saying, at most, is that IF the gospels had existed in Paul's time, THEN he could have gotten some of his material from them.
No, he misconstrues my entire argument. I never said Paul knew the Gospels. I said the Gospels are based upon older material the exact readings show up in the gospels but they were circulating before the gospels we know were written.

Still gaps? Of course, liberals don’t’ mind gaps. We don’t need total knowledge only the basic knowledge which we have in spades.

On 34 lost Gospels he asserts I can’t prove contents

(1) I’ve read man of them such as Egerton 2 and others
(2) I quote scholars who have read them they say clearly they all agree to the same story. That’s in the link if he had read it!
He then says:

“he needs to demonstrate that whatever was in them, it would not have been in them unless the canonical authors had intended their work to be nonfiction.”
No no no! I don’t have to prove that, he doesn’t’ get it. They all show Jesus as a flesh and blood man in history, even the Gnostic ones! They all show him doing what he did in the canonicals and they all show him being crucified and raised form the dead. So they document the fact that there is one story. They don’t offer another version of the story so there’s one version unlike myth which has many.

He’s the one who makes much of the fact of non Orthodox groups early on, now the scholars who study their books say they agreed with the Orthodox on the story.

He tries to answer the one version argument by saying he’s not arguing myth. But that’s not the point, he’s not concentrating. The point is if the story was myth it would have many versions. They always do. Myth always has many versions. The fact of one story is a good reason to believe it’s historical. That’s the argument. Friedman

He doubts multiple versions I deny him to show me a myth that doesn’t have at least 2. They all do. Freidman backs it up, in fact the concept of multiple versions is endemic to the modern concept of myth

He tries to argue multiple stories

To pull that off he has to demand that any little obscure detail is another version. I stated quite clearly the guide lines it was not inclusive of little silly differences such as redaction would allow for. I said mother Is Mary his side kick is Peter, he is always crucified it’s always at noon and other things. That’s’ the kind of thing I listed 12 of them, he can’t’ show a single multiple version from that list.

Papias talks about Mark and Matthew writing something about Jesus. Orthodoxy has assumed that the documents to which he refers must have been canonical gospels attributed to Mark and Matthew, and for no better reason than that Irenaeus assumed as much.
To atheists and mythers probability doesn’t’ exist. Its’ foolish and totally improbable to think they had a different book in mind. There si no such book that qualifies, Irenaeus would have known which book since he studies with Papias and the biggest one of the all, if it differed from Plycarp’s book, Irenaeus knew him too, then Irenaeus would have seen the contradiction and been turned off from the faith. The odds that they were discussing a different book are ridiculous.

Again if it was a different book why are there no stories? why are not multiple myths hu? You cant’ kill mythology they way mythers think you can destroy all copies that’s twilight zone time. Not realistic.

he sloughs off the Luke argument bout the preface by saying:

Then he says we have no reason to doubt the claim Luke makes in his preface. Maybe not, if his claim were the only relevant datum. Our conclusion on this matter has to explain all of the evidence, all at once.

Meta:We cannot just take one statement out of one document and build our whole theory of Christian origins around it
He hasn’t been able to answer one yet, Iv’e given about 50. This is another one, far from the only one I’ve given this is clearly a slough.

Then we get the assurance that "We can construct the whole of NT theology from extra canonical sources outside and way before Eusebius, from early second century and late first century sources.
I didn’t argue that. I said we have all the theology we need in the NT from the passages that can be validated.

on protecting Orthodoxy

But the very issue here is whether their saying it happened is sufficient reason by itself for us to believe it happened. Shakespeare wrote about the assassination of Julius Caesar.
he argues we need other evidence. He’s just ignoring my arguments. The reason for presumption is not because they say it:

(1) I’ve demonstrated about six different lines of transmition through which the same material that makesu p the Gospsl was circularing through the church from very early.
(2) I show that we see that turning up in a whole bunch of documents and textual traditions involves long periods of time. So there’s an unbroken chain that forms the link to the Gospels
(3) That gauntest the material is historical it also proves obviously that these lines of transmission are what shaped Orthodoxy.
(4) We see that orthodoxy, which did not have a power structure when the pre Mark redaction was starting and most of the time it was firming up, into the post Mark redaction (after 70) no power structure.
(5) Obviously this material shaped the Orthodoxy and not vice versa
(6) Don’t forget the points of agreement with all other rogue and heterodox sects in the 34 lost Gosples.

on historical presumption:

"The consensus of historians is what constitutes historical presumption," he tells us. That presumption is what you have to go on before you get a look at the evidence for yourself, and before you have learned how that consensus was formed
That is irresponsible debate. He’s trying to worm out of the fact that evidence in this debate is totally against him. He has no facts, he has to deny the vast majority of even liberal and secular scholars to even hold his position. He has constantly denied the science of textual criticism without really understanding it.

I’ve explained his understanding of Kuhn is wrong, he doesn’t’ get a paradigm shift just someone doubts.


• According to Metacrock, I implied "that all Biblical scholarship comes from evangelicals." No, I did not. My only reference to possible bias in the scholarship was in noting that "a substantial fraction of the competent authorities are adherents of Christianity." I do not assume that Christian equals evangelical. I do assume that, if even most atheists presuppose certain historical data that are consistent with the historical orthodoxy, then Christians will presuppose the same.
but he clearly ignores completely the liberal tradition and modern liberal contributions. In Chucking Historical presumption I do not mean the presumption of religious Orthodoxy I mean that of secular liberal history[/b[ because that’s who he’s ignoring! Those are the textual critics. That’s the camp the anti-academics are dumping[/b]

• Further on in a couple of places, he accuses me of denying that the Peter whom Paul mentions is the same Peter who appears in the gospels. I do not. I simply note that Paul does not attest to Peter's having been personally acquainted with Jesus during Jesus' lifetime. And that is a fact. Paul attests to nothing of the sort.
He used that possiblity as an answer to an argument I made, that Paul met Peter, so the only way that answers my argument is if you take it seriously as a real possibility, then to assert that he didn’t mean it as such is just irrational. It doesn’t’ do him any good unless you assert it’s true, which means you are accepting groundless assertions.

• Metacrock claims that I quote Polycarp's claim to have known the apostle John. I don't, and I could not, and I say why I could not. We don't have that claim in Polycarp's own words. What we have is Irenaeus claiming that Polycarp told him about knowing John.
We do have it in his own words, quoted by an eye witness whom he said it to! That’s’ no different than a reporter quoting a source on the scene. When you read a paper and the reporter say “s source at the scene told us ‘this was a big fire’” you dot’ say “O that’s not proved, that’s not form the source’s own words.” Yes it is.

• According to Metacrock, "He asserts he was just a kid he remembered it wrong." Again, I was talking about Irenaeus, not Polycarp, and I did not say he remembered it wrong. I suggested that we are not justified in assuming that his memory of their conversation was reliable.
He forgets my other answer, that’s one incident Irenaeus was talking about (I know who said it) he did not say “I never saw again after that time.” No that was one instance. You have to read the rest of the docs he wrote. He speaks of repeatedly studying under him.

• Finally, he refers to my "assertion that if he [Josephus] learned it from Christians it must be wrong." I made no such assertion. All I asserted was that if we assume, as it is entirely reasonable to assume, that Christians were the source of his information, then his testimony does not constitute any sort of corroboration of what Christians were saying at that time.
That makes no sense at all. If he got it form Christians it doesn’t’ show what they believed at the time? That’s crazy, why wouldn’t it?

All we're entitle to suppose is that he took their word for it, unless we have clear evidence that he conducted an independent investigation of their reports.
(1) he ignores my argument that many scholars believe Josehus and Acts both use the L source (go to Jospehus home page). The L source was not part of any Orthodox power structure. The L community would be less centeral than the Q source community or the Mat community.
(2) All they have to do is say what they believed that’s what he ‘s talking about, why can’t they just say what they believed?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Correlation and Causality in Miracle Hunting


The discussion I put on limits of scinece was pretty successful (well received) but the skeptics get hung up on the threat that miracles might be real. We have to put that fire out immediately lest someone get the wrong idea and strat seeking God. This little discussion with Hermit is in the comment section, there are other comments there (limits of scinece no 3) that are wroth seeing, the reader might want to drop in. The little exchange with Hermit is pretty typical of a lot of exchanges on boards concerns Lourdes miracles:

The question was, "What method, other than empiricism, can we use to reliably distinguish between real and fraudulent miracles?"

Empiricism is the method for that. Of cousre it goes without saying you have to combine logic withe empiricism or you can't interpret your data.

The Global knowledge idea deals with the overall question God and life and the big picture, the ascertaining of miracles is really small picture. Empirical methods would be the method there, but empiricism as an ideology or a philosophy is way too limited.

The Lourdes rules are clearly an attempt to demonstrate that something out of the ordinary, or miraculous, has occurred.

What's wrong with that? that's what your trying to figure out.

What they don't do, of course, is demonstrate that there is any reason to connect a visit to Lourdes to the spontaneous remission of any condition, especially since such spontaneous remissions occur at a greater frequency for patients who DON'T travel to Lourdes than for those who do.
No you are clearly confused about the nature of remission. Now this is what the member of Lourdes committee told me in our exchanges of email: Remission never means the total absolute vanishing of traces overnight. Remission is not the condition is totally gone in one night as though it never existed. That's what some of the Lourdes miracle are and that is not remission. Remission is the backing up of the condition over time, it reverses itself for a while. Many remissions cease and the disease comes back.

Moreover, as I pointed out in my piece, the rules are set up to screen out remission. You are also confused in saying there's no way to tell, there certainly is, because you go by the appearance of remissions that we know are remission. Study the instances that re not claimed as miracle see if the case conforms to it. that's why they are able to determine how to screen for it in the rules.

For example they don't take leukemia healing for 10 years after the incident becuase remissions are high.

Having a fever appears to be more closely associated to spontaneous remission of some cancers than visiting a shrine of any kind. So, if anything, Lourdes appears to be associated with a suppression of such "miracles", which are more probably die to hormonal or immune system mechanisms.

Your thinking is so illogical. If you have a case where the disease is gone without a trace overnight, that is not remission that's something different. So you look to see what int h patient background is different than other Patience. If the only thing is going to Lourdes then you got it. that's every reason in the world to connect the two, especially since the rules say it has to be immediate.

Problems of Causality and Corrolation

Quite often I find skeptics assuming that I don't know the difference in correlation and causality.Moreover, they assume that knowing the difference is enough to kill a causality argument. Some assume that since they are clever enough to know the very basic information, the difference in correlation and causality, that I must not know that because I'm a Christian and Christians are stupid, and they are so very clever to know some basic fact that all high school kids should get, correlation is not causality. What they don't get is that just I argue inductively that correlation is indicative of a cause if certain conditions obtain, that doesn't mean I don't know the difference. The difference only kills the argument when you can establish that a stronger correlation exists between alternate causes and the phenomenon. Atheists often seem to act like they think the mere possibility of an alternate cans is as good as proven fact. This happens a lot on the religious experience argument where they seem to think that just the mere fact that experiences are connected to brain chemistry is enough to destroy the connection between God and religious experience.

Correlation is indicative of Cause.

What these very clever atheist don't get is that correlation is indicative of cause. part of the problem is that certain people don't seem know what indicative means. Be that as it may, there is an epistemological gap in our knowledge it a problem at the most fundamental philosophical level. We can only establish causality in one way, buy making very tight correlations and eliminating alternate causes. This is the only way there is, and that's what Hume really proved with the billiard balls.

Science can't prove causes. We can only prove correlations. When I assume causes on miracles, it's the only way we ever establish cause.  Because if we can't observe causality and it must be inferred from correlation, then you can't say "I have eliminated an alternate cause by showing causality and eliminating it." That's just a repeat of the same problem. The alternate causes are only possibilities, they are not proven either. What it boils down to is in the final analysis a really tight correlation is the only way to determine cause. Although it is important to eliminate the alternative possible causes, essential in fact. What this means is I am right to assume causes from correlations, given that I can eliminate alternatives, and I usually can.

All of this means that medical evidence showing the disease went away, when examined by scientific medicos is good evidence for miracles. It's not absolute, there is no absolute. There will always be a gap in our epistemology. We will always have to make epistemic judgment.

This is really a simple concept. It is not wonder, then, that atheists have had a great deal of trouble understanding it. I say that because they always try to approach it as some big hairy radical deal that’s a fallacy in and of itself. I expect the skeptic to question the argument, but to actually question it in a way that implies that there’s some big logical problem with correlations is quite amazing. That they try to twist the argument totally out of proportion is just, as Dylan said, “sleepy time down south.”
Take a couple of analogies that illustrate Science's willingness to draw assumptions of causality from correlation. First the idea of smoking as a cause of cancer. In 1963 (or so) the Surgeon General made the ruling that smoking might be the cause of cancer and thus a warning was printed in cigarette packs. That ruling was made not because they had direct scientific proof. In fact when the tobacco companies responded that science could not find a mechanism in tobacco smoke that causes cancer, they were right about that. They remained right about it until this century. For almost a quarter of a century the whole campaign and war against smoking rested totally upon statistical correlation. I used this fact to indicate that science takes correlation proof seriously as proof. It’s not illogical to assume that if a correlation is tight enough causality is a logical inference. The atheist response has been “but the link from smoking to cancer has been proved.” It is true that the link has now been proven, but only recently (in this first decade of the twenty-first century, the ruling was imposed over forty years ago when all they had to go by was a correlation)..(1) That is typical. The fact that the link was proved and a mechanism found over forty years latter doesn’t in the least blunt the fact that for almost half a century science was willing to assume that as a fact based upon statistical correlation. This is all common knowledge. I remember when the Surgeon General made the announcement, even though I was a small child. I remember when cigarette ads were banned. A multi million dollar industry, probably a billion dollar industry was destroyed and taken down all on the basis of statistical correlation.

Anyone with half a brain should be able to conclude that science respects a good correlation; we may treat correlations as causality if (and only if) the correlation is tight enough. Another analogy is that of the neutrino. Before I go into that let me point out that I am not arguing from analogy. I understand that the similarity to cases in these analogies is not proof of the existence of God. I am not saying that. The function of an analogy is nothing but an aid to illustrate an idea that is exactly what I’m about here, nothing more. My argument does not proceed from arguing the analogy. But the fact is atheists treat the correlation of God to miraculous healing as though there is no implication of God’s reality in the experiences because, they think, there is no proof of causality in a correlation. But I am here illustrating the fact that their beloved priesthood of knowledge,  scientists, are willing to assume a strong correlation as rational warrant for a causal relationship.

The second example is that of the neutrino.(1)

DONUT home Fermi National Acceleration Laboratory*:


Neutrinos didn’t emerge onto the particle physics scene until 1930, when Wolfgang Pauli invented the neutrino to “save” conservation of energy, which was under threat from observations of beta decay in radioactive materials. Scientists such as Henri Bequerel and Marie and Pierre Curie performed the first studies into radiation starting in 1898. In the years that followed radiation was classified into 3 categories: alpha, beta and gamma. In studying beta radiation, scientists discovered a disturbing phenomenon. It seemed that when a nucleus underwent beta decay, which consisted of the emission by a neutron of an electron to create a proton, conservation of energy was violated. There was a missing amount of energy that could not be accounted for by their measurements or calculations. In 1930 Pauli made his hypothesis....

It was not until 1933 that Pauli admitted the possibility of a zero mass neutrino (the discovery of the neutron in 1932 by James Chadwick forced him to change the hypothesized particle’s name to neutrino). Today we know that neutrinos have some unknown mass and that they move close to the speed of light. The first detection of neutrinos occurred in 1956 by Clyde Cowan and Fredrick Reines who found a convenient source of neutrinos--nuclear power plants. Power is created in nuclear plants when atoms undergo nuclear fission, a process of which the neutrino is a byproduct. Cowan and Reines employed a 400-L tank of cadmium chloride as their target. The neutrinos struck a proton inside the target, producing a positron and a neutron. That positron encountered an electron; the two annihilated each other, producing two gamma rays (or photons). The neutron was absorbed by a cadmium chloride atom, producing a photon at a 15-microsecond delay from the emission from the positron. Using this knowledge of the photon emission, Cowan and Reines were able to detect the electron neutrino.

Leon Lederman, Mel Schwartz, and Jack Steinberger followed with the detection of the muon neutrino in 1962. They fired a GeV beam of protons through a target creating pions, which decayed into muons and muon neutrinos. Thick shielding halted the muons but the neutrinos continued until they entered a detector where they produced muons, decaying into electrons and a photon that were observed in the spark chambers.(2)

Pauli describes his reasoning in asserting an unproven hypothesis (the neutrino)

I have hit upon a desperate remedy to save the “exchange theorem” of statistics and the law of conservation of energy. Namely, the possibility that there could exist in the nuclei electrically neutral particles, that I wish to call neutrons, which have spin 1/2 and obey the exclusion principle and which further differ from light quanta in that they do not travel with the velocity of light. The mass of the neutrons should be of the same order of magnitude as the electron mass and in any event not larger than 0.01 proton masses. The continuous beta spectrum would then become understandable by the assumption that in beta decay a neutron is emitted in addition to the electron such that the sum of the energies of the neutron and the electron is constant...(3)

Now I’m sure atheists are saying “that’s just the way science works. State a hypothesis and test it.” Of course it is, and that’s fine. But the problem is that’s pretty much what has been done in regard to mystical experience, as well as miracles. Religious believers have been a lot more definite about their hypothesis than Pauli was about his, but it’s the same thing really, and with very similar results. The only real difference is the scientist can eventually get “absolute” proof (in a scientific sense) when the question is an empirical one, but we can’t get this kind of certainty of God. Nevertheless, we can be as certain, thanks to the M scale, as where the physicists in their discussion of neutrinos at the time that Mel Schwartz, and Jack Steinberger did their work. We can be as certain in terms of Lourdes miracles, at least certain that some a typical process has occurred for some inexplicable reason what was the normal course of nature know to us has been altered. It is the medical diagnostic tools that give us this certainty. Of course, I’m not advocating understanding religious belief as scientific hypothesis, but the basic logic of the co-determinate is the same. One can clearly see that the logic of the co-determinate is not a fallacy, formal or informal; it is not the same as saying “I believe it, so that proves it.” It is not a radical move that I invented. It’s the normal way correlations have been used to assume causality since modern science began. It’s the use of the term “co-determinate” that gives atheist the idea that this is some new brand of logic I invented. If I called it “the correlate” they would probably not say that, and that’s all it is. In that case they would turn around and say, “Correlations are not proof of causality.” No, they are not, but on the other hand I did not claim to prove it. I only claimed that it’s reasonable to draw a conclusion from the association!

Here’s an even more interesting twist: Since the work in 1962 science assumed that Neutrinos were proved, but they didn’t have direct proof until much latter:

Fermi lab: Phyiscs at Fermilab

Discoveries at Femrilab: The Tau neutrino

An international collaboration of scientists at the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory announced on July 21, 2000 the first direct evidence for the subatomic particle called the tau neutrino, the third kind of neutrino known to particle physicists. They reported four instances of a neutrino interacting with an atomic nucleus to produce a charged particle called a tau lepton, the signature of a tau neutrino.(Ibid)

The “detection” of muon was in 1962 and yet it says the first direct evidence of the subatomic particles called tau neutrinos wasn’t until 2000. I know these are different particles that are coming out of a different stage in the process. But the fact remains, the original hypothesis was merely an attempt to explain the actions of certain particles in a certain context, theory was manufactured to fit the apparent case. The theory was born out latter with empirical proof. The point is that the theory was deduced from the action of particles around the neutrino, not from direct evidence of the thing itself. The neutrino is the co-determinate of those reactions, it goes with them logically and is implied by them, just as the foot that makes the impression in the snow is logically deduced from the impression and is thus implied by it and inseparable from it.

Much the same thing has happened with respect to the scientific study of religious experience. First people have had such experiences for thousands of years. They developed an explanation for them (God, the divine, the supernatural). With that explication there evolved a complicated economics of metaphor that emerged as a means of understanding that which is beyond understanding. Then, after all that fuss, the hypothesis is partially corroborated with empirical scientific techniques (such as the M scale). What has been corroborated is that the process works, as we would expect it to in living up the exceptions derived form our teachings on the divine. Real experiences that are truly affecting the brain produce real measurable concrete change in life and a valuable way of life that revolutionizes the lives of those having these experiences, and dramatic and positive way. Thus, the scientific findings corroborate that the experiences conform to what the divine is supposed to do. We should not be surprised since that understanding is derived from the experiences themselves, but now that process is proved valid through science.

Atheists will be very insistent to demand “this does not prove the origin.” Remember, I never claimed, “proof!” But why is it not reasonable to assume that the origin is the divine, since it conforms to our ideas of what it supposed to be? After all, that is literally exactly what the supernatural actually was in its original conception.(4) Thus it is a reasonable construal. I never said it was “proof” (except in the practical sense, close enough to proof to place confidence in the hypothesis). In response to this, some atheists have lunched an old familiar tactic from message boards, ridicule of a hypothesis by use of reduction to absurdity. So they will say there’s a high correlation between global warming and pirates, therefore, global warming causes piracy. This is supposed to prove the fallacy and stupidity of asserting a “co-determinate.” Reductio Ad Absurdum is not necessarily the best-advised course for an argument. It is totally fallacious to think that just because one can construct a false association based upon absurdities a valid association is illogical. The logic of the argument within the argument is what must determine whether or not an association is logical. This relates back to the soundness of an argument. All they are saying at this point is “that’s not sound,” although their only reason for thinking so is that they don’t like the conclusion I’m drawing. They cannot tell me why the argument is unsound without elevating my claims to the level of proof. But I don’t claim proof.

(3) Don't need to show hit rate

The argument is made we must show the percentage of those healed vs not healed.

That's ridiculous. The reason is because we do not know the reason when someone is not healed. We cannot assume "Ok not being healed means there's no God, because some are healed." Knowing the hit rate is important in many cases. such as prophesy, "so and so is a true prophet he predicted x," but how many predictions did the make that did not come true? Knowing the hit rate on healing when you can establish an actual healing is irrelevant.

(a) We don't know if the failed healing is the result of no God just didn't want to heal. Because a will is on the other end of the prayer we cannot treat it like a natural process and expect it to behave like a drug in a field trial.

(b) Miracles are supposed to be impossible. they violate natural law. that's the whole theory of naturalism in a nut shell; nothing happens apart form natural law.

Thus if one miracle happens that proves miracles and all it takes is one. proving that x% are not healed doesn't prove anything. miracles are supposed to be impossible and can't happen, if one of them happens, or we can assume it happened, then that proves they do happen. We don't know the rate because God is not a drug. Divine healing is a matter of God's will.

(3) God's action in healing is not indicative of God's feelings about those healed or not healed.

This is the whole fallacy of the God hates amputees thing. You might as well say God hates breakfast because not once in my Christian walk has God ever made me scrambled eggs in the morning.

St. Augustine proved that there is no correlation between worldly prosperity or success and God's love. Rome was sacked by the vandals and everyone was saying "this disproves Christianity." but Augie said "no it doesn't, divine favor is not based worldly success. Stuff happens to Christians too, God causes it rain on the just and unjust."

(4) No double blind

Lourdes evidence does not need to be double blind First of all these are not "studies." They are not set up as a longitudinal study to see if healing works. These are real people and their journey to Lourdes is part of their journey in life in a search to be healed, they are not white lab mice plotting world conquest.

Secondly, double blind is used as a means of control so we know data is not contaminated by the subjects knowledge of the test. People suffering from an incurable disease cannot cure themselves. So it doesn't matter if they know. If the data shows the condition went away immediately and it can be documented that all traces are gone, the of course can assume healing, provided there is no counter cause such as he took a wonder drug before he left for Lourdes; they do certainly screen for that.

Of course there are still epistemological problems. There will always be such problems. That's why you can't prove you exist. But just as the answer to that problem is "Make epistemic judgment based upon regularity and inconsistency of data," so it goes with miracles, proving smoking causes cancer or anything else.

Thomas Reid got it right, we are justified in assuming empirical evidence provided it's strong evidence.

One more problem. When I say "correlation" this invites the question "how can you find a correlation if you don't know the hit rate? A correlation implies X and Y are seen together a lot, not just in one instance. But we can't go around giving people cancer and praying for them over and over to see if they ar always healed. We have to let multiple cases stand for correlation. But since we can't say why healing didn't take place we have to use empirical means to assert on a case by case basis.

(1) Website “Cancer Research UK,” URL, “Smoking and Cancer” visited March, 24, 2009.

(2)Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Donut home, “Neutrinos What are they?” Website URL:, visited March 24, 2009.

(3)Fermilab website URL: visited March 24, 2009.

(4)The page on my website dealing with the nature of the original concept of the supernatural and how it has been degraded. “What is the Supernatural” on website Doxa. URL: visited March 24, 2009. The major work on this section I explication of the original concept of Super nature comes from the article “Christianity and the Supernatural” by Eugene R. Fairweather of Toronto Universe (1965) published in the book New Theology No. 1 edited Martin E. Marty. Also Mathias Joseph Scheeban, Nature and Grace,

G.J. Mattey, Thomas Reid,Theory of Knowledge lecture notes. Philosophy, UC Davis
prior to the Revision of May 22,2008. Now located at:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Community as Author part 2

As the communities became distinct their needs became distinct from one another. The Gospels were written, not as an attempt to set in stone a history that historians were researching, but as sermons to answer the needs of the community. The Gospels are more like sermons than history books.

Cullman, The New Testament (24) "It must be noted that the needs of preaching, worship and teaching, more than biographical considerations, were what guided the early community when it wrote down the tradition of the life of Jesus. The apostles illustrated the truth of the faith they were preaching by describing the events in the life of Jesus. Their sermons are what caused the descriptions to be written down. The sayings of Jesus were transmitted, in particular, in the teaching of the catechism of the early Church."

It was be a mistake to think that the situation was neat and controlled. The growth of the church was rapid, haphazard, and groups were breaking out all directions, as stated above. Under these conditions the Gospel material was less controlled, but the early transmission of it was controlled to some extent.

Luke Timoney Johson,br>

The evidence of the NT does not suggest that after the resurrection there was a long period of tranquil recollection and interpretation carried out under the tight control of a single stable community that , having forged the memory of Jesus into a coherent and consistent form, transmitted it to other lands, languages, and cultures. The evidence points in the opposite direction: there was not a long period of tranquility; the first community was from the beginning harassed and persecuted; the spread of the movement was carried out by many messengers and required flexible adjustment to new circumstances. The growth of a community's self -understanding and its memory of Jesus were mutually shaping influences."(Ibid.)

I agree with Johnson. My argument is not that the oral tradition was controled to such an extent that they were able to pass on word for word with no changes. My argument is, rather, that they controlled it enough to bring the basic story line to a point where everyone knew this is the way it was and no one could change it. But the actual details of the wording and the pericopes and subplots were flexible and probably do show some embellishment.

Oral tradition is not just haphazard rumors spreading at random, but is a carefully controlled process. The Jews understood how to learn the words of their teachers and preserve them just as they were spoken. All oral cultures understand how to control the process.

III.Oral Tradition Trustworthy

Fewer changes if tradition is controlled

"No one is likely to deny that a tradition that is being handed on by word of mouth is likely to undergo modification. This is bound to happen, unless the tradition has been rigidly formulated and has been learned with careful safeguard against the intrusion of error" (Stephen Neil, The Interpretation of the New Testament: 1861-1961, London: University of Oxford Press, 1964, p.250)

Tradition was controled.

Neil adds in a fn: "This is exactly the way in which the tradition was handed on among the Jews. IT is precisely on this ground that Scandinavian scholar H. Risenfeld in an essay entitled "The Gospel Tradition and its Beginnings" (1957) has passed some rather severe strictures on the form cuticle method.

See also M. Dibelius... Neil goes on to say that there is some "flexibility" in the transmission, but nothing that would change the basic facts or the thrust of the teaching otherwise, "But there is a vast difference between recognition of this kind of flexibility, of this kind of creative working of the community on existing traditions, and the idea that the community simply invented and read back into the life of Jesus things that he had never done, and words that he had never said. When carried to its extreme this method suggests that the community had far greater creative power than the Jesus of Nazareth, faith in whom had called the community into being." (Ibid.).

Oral tradition in first-century Judaism was not uncontrolled as was/is often assumed, based on comparisons with non-Jewish models. B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans* (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus(NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998):

"...[T]he early form criticism tied the theory of oral transmission to the conjecture that Gospel traditions were mediated like folk traditions, being freely altered and even created ad hoc by various and sundry wandering charismatic jackleg preachers. This view, however, was rooted more in the eighteenth century romanticism of J. G. Herder than in an understanding of the handling of religious tradition in first-century Judaism. As O. Cullmann, B. Gerhardsson, H. Riesenfeld and R. Riesner have demonstrated, [22] the Judaism of the period treated such traditions very carefully, and the New Testament writers in numerous passages applied to apostolic traditions the same technical terminology found elsewhere in Judaism for 'delivering', 'receiving', 'learning', 'holding', 'keeping', and 'guarding', the traditioned 'teaching'. [23] In this way they both identified their traditions as 'holy word' and showed their concern for a careful and ordered transmission of it. The word and work of Jesus were an important albeit distinct part of these apostolic traditions.*

"Luke used one of the same technical terms, speaking of eyewitnesses who 'delivered to us' the things contained in his Gospel and about which his patron Theophilus had been instructed. Similarly, the amanuenses or co-worker-secretaries who composed the Gospel of John speak of the Evangelist, the beloved disciple, 'who is witnessing concerning these things and who wrote these things', as an eyewitness and a member of the inner circle of Jesus' disciples.[24] In the same connection it is not insignificant that those to whom Jesus entrusted his teachings are not called 'preachers' but 'pupils' and 'apostles', semi-technical terms for those who represent and mediate the teachings and instructions of their mentor or principal.(53-55)(corresponding fn for Childton and evans")

Also, there wasn't an necessarily a long period of solely oral transmission as has been assumed:

"Under the influence of R. Bultmann and M. Dibelius the classical form criticism raised many doubts about the historicity of the Synoptic Gospels, but it was shaped by a number of literary and historical assumptions which themselves are increasingly seen to have a doubtful historical basis. It assumed, first of all, that the Gospel traditions were transmitted for decades exclusively in oral form and began to be fixed in writing only when the early Christian anticipation of a soon end of the world faded. This theory foundered with the discovery in 1947 of the library of the Qumran sect, a group contemporaneous with the ministry of Jesus and the early church which combined intense expectation of the End with prolific writing. Qumran shows that such expectations did not inhibit writing but actually were a spur to it. Also, the widespread literacy in first-century Palestinian Judaism [18], together with the different language backgrounds of Jesus' followers--some Greek, some Aramaic, some bilingual--would have facilitated the rapid written formulations and transmission of at least some of Jesus' teaching.[19]" (p. 53-54)

N. T. Wright, critiquing the Jesus Seminar's view of oral tradition as uncontrolled and informal based on some irrelevant research done in modern Western non-oral societies writes:

"Against this whole line of thought we must set the serious study of genuinely oral traditions that has gone on in various quarters recently. [65] (p. 112-113)**

"Communities that live in an oral culture tend to be story-telling communities. They sit around in long evenings telling and listening to stories--the same stories, over and over again. Such stories, especially when they are involved with memorable happenings that have determined in some way the existence and life of the particular group in question, acquire a fairly fixed form, down to precise phraseology (in narrative as well as in recorded speech), extremely early in their life--often within a day or so of the original incident taking place. They retain that form, and phraseology, as long as they are told. Each village and community has its recognized storytellers, the accredited bearers of its traditions; but the whole community knows the stories by heart, and if the teller varies them even slightly they will let him know in no uncertain terms. This matters quite a lot in cultures where, to this day, the desire to avoid 'shame' is a powerful motivation.

"Such cultures do also repeat, and hence transmit, proverbs, and pithy sayings. Indeed, they tend to know far more proverbs than the orally starved modern Western world. But the circulation of such individual sayings is only the tip of the iceberg; the rest is narrative, narrative with embedded dialogue, heard, repeated again and again within minutes, hours and days of the original incident, and fixed in memories the like of which few in the modern Western world can imagine. The storyteller in such a culture has no license to invent or adapt at will. The less important the story, the more the entire community, in a process that is informal but very effective, will keep a close watch on the precise form and wording with which the story is told.

In the Handbook of Biblical Social Values (2000), Jerome Neyrey says,

The people in the bilbical world are dyadic. This means that individuals basically depend on others for thier sense of identity, for their understanding of their role and status in society, for clues to the duties and rights they have, and for indications of what is honorable and shameful behavior. Such people live in a world which is clearly and extensively ordered, a system which is well known to members of the group. Individuals quickly internalize this system and depend on it for needed clues to the way their world works. . . The tradition handed down by former members of the group is presumed valid and normative. . . Group orientation is clearly expressed in the importance given to authority. (p.94-7)

see also
- Bruce Malina & Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptics, and Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel on John.
- See also John Pilch, Jerome Neyrey, and David deSilva. The Context Group publications are listed here.

"And the stories about Jesus were nothing if not important. Even the Jesus Seminar admits that Jesus was an itinerant wonder-worker. Very well. Supposing a woman in a village is suddenly healed after a lengthy illness. Even today, even in a non-oral culture, the story of such an event would quickly spread among friends, neighbors and relatives, acquiring a fixed form within the first two or three retellings and retaining it, other things being equal, thereafter. In a culture where storytelling was and is an art-form, a memorable event such as this, especially if it were also seen as a sign that Israel's God was now at last at work to do what he had always promised, would be told at once in specific ways, told so as to be not just a celebration of a healing but also a celebration of the Kingdom of God. Events and stories of this order are community-forming, and the stories which form communities do not get freely or loosely adapted. One does not disturb the foundations of the house in which one is living."[B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998) p. 113-115.]

I agree with Johnson tha the fast pace and haphazard growth of Christian communities effected the way the story was told. That does not mean, however, that it just became a runaway mythology fest divorced from the truth of the original events. We can seek to understand in what ways the telling would be affected.

(1) The story began to be told in Greek, Johnson himself points this out. Greek would mean dissemination to a wider audience. Although it might also mean changes in the shades of meaning.

(2) The story would be written down. that would be a major change and it was intended to preserve the memory. The question is then, how much change was introduced in the totally oral period? I'm sure the oral period over lapped with the written period. They didn't all just stop the oral retransmitting on the day the first author wrote the first MS. But over several decades they no longer told things orally and the early documents such as Q were no longer reproduced when the canonical Gospels included the material with other things in an impressive compendium such as the Gospel of Luke. In the famous quotation from Papias, the one in which he mentions "Elder John," he says that he prefers to hear the human voice rather than read the words on paper. That tells me that at that point (early second century, maybe 120) there was still some oral tradition hanging on, bu that written sources had totally taken over as the primary source. Thus the overlap period was pretty long, probably about sixty years.

(3) Narratival form: combining sayings lists (which preceded narratival Gospels) with a story line made it easier to remember and created a context for the sayings; that form was probably born out of the needs of communities.

One thing we can be somewhat sure of is that one way in which the story was not effected was that it didn't change dramatically. We know this because there is just one story. There is only one version of the Jesus. Myths always proliferate into many versions, but everyone knew the basic storyline was factual and could not be changed.

What we need to keep in mind is the agreements, those things that all the communities included because they all agreed they were factual.

The four faces of Jesus

by Robert K. McIvern
(Ph.D biblical studies, Andrews U.)

college and University Dialogue

"Most significantly, all four Gospels share in the conviction that the most important thing to know about Jesus is the events surrounding His crucifixion, death, and resurrection. They all agree that the significance of the cross lay in who Jesus is, and that what happened there was the result of God’s will and not blind fate. All the Gospels note the link between the cross and the Passover, and that Jesus was crucified as king of the Jews, which is rather ironic, because the cross did in fact inaugurate the kingdom of God. Further, they all stress that Jesus was raised with a real body, and that the death and resurrection of Jesus provide the impetus for the missionary activity of the earliest (and latest) Christians. These concepts, and more, are shared by all four Gospels. Yet each has a distinctive view of Jesus."

As the communities became distinct their needs became distinct from one another. The Gospels were written, not as an attempt to set in stone a history that historians were researching, but as sermons to answer the needs of the community. The Gospels are more like sermons than history books.Cullman, (24)

"It must be noted that the needs of preaching, worship and teaching, more than biographical considerations, were what guided the early community when it wrote down the tradition of the life of Jesus. The apostles illustrated the truth of the faith they were preaching by describing the events in the life of Jesus. Their sermons are what caused the descriptions to be written down. The sayings of Jesus were transmitted, in particular, in the teaching of the catechism of the early Church."It would be a mistake to think that the situation was neat and controlled. The growth of the church was rapid, haphazard, and groups were breaking out all directions, as stated above. Under these conditions the Gospel material was less controlled.Luke Timothy Johnson,

I agree with Johnson. My argument is not that the oral tradition was controlled to such an extent that they were able to pass on word for word with no changes. My argument is, rather, that they controlled it enough to bring the basic story line to a point where everyone knew this is the way it was and no one could change it. But the actual details of the wording and the pericopes and sub plots were flexible and probalby do show some embellishment.Oral tradition is not just hazard rumors spreading at random.

Oral tradition is a carefully controlled process. The Jews understood how to learn the words of their teachers and preserve them just as they were spoken. All oral cultures understand how to control the process."No one is likely to deny that a tradition that is being handed on by word of mouth is likely to undergo modification. This is bound to happen, (Stephen Neil, London: University of Oxford Press, 1964, p.250)Neil adds in a fn: IT is precisely on this ground that Scandinavian scholar in an essay entitled "The Gospel Tradition and its Beginnings" (1957) has passed some rather severe strictures on the form cuticle method.See also ... Neil goes on to say that there is some "flexibility" in the transmission, but nothing that would change the basic facts or the thrust of the teaching otherwise, "But there is a vast difference between recognition of this kind of flexibility, of this kind of creative working of the community on existing traditions, and the idea that the community simply invented and read back into the life of Jesus things that he had never done, and words that he had never said. When carried to its extreme this method suggests that the community had far greater creative power than the Jesus of Nazareth, faith in whom had called the community into being."

Oral tradition in first-century Judaism was not uncontrolled as was/is often assumed, based on comparisons with non-Jewish models. (eds.), (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998):*Also, there wasn't an necessarily a long period of solely oral transmission as has been assumed:N. T. Wright, critiquing the Jesus Seminar's view of oral tradition as uncontrolled and informal based on some irrelevant research done in modern Western non-oral societies writes:"Against this whole line of thought we must set the serious study of genuinely oral traditions that has gone on in various quarters recently. [65] (p. 112-113)**In the (2000), Jerome Neyrey says,see also- Bruce Malina & Richard Rohrbaugh, - See also John Pilch, Jerome Neyrey, and David deSilva.

The Context Group publications are listed here.I agree with Johnson tha the fast pace and haphazard growth of Christian communities effected the way the story was told. That does not mean, however, that it just became a runaway mythology fest divorced from the truth of the original events. We can seek to understand in what ways the telling would be affected. Johnson himself points this out. Greek would mean dissemination to a wider audience. Although it might also mean changes in the shades of meaning. that would be a major change and it was tend to preserve the memory. The question is then, how much change was introduced in the totally oral period? I'm sure the oral period over lapped with the written period. They didn't all just stop the oral transition on the day the first writer wrote the first MS.

But over a couple of decades they no longer told things orally and the early documents such as Q were no longer reproduced when the canonical Gospels included the material with other things in an impressive compendium such as the Gospel of Luke. combining sayings lists (which preceded narrative Gospels) with a story line made it easier to remember and created a context for the sayings; that form was probably born out of the needs of communities.One thing we can be somewhat sure of is that one way in which the story was not effected was that it didn't change dramatically. We know this because there is just one story. There is only one version of the Jesus. Myths always proliferate into many versions, but everyone knew the basic storyline was factual and could not be changed.What we need to keep in mind is the agreements, those things that all the communities included because they all agreed they were factual.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gospel Authorship: Community as Author Part 1


Skeptics make much of the fact that there is no clear evidence as to who wrote the four Gospels. This argument is almost used as an excuse to virtually write the Gospels out of existence as authoritative historical documents. Most skeptics on the net assume that the Gospels offer nothing in terms of understanding the situation of the early church, much less the events depicted in their pages. But why should the lack of knowledge as to the authors present such a barrier to knowledge of other things? We do not have to know the exact identity of the authors, because the original material comes from the community itself. Scholars no longer look to one individual as the author of any of the Gospels; instead they see the Gospels as the product of a process in which the whole community was involved; oral history, original writing, redaction (see Luke Timothy Johnson, Early Christian Writtings)


March 7 1997, "researchers say Coptic Fragments reveal lot gospel"

UK (University of Kansas) public relations site

Sayings attributed to Jesus and other figures often use metaphors of fire, nearness and life in various combinations with other images, Mirecki said. "The question is not if these are the actual words of Jesus," Mirecki said. "That's a question that can never be answered, as even the biblical Gospels contain the teachings of diverse early communities rather than the direct teachings of Jesus. All such texts have gone through the interpretive filter of early Christian editors and scribes."

Of course we have no records of those communities, no documents such as membership roles, but we can make some educated conjectures as to the character of those groups, and thus peice together an idea of the kinds of communities and what is meant when we speak of "the community as author." The upshot is that these communities, school/communizes, contained eye witnesses who bore witness to the original events of Jesus ministry and who could have check mistakes and embellishments upon the story.

I.Nature of Community

What do we mean by "community?" Surely most the early Christians lived near each other in Jerusalem. Do we mean a close nit village? Or do we mean in our modern sense of a loose collection of people who agree on something, such as the "beer drinking community" which has nothing to do with where they live? In the sense in which I use this term it is meant to imply a closely knit group, those who live in close proximity, who cares good in common, who perhaps live as a community almost like hippies in the 1960s; but in any case a group of people who live near one another, share wealth, work, hardship and belief. A grope close knit enough that they could expel those who did not agree, or who would not give in to the community rule.

The early believers formed such a community in Jerusalem, the embryonic Jerusalem church, is exclitply stated in the book of Acts.

Acts 2:42-47

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. 43 Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. 46 And every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added those being saved to them.

To this communal like setting the Apostles added teaching about the events of Jesus ministry and his resurrection.

Acts 4:32-37

32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles' feet. This was then distributed to each person as anyone had a need. 36 Joseph, who was named by the apostles Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, 37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

Who were the people in the community? It's clear from Luke's Account of the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) that people form all over the known world heard the message. But many of them were no doubt form Jerusalem. we have a clue in the book of Luke, the final chapter, and the first Chapter of Acts where we see the fledgling community form. It is quite probable that they were made up of both disciples already following Jesus at the time of the crucification/resurrection, and the community of Bethany. The whole community of Bethany had the opportunity to become eye witnesses, and these probably make up the 500 that Paul mentions. Skeptics always ask who were the 500, this is who they were, they were the community of Bethany.

II.Eyewitness in Community

In the final chapter of Luke (24) two deiciples are walking toward the town of Emmaus, Jesus joins them but they do not recognize him. One, name Cleopus, has been thought by some to be a cousin of Jesus,' but be that as it may, they were apparently disciples because latter they realize it was him, so they do eventually recognize him. After that point they go find the eleven in Jerusalem and Jesus appears to them all while they relate the story. Then all of them march out to Bethany. why they are going to Bethany we don't know, but it was the home of the little family of Lazarus, Mary of Bethany and Martha who were Jesus' friends. So perhaps he was going to say good-bye. It is from that point that he ascends into the heavens and is gone. An angel comes and says he will return in the same the same way. The curious thing is, as they leave to walk to Bethany, there are 14 of them, the eleven, the two men (Clops and friend) and Jesus. When they get back there are 120.

Acts 1:12-15

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olive Grove, which is near Jerusalem--a Sabbath day's journey away. 13 When they arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 All these were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers. 15 During these days Peter stood up among the brothers--the number of people who were together was about 120--

Of course all 120 could have been with the Apostles before they walked through the streets of Bethany.

Luke 24:33-52

33 That very hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and those with them gathered together, 34 who said, "The Lord has certainly been raised, and has appeared to Simon!" 35 Then they began to describe what had happened on the road, and how He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. 36 And as they were saying these things, He Himself stood among them. He said to them, "Peace to you!" 37 But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. 38 "Why are you troubled?" He asked them. "And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself! Touch Me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." 40 Having said this, He showed them His hands and feet. 41 But while they still could not believe for joy, and were amazed, He asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, 43 and He took it and ate in their presence. 44 Then He told them, "These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 He also said to them, "This is what is written: the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47 and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And look, I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high."

50 Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. 51 And while He was blessing them, He left them and was carried up into heaven. 52 After worshiping Him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they were continually in the temple complex

The point is, there were a large group of eye witnesses already with the Apostles who formed the basic community. It is these same people who were together on the day of Pentecost, just a few days hense, who were overcome by the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, who started the church, who made up the first Christian community. As we see, Jesus led them through the streets of Bethany,as the risen Christ, and was transmogrified into heaven in front of all, thus making the entire community of Bethany a witness. We can only surmise that people saw him, but as they were not in their homes wathcing tv they probably did, that is very likely.

Of cousre it could be that a few more, such as Jesus mother (who we are told was there in Acts 1) were there and not mentoined with the 11, but who were all the others?

Quite probaly these others were picked up as walked to and from Bethany, after all they had to walk through the street. So the whole community of Bethany saw them, they were all witnesses. So all the people of Bethany could then testify to the fact tha they saw Jesus alive again, they saw him to up to heaven, they saw an angel come and promise his return.

Is Luke Reliable?

Of cousre skeptics will argue that Acts is the New Testament and the NT can't verify itself, so we cant' use it as evidence. Of course this si stupid, because any document can tell us something about itself. It can tell us about who wrote it, how they thought, what they believed and what conditions were like when they wrote. Luke is very well known for his god historicism. He includes the place names of obscure places, and the names of magistrates not known to exist otherwise, but whom archeology has borne out. He gets the titles of the magistrates right which is a small but important detail, because it is usually one of the things that those not on the scene get wrong.

Moreover, the author of Acts has no idea about a community as author argument. He could not have designed the narrative with this in mind. Of course he might have exaggerated to put all the eye witnesses in one place. But it only makes sense that among the first community would be those whom first heard Jesus preached and who followed him, and the first to hear stories of the risen Christ.

This would explain why there is only one version of the story. Myth always proliferates. There are two versions of Hercules death, about 14 versions of Inanna and Tamuz but only one Jesus story.Why? because the facts were known from the eairlest period and the eye witnesses helped to keep them straight. It's also becasue the peroid of eye witness oral transmission was only about 18 years.

the group that produced the Gospel of John calimed eye witnesses among them:

1 John 1:1"What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed, and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life."

Group Proliferation

This initial group which was together after the ascension became the same group together on Pentecost and thus started the original Christian community which was filled with eye witnesses. The first chapter of Acts ends with that same group of 120 praying. The Second chapter beings "2:1 When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place." From the day of Pentecost on they become the original church. So the original church was full of eye witnesses. It was these people who passed on the

Obviously these people did all sit with pen in hand to write the actual first draft of each Gospel, but they did form the basis of the story telling mechanism which passed the story on from one person to another. They were available to check the story if it got off track. Now that means if some tried to change the outline of the story, the whole group has 120 eye witnesses who could say "no, we saw him risen, we saw him ascent into heaven." This doesn't mean, of course, that we can prove every miracle or every event, but it means that we can trust the Gospels for the basic outline of the story. That's why there is only one essential story of Jesus, and there are no competing versions where he dies in other ways and in other places.

The communities multiplied, the fragmented and become multiple communities. The original community spread itself out and the growth of the movement was hap hazard. But we can see the likelihood of witnesses in other communities.

L.T. Johnson (The Writtings of the New TestamentFortress Press 1986)

"Christianity was a movement of Social groups. The social setting for the tradition is intrinsic to the nature of the movement. Acts shows how rapidly the message spread across vast geographic areas. Within seven or eight years separate communities existed in Jerusalem,Judea, Sameria, and Syria. In 20 years there were communities in Cyprus and Asia Minor; after twenty five years communities flourished throughout Macedonia, Achia, possibly Dalmatia.Thirty years after Jesus as killed there was a Christian community in Rome."(117)

Probably each one of the four Gospel represents a community. The original group that went to Bethany that day formed the basic core of the oral tradition. By AD50, just 18 years latter, there were many communities, there was a proto-Gospel being circulated which included the empty tomb story (see Koster--Ancient Christian Gospels) and by AD 70 there was a Gospel of Mark beging to circulate, and this Gosple would be fragmented into more than one version. By the end of the century the basic outline and structure of the Gospels were set in stone.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Limits of Science part 3: Things Fall Through the Cracks


True empirical evidence in a philosophical sense means exact first hand observation. In science it doesn't really mean that, it implies a more truncated process. Consider this, we drop two balls of different size from a tower. Do they fall the same rate or the bigger one falls faster? They are supposed to fall at the same rate, of course. To say we have empirical proof, in the literal sense of the term we would have to observe every single time two balls are dropped for as long as the tower exists. We would have to sit for thousands of years and observe millions of drops and then we couldn't say it was truly in an empirical sense because we might have missed one. That's impractical for science to do this so we cheat with inductive reasoning. We make assumptions of probability. We say we observed this 40,000 times, and it worked the same way every single time. That's a tight correlation, so we will assume there is regularity in the universe that causes it to work this way every time. We make a statistical correlation. Like the surgeon general saying that smoking causes cancer. The tobacco companies were really right, they read their Hume, and there was no observation of cause and effect, because we never observe cause and effect. The correlation, however, was so tight we assume cause and effect. Empirical scientific observation covers the unobserved instances with probability based upon tight correlation that allows things to fall through the cracks. For example, on average most men are stronger than most women. There are women, however, who can lift a lot more weight than I can, women who make me look weak, and they are probably not hard to find. We make assumptions and then construct standardized tests to measure our assumptions. If one of those assumptions is that intelligence means the ability to work math, there can be intelligent people who for one reason or another have trouble with math. Someone might be better at philosophy or history than a mathematician and not be good in math. The standardized test will say the mathematician is smart and the historian isn’t. Things are always going to fall through the cracks.
            The ultimate example is Hume's billiard balls. Hume says we do not see the cause of the ball being made to move, we only really see one ball stop and the other start. But this happens every time we watch, so we assume that the tight correlation gives us causality. The naturalistic metaphysician assumes that all of nature works this way. A tight correlation is as good as a cause. So when we observe only naturalistic causes we can assume there is nothing beyond naturalism. The problem is many phenomena can fall between the cracks. One might go one's whole life never seeing a miraculous event, but that doesn't mean someone else doesn't observe such things. All the atheist can say is "I have never seen this" but I can say "I have." Yet the atheist lives in a construct that is made up of his assumptions about naturalistic cause and effect, and it excludes anything that challenges this assumption. So this constructed view of the world that is made out of assumption and probabilities misses a lot of experience that people do have that contradicts the paradigm of naturalism. The thing is, to make that construct they must use logic. After all what they are doing in making the correlation is merely inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning has to play off of deductive reasoning to even make sense. Ultimately then, "empiricism" as construed by naturalist (inductive probabilistic assumptions building constructs to form a world view) is inadequate because it is merely a construct and rules out a prori much that contradicts.

Other realms
Consciousness—dualism in a new package
Lourdes miracles

            The Question of other realms is a good test for the limits of science. Up to this point in human history science had no way to tell if there were other realms or not. For most of the life of modern science the idea of other realms, conjuring in the popular mind images of heaven, hell, Dante’s Inferno, and Superman’s Phantom zone were a laughing stock. With the advent of the twentieth century, relativity, Quantum theory and a lot of other physics, other realms have not only become fashionable they are basically mandatory. Atheists treat the idea of a multi-verse as though it’s a proven fact when in reality there’s no empirical evidence for it at all. There are now physicists making noises about maybe having the first hint of proof, maybe we are in a position begin real systematic study of the question, but as it stands now there is no actual proof that all scientists are willing to accept as fact at the moment. The question of other realms is all tangled up in the popular mind be it atheist or believer with the fear that God will be proved and the hope that God will disproved. This removes most atheists from the sphere of the objective status the prize so highly. There are disinterested scientists working on the question who seek pure knowledge (if they aren’t human). David Detsch, an Oxford Physicist, claims to have proved mathematically that the multiverse is “the only explanation for the nature of reality.”[i] National Geographic has reported:

"Dark flow" is no fluke, suggests a new study that strengthens the case for unknown, unseen "structures" lurking on the outskirts of creation. In 2008 scientists reported the discovery of hundreds of galaxy clusters streaming in the same direction at more than 2.2 million miles (3.6 million kilometers) an hour. This mysterious motion can't be explained by current models for distribution of mass in the universe. So the researchers made the controversial suggestion that the clusters are being tugged on by the gravity of matter outside the known universe.Now the same team has found that the dark flow extends even deeper into the universe than previously reported: out to at least 2.5 billion light-years from Earth.After using two additional years' worth of data and tracking twice the number of galaxy clusters, "we clearly see the flow, we clearly see it pointing in the same direction," said study leader Alexander Kashlinsky, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.[ii]

We are all being sucked toward some opening or other leading to this multiverse, the collection of parallel worlds. Of course with such an amazing claim such scanty evidence it’s easy to over look the fact that we have no empirical evidence at all to validate it. The observation galaxy cultures heading off in the same directing is empirical in a scientific sense (although not the philosophical sense) the problem is it just doesn’t tell us what’s doing it. It’s all fine and good to say “it doesn’t’ conform to any known model” but what’s the real cash value as proof of multiverse? It could just as easily be a an astronomical feature that doesn’t conform to a known mode but isn’t a multiverse. Its one thing to say “no known model” another to say ‘we are really working hard at coming up with another model that it could be instead.’ It’s probably not a giant handkerchief or a turtle that’s about we can say about it. 
            While we should not doubt that the search for mulitverse is undertaken from the standpoint of the human drive for pure knowledge, there is a very obvious cash pay off in terms of atheist apologetics and it’s pretty clear this is in the minds of many who do the “pure” scientific research. Discover magazine does a spread on what is at the moment Hawking’s new book, it talks about “M theory” and it relates to physics, adding this:

STEPHEN HAWKING'S new book The Grand Design sparked a furore over whether physics can be used to disprove the existence of God. But few have noted that the idea at the core of the book, M-theory, is the subject of an ongoing scientific debate – specifically over the very aspect of the theory that might scrap the need for a divine creator. That the laws of nature in our universe are finely tuned for life seems miraculous, leading some to invoke divine involvement. But if there is a multiverse out there – a multitude of universes, each with its own laws of physics – then the conditions we observe may not be unique.[iii]

The article in which this appears is entitled “M-Theory, Doubts Linker over Godless Multipverse.”[iv] This doesn’t mean they don’t have pure scientific motives, but everyone who studies the issue, from the top physicists to the science beat reporters to the average aficionado who buys the magazine, they all understand the relationship to the issue of God’s existence. That doesn’t mean the scientists are cooking up the theory to thwart religious believers, but they do know they on whose toes they are stepping. Why are they talking about God to begin with? It’s totally out of their domain.
            Not all physicists are convinced either. Peter Woit is a mathematical physicist at Columbia University, he’s not a joiner. Woit has authored a booked entitled Not Even Wrong (a phrase by Wolfgang Pauli that became an  inside joke among physicists meaning so bad it’s not even wrong) in which he argues that there is no proof of string theory. What does string theory have to do with this? M-theory and string theory are both important to the hunt for a unified theory that will tie everything together and explain everything. Hawking identifies M-theory with the grand unified theory, according to Woit it is the super symmetrical theory of gravity.[v] String theory, according to Woit is:

a very complex set of ideas that lots of people, a very large amount of people have worked on and have done a lot of different things with. Probably what it's best known for and what got people all excited about it in the physicist community is the conjecture that, at the most fundamental level, you can understand matter and the universe in terms not of point particles, which is the way our best theory is, currently, you can understand things, but in terms of, if you like, vibrating in loops of some elementary objects here, your elementary object instead of being a point-like thing is something you should think of more as a one dimensional loop, or a string which is kind of moving around.[vi]

These are not exactly the same things but they are very related. Woit writes his book about the inadequate proof for string theory, but in his article about Hawking’s soon to be released book he shows the inadequacy of M-theory. Grand unfied theory is not some attempt to disprove God, it’s a much more purely scientific quest for knowledge. It centers on the basic need science has to explain everything. Woit talks about the beautify of the standard model and how successful its been but it doesn’t explain everything. There are many open questions it does not answer, such as why do different kinds of particles have different masses.[vii] This is a purely scientific question but as the origin of religions got tangaled up with attempts to explain the natural world, so pure attempts at doing modern science are always tanagled up with the need to answer the question of God; or to deny the question of God as the case may be.[viii]  As for the proof of string theory:

Question: Will string theory ever be verifiable or unverifiable?
Peter Woit: Yeah, well as I said, String Theory is actually a very complicated story. If you start out with this hypothesis that maybe your ephemeral objects are not points, but are these strings, there's a lot of different things you can try and do that you have a whole different class of theories you can play with. So, I think a lot of - if you look at what most people, who are still going String Theory are doing, they're actually not directly trying to develop this unified theory anymore. They're off doing other things with String Theory. People these days are trying to apply it to problems in nuclear physics; they're applying it to problems in Solid State Physics, understanding super conductors. So, the people who are still interested in it are often kind of - even if they may or may not explicitly admit that they've given up on the unified theory idea, but they're often doing other things. So, there's a very active pursuit of String theory with other applications that don't have anything to do with unification.
It's also turned out to be very interesting in mathematics. There's a very, one of the things that I'm most interested in is the intersection between mathematics and physics and the way the two fields affect each other and ideas from physics lead to very interesting things about mathematics, ideas in mathematics get used in …physics. And String Theory has been very, very fruitful in terms of raising questions which have led to very interesting mathematics. So, there's a very active field of research kind of in between math and physics in String Theory. But it just doesn't seem to be relevant to this question of unification.[ix]

            As for the proof of M theory, the new Hawking book is a very interesting case of public relations over science. Woit comments on the book n his blog “Not Even Wrong.” He quotes Hawking in a full reversal of this question forr grand unified theory. The publishers focused upon the shcok of “brilliant major scientist gives up on God” but the publicity guys forgot to point out that he’s actually giving up on is his replacement for God. Woit quotes Hawking thirty years ago when he said “we are quite close to a final unified theory.”[x] He quotes him in the new book where he says “we seem to be at a critical point in the history of science

We seem to be at a critical point in the history of science, in which we must alter our conception of goals and of what makes a physical theory acceptable. It appears that the fundamental numbers, and even the form, of the apparent laws of nature are not demanded by logic or physical principle. The parameters are free to take on many values and the laws to take on any form that leads to a self-consistent mathematical theory, and they do take on different values and different forms in different universes.[xi]

In other words, he’s giving up on grand unified theory because it can’t square with logic or the laws of physics. On the other hand we can set parameters in any number of ways (he means ignore logic and physical law) the math can be self consistent. That is to say it works on paper but we can’t really prove it. Above I showed that he left gravity as the way out through the back door, gravity replaces his organizing principle of grand unified theory which he previously called “the mind of God.”[xii] One wonders which “god” did he really give up on, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in whom he did not believe in the first place, or the grand unified theory God? Woit Quotes him as saying in the Grand Design that it may not be possible to decipher the nature of M-theory: “People are still trying to decipher the nature of M-theory, but that may not be possible. It could be that the physicist’s traditional expectation of a single theory of nature is untenable, and there exists no single formulation. It might be that to describe the universe, we have to employ different theories in different situations.”[xiii] Woit points out that M-theory doesn’t meet the basic criteria Hawking sets forth for a successful theory:
A good model:
1. Is elegant
2. Contains few arbitrary or adjustable elements
3. Agrees with and explains all existing observations
4. Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out.
The fact that “M-theory” satisfies none of these criteria is not remarked upon.[xiv]

            What is falling between the cracks here, apart from proof for the theory? The whole scientific community seems not to even be waiting for the eggs to hatch, they have not yet been laid, they are just thought about. Suppose they do prove the theory of everything, suppose they do prove a mutliverse exists, does this actually disprove God? The only God it could disprove would be the big guy in the sky; It would only be differing examples of being and thus the fact that more more examples of being have been found would hardly disprove the ground of all being. Moreover it would not even disprove the guy in the sky, as there would still have to be some sort of explanation for a first cause for the mulitverse. Where did gravity come from? Where did the laws of physics that makes the multiverse come form? Why do these disembodied laws seem to work? No doubt they would have to repair to a infinite causal regression. This is something real science has not done in relation to the question of world. They have provided the ability to understand the concept, but they don’t actually say “this is a  scientific fact.” Why would they say that for the mutliverse? What about the ability of plantes in the multiverse to bear life? Wouldn’t we have to actually go there to see if they do? Unless we have empirical proof that many parallel planets actually do bear life the existence of a mulitiverse of barren gracious planet is not disproof of the fine tuning argument. Of course let us not forget all of this assumes we argue for a guy in the sky anyway. People are assuming that a mulitverse would have the same laws of phsyics and thus would produce life as our universe has, but that is not an assumption Hawking makes. As already quoted above: “The parameters are free to take on many values and the laws to take on any form that leads to a self-consistent mathematical theory, and they do take on different values and different forms in different universes..” (see FN 27 above). In other words, all the other universes could have different laws of physics and all of those laws of physics could produce a bunch of empty rocks or bags of gas as planets and no life. But all of these possibilities slip between the cracks. The way induction works we make statistical averages, since the only concrete data we have to go by is us, we just average in the factor of live instead of ruling it out, and we assume a godless universe teaming with life.
            Another idea lost between the cracks is an answer to Deutch (above) who says that the Mv is offers the only explanation for the nature of reality. The problem is that is only because they are not willing to a possibility that reality si beyond our ability to understand. They can’t really accept that even if it’s true because it would mean there’s an absolute limit on their mission as scientists. As scientists their basic assumption is they have to keep going until they know it all, at least in terms of the physical world. For other matters they rule that out a prori because it’s not part of the mission. So when he says the Mv theory is the only one that explains reality, the unspoken obvious caveat is, “without becoming a mystic or philosopher.” At this pinot naturalism becomes circular reasoning. Mysticism and philosophy are ruled out because they require one to go beyond naturalism. The assumption is made that only science can prove absolutely in concrete terms what it postulates. The problem is it’s already ruled out other view points, not on concrete terms but because they aren’t’ in its domain. Well, the fact is the theory of everything is not proved, so it can’t be that we are ruling out mysticism on the basis of scientific proof against it! Another possibility that’s ruled out is that even with a naturalistic universe it may not be possible to have a theory of everything. That is also ruled out on ideological grounds, this point will be driven home all the more since Hawking has admitted it.

            Miracles are a good example of things falling between the cracks. Miracles are a very difficult thing to discuss. There are many modern academics who will run in dread at the mention of the term, but that serves to prove my point all the better. Miracles, while they are extremely difficult to prove, are not banned from reality from modern thinking because they have been proved false, the methods used to keep them out, both by creating such amazing prejudice that no one will listen, and by circular reasoning which fallaciously makes them out to be false a priori, these methods are merely the enforcement of a truth regime not indicative of scientific discover. Time and space does not permit a discussion that would truly do this complex subject justice, I shall hit upon some of the scarce highlights. The object here is only to prove, not that miracles happen, but that if miracles did happen their exclusion would be based entirely upon falling through the cracks in the web of naturalism. Or to put it another way, the point is to prove that the exclusion of miracles is not a scientific fact but an ideological protocol. Atheists and skeptics often assume that this kind of talk is motivated by creationist assumptions, and they construe it as an attack upon science. I am not a creationist! This is not an attack upon science; it’s an attack upon the ideology that accompanies science, the doppelganger of science to speak. Atheists assume science is an arm of atheism. Scientists assume they are neutral and no concerned, as scientists, with sectarian matters. Many scientists have their opinions about religious belief and thus they might be gung ho on the ideology that accompanies science as anyone. Science is a human endeavor it cannot be divorced from human motivations in practice. In terms of pure science itself it’s a great and wonderful thing. I would be the last person who wants to put the kybosh on scientific thinking. Nor do I construe scientific thinking as privileging the Bible. As a theologian I privilege the Bible, not as a scientific thinker. I don not call myself a “scientist.” The closest I come to scientific thinking is as a historian of science, in which I was trained at Ph.D. level. There is a distinction between a scientist and historian of science. While I refrain from calling myself that out respect for those who are truly trained academically in the actual pursuit of scientific learning, not out of any disregard for science, I am not exactly unaware of scientific thinking.
            Miracles would be impossible to disprove scientifically. To say that miracles are disproved one would have to disprove all reports; there could always be a report somewhere that hasn’t been disproved. In order to get around these problem naturalists just make an abstract extrapolation based upon induction. We fail to observe miracles in any occasion that we know of and thus we can extrapolate to all of reality. On the other hand, this is the formula for things falling through cracks. It means that some miracle could happen and because it didn’t make it into the reports that science has considered then it’s assumed not to be true. This is even significant than an instance of some drug working or smoking not causing cancer in a few cases, because such things will always be ruled out as anomalies. A true miracle has to involve God (to be a true miracle) and thus if it could be proved to be a true miracle would prove that God is real. Thus that one miracle could happen and fall though the cracks would be very significant. As it so happens there is a great deal of evidence for miracles. The problem is the crack falling process is made even worse because the naturalists take the lack of proved miracles as proof that they don’t happen. It then asserts that further evidence must be false because “there is no evidence.” So even when good evidence exists and is proved it’s ignored. The thing that makes it easy to ignore is that there is and always will be an epistemological gap (this goes back to what I said at the first of the chapter) that science can’t penetrate. Unfortunately, faith can’t penetrate it either. We will always have this gap; it’s the chiasm over which one must make a leap of faith. We can’t observe an event and know by looking if God did it or not. A woman has a broken leg. We x-ray it and see clearly it is broken. We pray for her leg and x-ray it five minutes latter and it’s not broken anymore. The believer will say “the prayer was answered.” The skeptic will say “It was an ‘atypical healing process’ but there’s no proof God did it.” They both have their points. In such a situation the failure to prove God’s involvement is not disproof of a miracle. On the other hand, in a situation like the one described there’s a huge probability argument the believer can make to back up the assumption of a miracle. That assumption would immediately ignored by the skeptic on the grounds of all the other examples where the proof has been ignored. There is no way to overcome the epistemic gap, except by a leap of faith. The gap could be made more easily traversable by a really good platform from which to leap, that’s where arguments come in. Science can’t really ever say “this is not a miracle” because that is beyond its domain. What it can say is “this outstrips our ability to determine the naturalistic reasons for it.” The only thing the believer can say is the very same thing. So there is always going to be a epistemic gap that must be bridged by a leap of faith.
            The absolute best evidence for miracles is the Catholic miracles committee attached to the miracles of Lourdes. The miracles committee operates with the strictest rules in the world for miracle hunters.

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?"[xv]

I will not go into any detail about the development of rules which is very complex and a rich history in itself. After 1977 the following list became opporational:

1) The diagnostics and authenticity of the disease has been preliminarily and perfectly assessed;

2) The prognosis provides for an impending or short-term fatal outcome;

3) The recovery is sudden, without convalesce, and absolutely complete and final;

4) The prescribed treatment cannot be deemed to have resulted in a recovery or in any case could have been propitiatory for the purposes of recovery itself. These criteria are still in use nowadays, in view of their highly logical, accurate and pertinent nature.[xvi]

This is in addition to very rigorous rules Author: Cardinal Prospero Lambertini,
future Pope Benedict XIV, 1734. The committee requires the finest modern diagnostics and they much receive the records from the patients
doctor. They control for remission, for this reason do not accept leukemia cures unless the person has been cured for ten years (because remission often go back). The committee is made up of medical experts, they use skeptics on the committee as well. The town doesn’t own or control the committee and has no role in the process. The theological issues and input of church hierarchy only go to work on cases passed to them by the medicos.
            These arrangements are so rigorous that out of thousands of miracle claims only about 65 have been accepted as official miracles. They also have 2,500 “remarkable” claims[xvii] that are inexplicable but don’t make the cut due to technical problems in documenting or something of that nature.[xviii] There’s good reason to think a miracle might have occurred somewhere in all of this. There is reason to understand it as a miracle, an event unexplained connected to the divine and guided by the divine for purpose of getting human attention. The only factor that isn’t nailed down with medical documentation and adds to any potential change in the satiation is prayer. The length of time between the healing and the prayer is so short the two can clearly be connected. That leaves a lot of room for gaps in cases where the process is not submitted to the Lourdes committee. In other words who really can say that God would not take a long time to answer a prayer for healing? That rules all those cases and make the epistemic gap even greater, but it is entirely possible miracles could be overlooked all the time.

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).[xix]

This is nothing for a skeptic to deny. Skeptics can always deny. There is no trick to denial, one can deny anything. The point is any or all of these cases could well be miracles. Here are examples of some of the cases:[xx]

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 Fréjus-Toulon, France on 8 December 1953.

Brother Schwager Léo
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 Bély
9 October 1987
age 51; French multiple sclerosis; recognized by the diocese of Angoulême on 9 February 1999  

            There are any number of reasons why these would fall through the cracks. One of them main reasons is because they are Catholic. They are not the work of official medical academic entities, although they certainly make use of medical experts and scientific data. The official channels of the academy are important. There good logical reasons why we couldn’t trust information if it had no connection with outside sources. On the other hand, skeptics will merely demand that it has to be a lie if it has any connection with a religious institution and then it’s down between the cracks. There may be logical reasons to be couscous but the point is if something falls between the cracks of the world view, the truth regime the ideology in question whatever that may be, science is not in the business of excavating the cracks and it would take remarkable effort to even admit there can be cracks. What the existence of cracks the potential for any sort of epistemic question or ontological reality to fall between them proves is that science is limited, science is human observation, and science is not all knowing. These limitations of science and the propensity to fall between the cracks is a good indication that questions like the question of God are not scientific questions. Saying God is not a scientific question does not mean that God is not a valid belief or that there’s no reason to believe in God. What not being a scientific question means is that we have to use other methods to seek God. Perhaps we should try the method that God seems to have indicated he should try, the human “heart,” meaning the deepest recess of our consciousness, the part of ourselves that is capable of wonder, of desire, of making commitments.

[i] Susan Barber, “A Physicist Explores The Mulitpverse: Quantum Computer Predict Parallel Worlds,”  Electrinic Magazine: The Spirit of Ma’at. Vol 2 number 2. URL: visited 9/13/10.
[ii] John Roach, National Geographic Daily News, online for National Geogrphaic News, (March 22), 2010, URL:, visited 9/13/10.
[iii] Kate McAlpine, “M-Theory: Ddoubts Linger Over Godless Universe,” New Scientist, (14 September) 2010 Magine isse 2778 URL: visited 9/13/2010.
[iv] Ibid
[v] Stephen Hawking and Peter Woit, bouth statements on Woit’s blog, “Not Even Wrong” 9/7/2010 URL: visited 9/13/2010.
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Peter Woit, Interview, “Is Sting Theory Stringing us Along?” Big Think Electronic magazine. (Jan 18) 2010. URL: visited 9/18/2010
[viii] J.L. Hinman, the Trace of God, op cit, chapter 3, “Aguments.” The origin of religion is the sense of the numinous, the human sense that there is some form of holiness or unified nature ot reality, something beyond our understanding that makes reality special. The Atheist assertion that religion was invented to explain nature is really based upon their need to explain nature, once religion became part of human consciousness human naturally looked to it for all answers, but that doesn’t mean that was it’s origin. I draw an analogy between that origin of religion and it’s relation to primitive science, and modern science and It’s tangential nature of questions of God.
[ix] Woit Interview, Ibid.
[x] Woit paraphrasing Hawking, Ibid.
[xi] Ibid.
[xii] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time. New York: Random House, 1991, 185. “if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we would know the mind of God.”
[xiii] Ibid
[xiv] Ibid.
[xv] David Van Biema, and Greg Burke, “Modern Miracles Have Strict Rules,” Time Magazine on line. April 10, 1995. URL:,9171,982807,00.html
[xvi] Franco Balzaretti Vice Presidente Nazionale - Associazione Medici Cattolici Italiani (AMCI)
Membre du Comité Médical International de Lourdes (CMIL) Online Chatolic Newsletter Leadership Medica 2000. visited
[xvii] Marian Library Newsletter, No 38, (new series) 1999, the original quotation is form Nov, 17,1988. URL: visited 9/17/2010.
[xviii] Balzaretti, Ibid
[xix] Marian Library Newsletter, Ibid.
[xx] Patron Saints Index Lourdes cures. Website URL: visited 9/17/2010. More detailed information available @ Our Lady of Lourdes, another website, URL: visited 9/17/2010