Monday, October 28, 2013

Is Science one Gene away From Defeating Religion?

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Colin Blakemore (Neuroscience, Oxford) argues that Science is just one gene away from defeating religion.[1] Despite his great advancement in that scientific field he demonstrates a very callow understanding of religion. Thus we must once again assume that is just another case of the golden ghetto. Or perhaps the ivory ghetto. A very advanced person in a scientific field is not necessarily qualified to apply scinece to religion. This post modern age reveals more and more the tower similarities between culture and the tower of Babel story.

Blakemore reveals in his opening paragraph that he says the relationship bewteen religion and science as "a ches match." It's adversarial, it's a combat. Thus advances in science are automatically viewed as detraction for religion. He intimates this when he says that the discoveries of Watson and Crick were a defeat for religion because previously life was a mystery that implied spiritual magic. So this guy is not on bard with understanding religion in modern terms. He wants to see it as some long ago thing that scinece is beating up on. This is obviously ideological. Just the frame in which he views the topic is an ideological framework.

 What really strikes me as amaturish in Blakemore's thinking is his assertion that Darwin destoryed the reason to believe in God:

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was certainly a vital move in that chess game - if not checkmate. In an interview for God and the Scientists, to be broadcast tonight in Channel 4's series on Christianity, Richard Dawkins declares: "Darwin removed the main argument for God's existence."[2]
 Of course it's Dawkins that prompted him to think this way. He admits that wasn't Darwin's intention. He's probably thinking religion means fundamentalism, inerrancy, conservative views.

 Science has rampaged over the landscape of divine explanation, provoking denial or surrender from the church. Christian leaders, even the Catholic church, have reluctantly accommodated the discoveries of scientists, with the odd burning at the stake and excommunication along the way.[3]
 He defines anything that is a scientific advancement as a victory over religion weather it disproves anything or not. He barely hides his utter contempt for relgion:

The process of Christian accommodation is a bit like the fate of fieldmice confronted by a combine harvester, continuously retreating into the shrinking patch of uncut wheat.
Ten days ago, on Darwin's birthday, Richard Dawkins, Archbishop of Atheism, and Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford, conducted a public conversation in the Oxford University Museum, where Bishop Sam Wilberforce and Darwin's champion, Thomas Henry Huxley, had debated Darwin's ideas in 1860. The two Richards were more civilised. But inevitably, Richard H claimed for religion a territory that science can never invade, a totally safe sanctuary for Christian fieldmice. Science is brilliant at questions that start "how", but religion is the only approach to questions that start "why". Throughout history, human beings have asked those difficult "why" questions.[4]

I am sure the Christian filed mice are snug in their pretend sanctuary where they refuse to worship scinece as he does. Does he ever actually get down to business about the genetic thing? His segway is that he tires to connect the universality of religion to the universality of language. Language is genetic and universe. so therefore the universal nature of religion must also be due to genetics.[5] That does not follow logically, it's a argument from sign. It doesn't follow scientifically either but we will check in on that in a minute. The problem with the argument he's setting up is that it's a straight assumption that God can't work through genetics. Any religion gene is a disproof of God becuase it removes the only reasons to believe in God, which according to him seems to be unexplained naturalistic phenomena. The only kind of God he can figure out people believe in is the God of the gaps. In other words he's never read a major theologian and he has no sophistication in dealing with religion.

Now he recognizes the obvious answer as being that God can use genes. Yet he has an answer for this. We are social animals. We feel that we are in charge of our actions but more and more those who study the brain are coming to believe that we are not. Which in fact is a Non sequitur because it doesn't answer the issue of genes as a disproof of God or arguemnt from sign. But Blakemore's reticense is incapsulated in the final paragraph of his article:
I'm dubious about those "why" questions: why are we here? Why do we have a sense of right and wrong? Either they make no sense or they can be recast as the kind of "how" questions that science answers so well.
When we understand how our brains generate religious ideas, and what the Darwinian adaptive value of such brain processes is, what will be left for religion?[6]
So He's admitted that he doesn't' understand the basis for religious thinking but we are still supposed to assume he's right about it being disproved by these things that he can't prove are disproofs? The basic argument appears to be that if there's a gene for religion then our religious ideas are coming from genes, we have choice in thinking of them, that's supposed to disprove God. Actually I think it proves a Calvinistic God pretty well. With Calvin we are predestined. That would fit the bit about we don't think up our own ideas. Again the atheist/scientism agenda fails to offer real disproof. All if offers is another stab at deflating the fundamentalist view of God.

Science reporter Nicholas Wade offers insight into the real arguments for genetically based religion. The basic argument is the evolutionary nature of religion. Religion begins in the preparative states of humanity and grows up with the species become more sophisticated and various junctures from simple agricultural dances and decoration sophisticated astronomical observations.[7] So the advocates of the gentic basis for religion are making ideological assumptions about the nature of social evolution. They are assuming that all behavior is genetic and anything that becomes more complex with man must be the result of genes. That's still arguemnt from sign. No real proof exists for that view it's only tenable if you are a determinist. Moreover it's not really a disproof of God in any way.

Isn't there some science magic that you work in a laboratory wearing a white coat and you look into a test tube and it turns blue and you "yes it's evil reilgion gene alright." No that is not. It's far too complex to do that. It's all about theorizing and the theories for religious gene are largely concocted by people who want to destroy religion, such evolutionary psychology adherents.Dean Hamer tries to make an argument for God gene identifying a specific gene, VMAT2;[8]  There has been stiff scientific criticism of this claim even from people who one would think would support it. Atheist guru P.Z. Myers (who is a big named biologist) rejects it on the grounds that VMAT2 is just  "...a pump. A teeny-tiny pump responsible for packaging a neurotransmitter for export during brain activity. Yes, it's important, and it may even be active and necessary during higher order processing, like religious thought. But one thing it isn't is a 'god gene." [9]

There are two basic counter arguments that take care of this assumption about a religion gene:

1: no basis for religious gene

Blakmore himself tells us that our brains "light up" (respond by beginning to work more) when we hear God talk. That's really the basic idea, along with the universality issue, of proving a God gene. But that is not proof of a gene.

There are plenty of scientists who do not think that religion is an adaptation. The adaptations it view is one school, it is not a done deal. The counter argument among evolutionary theorists is that religion is a “spandrel” or a side effect of genetic structure but not produced by a gene for that behavior. There are plenty of scientists who disagree with the data on the “God pod” and don’t believe that there is a “God module” or that religious behavior is inherited through a specific gene or a part of the brain. Lee A Kirkpatrick, director of graduate studies in psychology at William and Mary, tells us:

In sum, the moderate habitability of religion, like the identification of a particular brain region, associated with religious experience, tells us virtually nothing about weather religion is the result of an adaptive evolved mechanism designed to produce it. In particular neither should be construed as evidence for an adaptive religion mechanism or system.[10]

According to Kirkpatrick it's way too early to claim there's a God Gene. There's no way to sort out that it's a real gene or just a combination of other genetic traits. Even if there is such a gene that is not a defeat for religion.
One of the main problems with arguing for a God gene is that the kinds of explanations often used to justify it are piecemeal and don't work in terms of genetic theory. For example a common one is cooperation. Religion makes people  more cooperative. So people cooperate and that is why they adapt becuase it's an advantage. Or gives hope it gets them through the winter.
 Considerable debate has surrounded the question of the origins and evolution of religion. One proposal views religion as an adaptation for cooperation, whereas an alternative proposal views religion as a by-product of evolved, non-religious, cognitive functions. We critically evaluate each approach, explore the link between religion and morality in particular, and argue that recent empirical work in moral psychology provides stronger support for the by-product approach. Specifically, despite differences in religious background, individuals show no difference in the pattern of their moral judgments for unfamiliar moral scenarios. These findings suggest that religion evolved from pre-existing cognitive functions, but that it may then have been subject to selection, creating an adaptively designed system for solving the problem of cooperation.[11]
 That sort of makes one think of genes as little guys holding committee meetings in your head and planning strategy. If it's that cut and dried why not just make a gene for cooperation and cut out the religious mumbo jumo? If it's just an alteration of existing function, then individual conscious decisions may be involved after all. Or, were we provided those functions that we might discover God? The kinds of explainations that require a purpose are counter to the nature of adaptation anyway. As Kirkpatrick explains: "Natural selection is blind to purely psychological effects because being happy in itself does not cause more copies of happiness causing genes to dominate subsequent generations."[12] They can't show adaptability because they can't show it enhances gene frequency. After all some aspects of religion counter to gene frequency such as celibacy?

 2: Religious Gene is good argument for God

Nicholas Wade tells us neither side is threatened by a God gene:

But the evolutionary perspective on religion does not necessarily threaten the central position of either side. That religious behavior was favored by natural selection neither proves nor disproves the existence of gods. For believers, if one accepts that evolution has shaped the human body, why not the mind too? What evolution has done is to endow people with a genetic predisposition to learn the religion of their community, just as they are predisposed to learn its language. With both religion and language, it is culture, not genetics, that then supplies the content of what is learned.[13]
So the explainations fall apart, the big coincidence is looming: the thing the atheists and evolutionary psychologists hate the most and seek to destroy with their worship of science is the one best answer to why there would be a gene for God: God put it there. It's counter to the nature of adaptation. Genes can't contrive to plan how to make us more cooperative or give us warm fuzzies to get us through the winter. The nature of adaptation is not a committee of homunculi that seeks to make human life happier and more efficient. Nor can genes understand concepts. We are not born with innate knowledge, that has been considered a primitive and false concept since the seventeenth century. We are born with instincts but that is not the same as innate knowledge. Evolution cannot plant ideas in our minds. So our brains reacting to God talk as they do is totally unexplained and constitutes a good reason to take as a hint the basic idea of a God designed aspect of human nature.

 Andrew Newberg, one of the pioneers in researching neural activity of religious experience and God talk tells us that none of the research disproves God, in fact it can't.

…Tracing spiritual experience to neurological behavior does not disprove its realness. If God does exist, for example, and if He appeared to you in some incarnation, you would have no way of experiencing His presence, except as part of a neurologically generated rendition of reality. You would need auditory processing to hear his voice, visual processing to see His face, and cognitive processing to make sense of his message. Even if he spoke to you mystically, without words, you would need cognitive functions to comprehend his meaning, and input form the brain’s emotional centers to fill you with rapture and awe. Neurology makes it clear: there is no other way for God to get into your head except through the brain’s neural pathways. Correspondingly, God cannot exist as a concept or as reality anyplace else but in your mind. In this sense, both spiritual experiences and experiences of a more ordinary material nature are made real to the mind in the very same way—through the processing powers of the brain and the cognitive functions of the mind. Whatever the ultimate nature of spiritual experience might be—weather it is in fact an actual perception of spiritual reality—or merely an interpretation of sheer neurological function—all that is meaningful in human spirituality happens in the mind. In other words, the mind is mystical by default.[14]

This article is a good indication of how ideologically laden the internet is with ideological babble from a social movement that seeks to destroy all forms of knowledge that it does not control. There is no basis for the assertion that neuroscience is destroying religion and yet scientism proclaims itself victorious over all religion merely becuase it exists. At the same time sound reasons exists in the same material assumed to destroy religion which supports beilef in God yet that possibility is totally ignored.


 [1] Colin Blackemore, "Science is Just One Gene Away from Defeating Religion." The Guardian.  Originally from the Observer. 21st of Febuary, 2009. On Line: 
accessed 10/29/13.
 Colin Blakemore is Professor of Neuroscience at the Universities of Oxford and Warwick. He is a member of the UK Drugs Policy Commission, but the views expressed here are his own.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Nicholas Wade, "The Evolution of the God Gene," New York Times: Week in Review. Nov 14 (2009). On line
accessed 10/29/13
Nicholas Wade is a science reporter who writes about genetics.

[8] Dean Hamer, The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into Our Genes. New York:Anchor Books Edition, 2004, 56-119.

[9] P.Z. Myers,  "No god, and no 'god gene', either". Pharyngula.(2005-02-13) Retrieved 2012-01-29.

[10]Lee A Kirckpatrick, “Religion is Not An Adaptation,” in Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion Vol I: Evolution, Genes, and Religious Brainm .Patrick McNamara (ed). London, Westport Connecticut: Praeger. 2006. 159-180, 164.
Kirckpatrick is associate professor of psychology at William and Mary.

[11] Ilkka Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser, "The Origins of  Religion: Evolved Adaption or by Product." Science Direct: Trends in Cognitive Science, Volume 14, Issue 3, (March 2010), 104-109.

[12]Kirckpatric Op cit, 167.

[13] Wade, Op Cit.

[14] Andrew Newberg, Why God Won’t God Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. (New York, Ballentine Books), 2001, 37,

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Early Date for Mark


 Since the last post ("Richard Carrier's Standard for Historical proof") was about Carrier's use of Bayes on Jesus myth theory, I thought I would argue here that we have plenty of reason to set the prior high. In other words, to do Bayes you start with a prior probability then refine it as new information comes in. Like an artillery gunner finding his range. If you start with a higher prior then the probability you wind up with will be high. So there's reason to start with a high prior probability for Jesus existence. One such reason is the early date for Mark.
Most Jesus mythers and a lot of atheists take the old nineteenth century view that Mark was written in the second century. They accept modern scholarship when it ways Mark came first and Mat and Luke are dependent upon him, then shed modern scholarship when it says (and the vast majority do) that AD 70 was the Date for Mark.

I have argued that a new trend has emerged giving earlier dates for the Gospels. What do you suppose atheists said? I'm a liar of course! I will show that there is a much better basis for thinking of the gospel of Mark (I will just stick with Mark to makes things easier) as written before AD 70!

The major reason scholars put the date as 70 is the destruction of the temple. Mark records Jesus prediction that the temple would be destroyed. So most scholars today assume the naturalistic answer that they can't base dating on prophesy, so they have to put it after 70. It can't be much after 70 or it would cease to be very relevant. There are other and better reasons for putting around 70. That's the limit on how early they think it can be. they think it can't be latter than that becasue its too Jewish, the eschatology expectations doesn't match the second century.

there are good reasons to think Mark was written earlier than 70.

(1) The destruction of the temple does not have to be taken as a limit on the date. The problem is the basic assumption that no one expected the temple to be destroyed is wrong.

Jews of the first century had different expectations of the Messiah than do Jews today, or in subsequent centuries. Th view that has emerged from Qumran shows us that Jesus fit exactly what many Jews of the frist century expected. He doesn't fit the only profile but he does fit one profile that we know did exist, right down to the redemption. There was a view that saw Messiah as born, rejected by his people, executed, returns, and his death was redemption for the people.

Within that view they saw the temple's destruction connected with Messiah's birth. This is found in Yalkut the earliest volume of the Talmud, material from that segment goes back to the first century. This documented by Alfred Edersheim in Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.

"Suffice it to say, according to the general opinion, the birth of the Messiah would be unknown to his contemporaries, that he would appear, carry on his work, than disappear--probably for 45 days, than appear again and destroy the hostile powers of the world..." (Edershiem, 436, Yalkut on Is. vol ii, )

"[Messiah]...his birth is connnected with the destruction, [of temple] and his Return with the restoration of the temple" (on Lamintations i.16 WArsh p 64 in Edersheim "He might be there and be known or the might come and be again hidden for a time" comp Sanhedirin 97a Midrash on CAnt.

So they already had the idea that the temple would be destoryed. If Jesus followers were expecting this, they would already be aware that since he had grown to manhood the destruction of the temple had to come soon. So they could have expected that before it happened, even by a couple of decades. This means the Evangelical apologetic loses a prophet fulfillment, but they have plenty of those to spare.

Other reasons for early date:

(1) The Jewish expectations of the Messiah are fit by Jesus in general and the view that fits him to a exactly is found at Qumran.

By the early second century this view was shifting away. Separation form the Gentile church, the bad blood that developed after the fall of the templ, the move away form the LXX and to their own translation that the Christians didn't use, made this view obsolete among Jews byt he early second century. Thus we can see the atmosphere and the Jewishness of Mark reflects an earlier period. It fits perfectly with the 30s, 40, 50s.

(2) The eschatology expectations fit the Jews of the first but not the second century. (see the links above)

The idea of the end times, the Messiah coming, the temple would be destoryed, this was all the sort of expectations they had int he time of Christ and even a bit before. But by the second century that gap with the Christians, the Jewish Christians didn't leave many writings from that period. The church was outgrowing those kind of eschatology by that time.

(3) different versions of Mark (used by Mat and Luke)

that means the date must be pushed back because you had to have time for different versions to develop.

"External evidence for two different versions of Mark circulating at an early date can be derived only from the observation that Luke does not reproduce the section Mark 6:45-8:26. Luke 19: 19= Mark 8:27 follows directly upon Luke 9:17= Mark 6:44. Luke may have used a copy of Mark that had accidentally lost a few pages. However there are some special features which differentiate this particular from the rest of Mark's Gospel. It begins with Jesus going to Bethsaida (Mark 6:45) and ends with the healing of a blind man from Bethsaida (Mark 8:22). Thereafter Jesus goes to Cesaria Philippi and the town of Bethsaida never occurs again the Gospel. This section is also of a number of other doublets of Markan pericopes. 6:44-54 the walking on the water is a variant of the stilling of the tempest (Mark 4:35-41). 8:1-10 the feeding of the 4000 is a secondary elaboration of the feeding of the 5000 (Mark 6:30-44)...The cumulative evidence of these peculiarities may allow the conclusion that an earlier version of Mark, which was used by Luke did not yet contain the Besiada section (Mark 6:45-8:26) whereas Matthew knew the expanded version which must have come into existence very soon after the original composition of the original gospel." (Koester, 285)."

Koester doesn't' argue for a complete UrMarkus a more permeative version of the Gospel, but this evidence does suggest different versions of the same Gospel. While we can't find an UrMarkus, we can see clearly that the redactor who first formed the Gospel used several sources. The passion narrative has been mentioned, moreover, a miracle story source that is compatible with John, two written documents of saying sources are also recognizable. These include a collection of parables and one of apocalyptic material. (p.287)

But does this mean that Mark [the primary redactor] is merely a "cut and paste" which destorts previous sources and collects rumors and legends with no historical value? Where the skeptic sees this aspect, Koester does not. What Koester sees is a faithful copyist who has collected materials known to be of value to the community, and forged them into a certain order for the purposes of edification to the community.

"Mark [the primary redactor] is primarily a faithful collector. In so far as he is also an author he has created an overriding general framework for the incorporation of traditional material but he has still left most of his material intact.His Gospel is therefore a most important witness for an early stage for the formative development of the traditions about Jesus. The world which these traditions describe rarely goes beyond Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem, which is not the world of the author [primary redactor] or the readers for whom the book was intended. Mark's information about Palestine and its people is fairly accurate whenever he leaves his sources intact. But from his redaction of the sources it is clear that the author is not a Jewish Chrstistian and that he does not live in Palestine." (Koester p.289)

As for a trend to early dating Errantskeptic. org* provides this list of both conservative and liberal scholars who are pushing toward earlier dates for Mark.

*Note: his list has been updated since I copied this so it's not the same. But it has even more on it showing the same things:


Believer's Study Bible, A.D. 65 to 68
Allan Black, Ph.D. early AD 60's
Raymond E. Brown, Ph.D. AD 60 to 75, most likely between AD 68 & 73
F.F. Bruce, Ph.D. AD 64 or 65
D.A. Carson, R.T. France, and G.J. Wenham, eds. New Bible Commentary: 21 Century Edition, 60 to 70 CE
M. G. Easton M. A., D. D. Probably about AD 63
James M. Efird, Ph.D. AD 65 to 70
David A. Fiensy, Ph.D. AD 66 or 67
Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Ph.D. AD 60 to 70
Robert A. Guelich, Ph.D. AD 67 to 70
Donald Guthrie, Ph.D. New Testament Introduction, 65 to 70 CE
William Hendriksen, Ph.D. AD 40 to 65, with the earlier date favored.
Martin Hengel, Ph.D. AD 69
A.E. Hill, Ph.D. AD 50 to 70
R. Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and D. Brown, eds. AD 54 to 68
Howard Clark Kee, Ph.D. AD 70
Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. AD 64
Werner Georg Kummel, Ph.D. AD 70
William L. Lane, Th.D. AD 60 to 70
John MacArthur, Ph.D. AD 50 to 70
K.E. Malberg, AD 68 to 69
Bruce Metzger, Ph.D. AD 65 to 75
M.S. Mills, Ph.D. AD 68
N. Perrin, Ph.D. after AD 64/65
J.A.T. Robinson, Ph.D. Complete by AD 62
Edward P. Sanders, Ph.D. AD 65 to 70
Carsten Peter Thiede, Ph.D. Before AD 62 Director of the Institute for Basic Epistemological Research in Paderborn, Germany
Edward J. Tinsley, Ph.D. AD 60 to 70
Joseph B. Tyson, Ph.D. AD 70 AD
J. Wenham, Ph.D. AD 45
Franklin W. Young, Ph.D. AD 65 to 70

JAT Robinson is very liberal. He's one of the primary people in the early 60s who started the idea of levels to Q. Ray Brown was farily liberal, he was one instrumental in starting the trend to study non canonical gospels.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Richard Carrier's Standard of Historical Proof

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Richard Carrier is an atheistic apologist. He has been involve in atheist apologetic since the late 90s. He does have a Ph.D. in classical history from Columbia University (2008). Yet he doesn't work as an academic historian so much  as he uses his credentials to bolster his apologetic. Here is how the publisher of his work, Proving History, [1] bills his credentials on Amazon:

Richard C. Carrier (Richmond, CA), an independent scholar, is the author of Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith; Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn't Need a Miracle to Succeed; and Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism. He has also contributed chapters to The End of Christianity, edited by John W. Loftus; Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth, edited by R. Joseph Hoffmann; The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, edited by John W. Loftus; and The Empty Tomb: Jesus beyond the Grave, edited by Robert Price and Jeffery Lowder.[2]
 "Independent scholar" means he is not employed  in academic work, it also means he's pursuing his own advocacy rather than scholarly academic work.[3] Notice that all the publications mentioned are about mythicism or some other anti-apologetic discourse. This is not to say that Carrier doesn't have good skills of scholarship or that he doesn't have credentials. He has both. Yet he chooses to use them for a non academic pursuit, plugging atheist ideology. The list of his publications on wiki are also the same:

  • "Flash! Fox News Reports that Aliens May Have Built the Pyramids of Egypt!". Skeptical Inquirer 23.5 (September-October 1999).
  • "The Guarded Tomb of Jesus and Daniel in the Lion's Den: An Argument for the Plausibility of Theft". Journal of Higher Criticism 8.2 (Fall 2001).
  • "Pseudohistory in Jerry Vardaman's Magic Coins: The Nonsense of Micrographic Letters". Skeptical Inquirer 26.2 (March-April 2002) and 26.4 (July-August 2002).
  • "The Function of the Historian in Society". The History Teacher 35.4 (August 2002).
  • "Hitler's Table Talk: Troubling Finds". German Studies Review 26.3 (October 2003).
  • "The Argument from Biogenesis: Probabilities Against a Natural Origin of Life". Biology & Philosophy 19.5 (November 2004).
  • "Whence Christianity? A Meta-Theory for the Origins of Christianity". Journal of Higher Criticism 11.1 (Spring 2005).
  • "Fatal Flaws in Michael Almeida's Alleged 'Defeat' of Rowe's New Evidential Argument from Evil". Philo 10.1 (Spring-Summer 2007).
  • "On Defining Naturalism as a Worldview". Free Inquiry 30.3 (April/May 2010).
  • "Thallus and the Darkness at Christ’s Death". Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 8 (2011-2012).[4] 
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Richard Carrier

One rally should expect that the standards he pushes as an academic are going to be in tension with the necessities of hawking advocacy for atheism. One of the basic reasons for academic standing is objectivity. How much objectivity can we expect from an apologist?

His unique contribution to the Jesus myth theory is the application of Bayes theorem. I've written about Bayes Theorem and why it can't be used to argue about the existence of God. That article was first published n this blog but can now be found on my site "The Religious a priori." See "Bayes Theorium and The Probability of God: no Dice." I am not opposed, however, to using Bayes for historical purposes. Jesus existence as a man in history is a matter for empirical research. Yet the Bayes theorem is not in an of itself and cannot be a substitute for historical work. The same problems recurs here as they do with the God question: how do you have new information coming in when we don't know that much about the era? The anti-apologist (or atheist apologist) is quick jump on the issue that we don't have the records that means set he prior low and thus the probability of Jesus existing is low. Yet if we did that with Tacitus we would have to have said that he didn't exist, since he was unknown until the middle ages. That just proves that there's a lot there that we don't know about. We don't know when new historical information is coming in. We can't assume that our current state of knowledge is equal to the task. Trying to use Bayes in that way is suspect at the outset. That's like trying to cheat on historical methods.

Another concern comes out when we examine the spin the way Carrier's publisher hawks his wares. First of all, the use Bayes to try and show low probability of God or Jesus in history is really just the application of the atheist strategy of the fortress of facts. See my two articles, "debunking the Atheist Fortress of facts: part 1, and part 2." The fortress of facst says "we have the facts, science gives us this big pile of facts that proves our world view, and religion as no facts backing it." The use of techniques like Bayes theorem is an application of this concept I call (apologies to William Barrett) "The Illusion of Technique." In other words he's using a scientific tool applied and based upon bad assumption that contradict the basic assumptions of modern historiography. Let's look at the publisher's spin, mind you this is not necessarily Carrier's fault, yet I think it does fault his work.

The description on Amazon:

"Richard Carrier carefully exposes what happens when sound methodology meets biblical studies. Proving History is a brilliant lesson in the proper proportioning of belief to evidence. Even minimal attention to Bayesian probability theory reveals just how much of Jesus scholarship confuses 'possibly true' with 'probably true.' The only miracle Carrier has left to explain is why so few appreciate that extraordinary claims require extraordinary support." --Dr. Malcolm Murray, author of The Atheist's Primer"Richard Carrier applies his philosophical and historical training to maximum effect in outlining a case for the use of Bayes's Theorem in evaluating biblical claims. Even biblical scholars, who usually are not mathematically inclined, may never look at the 'historical Jesus' the same way again." --Hector Avalos, PhD, professor of religious studies at Iowa State University, author of The End of Biblical Studies and Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship

Look at this first line: "Richard Carrier carefully exposes what happens when sound methodology meets biblical studies. Proving History is a brilliant lesson in the proper proportioning of belief to evidence. Even minimal attention to Bayesian probability theory reveals just how much of Jesus scholarship confuses 'possibly true' with 'probably true." What's wrong with that? The illusion technqiue is employed in saying "the Christians don't have a valid fact about Jesus existing, that's just made up. Science gives us the facts and through this scientific technique we can expose the idea most of what we say about Jesus' life is just theoretical, possible." the problem is That's what history is!

Yes the Little children are taguht the "facts" of history, we recite the facts, 1776, that's a fact. 1941, we entered word war II, that's a fact!  1865 civil war ended, that's a fact. The problem is that's for school children. By the time we are in graduate school it's a little bit more complex. Carrier's publisher is trying to say that through Bayes we can expose the fact that we don't really know the facts. But historians have been telling us this all along. If they paid attention to what real academic historical scholarship is about they would learn it's probably. We don't know all the facts. When we don't know all the facts we have to speculate and play detective and put stuff together form reading documents. We don't always have all the documents. There are a lot of things we just can't know.

Wait there's a deeper problem here! They are trying to sell this as though Bayes theorum is not speculation or "possible truth" it's giving us the facts! No its not! Bayes is possible truth too, beacuse it's probablity not facts. That's what probability is, the chances of some hypothesis being fulfilled. The only fact that Bayes can give us is the extent to which the possible may be probable. That's not a the same as absolute truth or "proof." Bayes can't give us historical proof. If we find that hypothesis X is 80% probable. that' snot the same as saying it is a fact that hypothesis X is proved. It's only probable. We say X has an 80% chance of being true, yet the reality of it could be that it's not true. That is not proof. It's not the facts. The whole book ad is deeply flawed but then what else Carrier saying by trying to apply Bayes to this question?

Then we have the statment by Avalos:

Even biblical scholars, who usually are not mathematically inclined, may never look at the 'historical Jesus' the same way again." --Hector Avalos, PhD, professor of religious studies at Iowa State University, author of The End of Biblical Studies and Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship

See  my confrontations with Avelos.[7] He's just playing in the fortress of facts and illusion of technique. He has a hard enough time just dealing with ordinary scholarship. Its not he's running around proving things all over the ancinet world with Bayes. We would have to use the same methods that the scientism types deny as "speculative," the standard criteria for authenticity used by scholars since the enlightenment, which have evolved over time. There may be a place for Bayes among all that but the problem is establish a prior you have to draw upon those things. Those are the very things that the "scientfiism set" lambasts [8] as they call for Bayes which is going to give us the facts and correct it all. But the correction will have to be based upon the same kind of criteria. Nor do I find any of these methods being applied elsewhere, it's all in biblical criticism. They are not terribly anxious to find that we don't really if Julius Caesar existed or not. It's just another gimmick making use of the ideological scientism of the new Atheist ideology.

They have to have more information to set the prior probability accurately to use Bayes. Then they have to have new information coming in. To start out they are going to have to use the very methods that they (scientististic types) repudiate in order to get that information. Then if they try to pile Baysian conclusions on the premise that these are more probable then they just doing a citation circle. The use of mathematical probability can never establish historical fact.


[1] Richard Carrier, Proving History: Bayes Theorem and The Quest for The Historical Jesus.:Amherst, New York: Promethius Books, 2012.
accessed 10/21/13

[2] Ibid.

[3] "So You Want to Be An Independent Scholar? why?" Acadmeic Editing Canada, academic writing and editing services. accessed 10/21/13.

[4] "Selected Articles," Richard Carrier. Wikipedia, on line resource:  accessed 10/21/13.

[5] Metacrock, "Bayes Theorem and the Probability of God: no Dice." The Religious a priori
On line resource:  accessed 10/21/13

[6] William Barrett The illusion of Technique.

see also an abstract of the book written by student at UNCC, " 
"The Will to Power vs The Will to Prayer:William Barrett’s The Illusion of Technique 30 Years Later" accessed 10/21/13
Questions or comments should be directed to Michael Eldridge, Department of Philosophy, UNC Charlotte: or 704/687-3318.

[7] Metacrock, "Atheist Thought police: my Response to Hector Avelos," Metacrock's Blog, blog: 
accessed 10/21/13
see also:
"Further Answer to Hector Avalos,"

[8]Raphael Lasater, "Bayesian Reasoning: Criticing the Criteria of Authenticity and Calling for a Review of Biblical Criticism." Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences, (2012) Volume5 No2, 271-293.
Lasater is  Research post-graduate Department of Studies in Religion, University of Sydney

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Schleiermacher: the Feeling of Utter Dependence

  photo friedrich-schleiermacher--874--t-232x250xffffff-rw.jpg
 Schleiermacher (1768-1834)

 In the Recent past I published a piece called "Phenomenology and Theological Method."  That was about how we can use phenomenological methods to understand various kinds of religious experience as the "co-determinate." That is the signature of God in the world. Like a foot print in the snow, or a fingerprint at a crime scene the co-determinate is the thing that correlates to the evidence. God is the co-determinate of religious experiences. Conversely religious experiences are the co-determinate of God. They are the trace,t he foot print, the track. God is not an empirical issue becuase he's not given in sense data, but we can establish that religious experience is the correlate to the God concept, thus its co-determinate it's trace. The correlate is a matter of  empirical data.

This concept comes from Frederick Schleiermacher, whose concept of the feeling of utter dependence was the first indication of the trace, it is one of those kinds of experiences that forms the co determinate. He first unveiled this notion in On  Religion: Speeches to It's Cultured Despisers. [1]The early version of the feeling was very crude. It went this: I know God must be real because I feel love for him when I pray to him." By the time he wrote the huge tome Glaubenslehre (the Christian faith)[2] He had a much more sophisticated version of it. First I'm going to try to communicate my simplistic understanding of that and then talk about it in a more complex way.

When people hear "feeling" they often make the mistake of thinking that he's saying something like God makes me feel good so there must be a God. I've seen major theologians make the mistake of assuming he meant this kind of feeling. It was the notion of Dr. William S. Babcock (Perkins school of Theology SMU) when I took his history of doctrine class, that he mean something more along the lines an intuitive sense. I have discussed this with Babcock many times through out the years. When hear utter dependence they think it's control or an unhealthy sense of need. What I think he was getting at there is more on the order of contingency.  It's really more like we sense the unity in the world around us. We sense the unity in the world but then we also sense it's dependence upon some higher basis. So the unity is pinned to a higher necessity. In a sense it's like  feeling the realities that the cosmological argument only speculates about, in action. We catch the basis of cosmological necessity as it does it's thing.

The sense of the feeling is found in reflection but is of an intuitive nature.  It's much like Heidegger describes being, as "ready to hand." Like a carpenter who doesn't have to think about using his tools, he uses them as extensions of his hands because he's so use to them they are part of him. So our place in being is so a part of us we don't think about it. "Life world," or Labeinswelt is a term used in German philosophy. It implies the world of one's culturally constructed life, the "world" we 'live in.' Life as we expeirence it on a daily basis. The unity one senses in the life world is intuitive and unites the experiences and aspirations of the individual in a sense of integration and belonging in in the world. As Heidegger says "a being in the world." Schleiermacher is saying that there is a special intuitive sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher reality, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuitive sense of "radical contingency" (in the sense of the above ontological arguments).

He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesn't depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the per-given per-theoretical per-cognitive realization of what Anselm sat down and thought about and turned into a rational argument: why has the fools said in his heart 'there is no God?' Why a fool? Because in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality.

As Robert R. Williams puts it:

There is a "co-determinate to the Feeling of Utter dependence.

"It is the original pre-theoretical consciousness...Schleiermacher believes that theoretical cognition is founded upon pre-theoretical inter subjective cognition and its life world. The latter cannot be dismissed as non-cognative for if the life world praxis is non-cognitive and invalid so is theoretical cognition..S...contends that belief in God is pre-theoretical, it is not the result of proofs and demonstration, but is conditioned solely by the modification of feeling of utter dependence. Belief in God is not acquired through intellectual acts of which the traditional proofs are examples, but rather from the thing itself, the object of religious experience..If as S...says God is given to feeling in an original way this means that the feeling of utter dependence is in some sense an apparition of divine being and reality. This is not meant as an appeal to revelation but rather as a naturalistic eidetic"] or a priori. The feeling of utter dependence is structured by a correlation with its whence."[3]

Schleiermacher is often called the Father of liberal theology. He moved belief over from an intellectual position buttressed by argument, to a phenomenological realization grounded in experience and one's own existential realization and thus freed belief from the need to prove. This is why liberal theological types usually don't worry much about arguments for God. They don't think arguments are necessary. They weren't for them. In class I said we are freed from the need to prove the existence of God, Babcock stopped me there and said "say it again" this time when I go tot "need to prove" he said "just stop there." We are freed from the need to prove.

Atheists are obsessed with the need to prove. You can't believe anything unless its proven. There are deep ways of knowing and they are afraid of them. They label them "subjective" and try to stay away from them. Although I think if they faced the truth they would have to come to terms with fact that their faith that scinece will one once and for all free us from the big mean angry God is the same subjective sense of seeking a deep assurance that transcends proofs on paper. I don't think they will ever get it. The fact that they reject looking for it says that they will never find it.

It's not exactly mystical experience. It's something one can sense on a quite evening listening to the sounds of traffic from while sitting in the garden. It's a realization of a reality that we sense at some level all the time. It's more akin to an eastern appraoch than a Western. That's not to say that eastern mediation is just wool gathering. The feeling of utter dependence is not something one can apply in a formulaic way as one does meditation. It's just there, we can realize it's presence. One of the primary concerns of Schleiermacher was that religion not be reduced to other aspects such as knowledge. Religion is not jumped ethics or failed primitive knowledge. It's not about knowing more stuff it's about transformative experience. Certain forms of knowledge are an outgrowth or side effect of that. The kind of knowledge it gives us is exitential and phenomenoloigcal.


[1] Frederick Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Dispisers

construction of the doctrine of God.

[2] ___________________. Glaubenslehre (the Christian faith). James Duke Trans. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Google books version

[3]  Robert R. Williams, Schleiermacher the Theologian: Construction of the Doctrine of God. Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press, 1978.  4.

on Amazon

Monday, October 14, 2013

Evidence, Leap of Faith, And A really Good Diving Baord

  photo LeapofFaith.jpg

When I was a kid I really wanted to go off the high dive. I thought if I went off the high dive I would be really cool then all my problems would be solved. I would often storm up the ladder to the top with bluster and determination only to become dizzy and afraid of the heights and stop and just stand there on the top waiting for the nerve with one else on the ladder going "go on!" I would have made them all get down so I could down, which I could barely do becuase I was frozen in my tracks. Eventually I began to tell myself it wasn't worth the hassle. That's why the atheist refusal to believe without empirical evidence (they really mean total absolute proof even they will never admit it) reminds me of my old conundrum being stuck at the top of the high dive unable to go off and looking for a way to rationalize having to come back down.

There's a concept in God arguments I like to call "extending the platform." For years my line was using that as a rhetorical device to explain how even though the arguments can't "prove" God beyond the shadow of a doubt and render belief into fact, they are still valid way to sort out truth. That's becuase reduce the space we have to traverse in the leap of faith, they give us an educated guess as to which way to leap, or as I put it "they give us a really nice platform from which to dive off in the leap of faith." That concept becomes even more important when we compare it to the failure of atheist arguments to meet their own standard of empirical proof. That's just the beginning, the concept is also valid when we consider the argument atheists make that we imposing meaning upon a random universe. I'll deal with the imposed meaning issue on Wednesday.

Atheist demand empirical proof. they worked out logical rationalizations that make empirical proof the deal breaker. We can see this at the popular level.
Typical 18 year old atheist
repeating the dogma I've heard
on message boards a thousand times.
To assume something exists without empirical evidence is purely illogical. If you could accept a belief in something without evidence, you could believe any possibility. You could assert that there is a large dog floating in the sky striking down those that displease it, and think it true. However, it could be said that just because you can't prove something doesn't mean it's been disproved. This being true, the converse is also true, you can't believe in something because of a lack of evidence.
Posted by TheOrdinaryGuy 1 Sep 3rd, 2013 at 6:10PM

God is, for all intents and purposes, unfalsfiable. Completely indistinguishable from a God that doesn't exist. Therefore there's no reason to accept the proposition "a God exists" as true.

It's document by writers, thinkers and expository critics.

Michel Antony
Philosophy Now: a magazine
of ideas. "The New Atheism"
sept./Oct. 20/13

Evidentialism plays a key role in attacks against religious belief by the New Atheists, as it did for Hume. Belief in the existence of God or other divine realities is criticized on the ground that there is no good evidence for it. Echoing Carl Sagan and Laplace before him, we are told that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” and we are assured that there is nothing of the sort when it comes to the divine.
 But what of the New Atheists’ atheism – their belief that there is no god or other divine reality? According to evidentialism, that belief (with whatever degree of confidence it is held) also requires evidence in order to be rational. However, the New Atheists tend not to worry much about providing evidence. Although they sometimes offer arguments – ‘the problem of evil’, Dawkins’ ‘Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit’ in The God Delusion, and a few others – overall, those arguments play a minor role in their attacks. Far more central is their repeated insistence that because religious belief lacks evidence, it is irrational and so should be abandoned.[1]
Of course the atheist opinion leaders such Dawkins and Harris echo it endlessly.

Dawkins wrote:

Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself: 'Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?' And next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: 'What kind of evidence is there for that?' And if they can't give you a good answer, I hope you'll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.[2]

The problem is Atheists don't have empirical proof for most of their major potions. Take Fine Tuning, the idea that the universe is rigged to favor life and conditions which are totality vastly amazingly improbable (we are talking about scads of zeros in the numbers) are nonetheless not only the way things are but they must be that way to have life make it. It's not deterministic, it's not a matter of pure chance (too improbable), it's not the case that just any old universe would produce life. We would have to develop the ability to observe beyond space/time in order to see one. So the theory will always be guess work. 

Paul Davies:

"You might be tempted to suppose that any old rag-bag of laws would produce a complex universe of some sort, with attendant inhabitants convinced of their own specialness. Not so. It turns out that randomly selected laws lead almost inevitably either to unrelieved chaos or boring and uneventful simplicity. Our own universe is poised exquisitely between these unpalatable alternatives, offering a potent mix of freedom and discipline, a sort of restrained creativity. The laws do not tie down physical systems so rigidly that they can accomplish little, but neither are they a recipe for cosmic anarchy. Instead, they encourage matter and energy to develop along pathways of evolution that lead to novel variety-what Freeman Dyson has called the principle of maximum diversity: that in some sense we live in the most interesting possible universe."

"Some scientists have tried to argue that if only we knew enough about the laws of physics, if we were to discover a final theory that united all the fundamental forces and particles of nature into a single mathematical scheme, then we would find that this superlaw, or theory of everything, would describe the only logically consistent world. In other words, the nature of the physical world would be entirely a consequence of logical and mathematical necessity. There would be no choice about it. I think this is demonstrably wrong. There is not a shred of evidence that the universe is logically necessary. Indeed, as a theoretical physicist I find it rather easy to imagine alternative universes that are logically consistent, and therefore equal contenders for reality." First Things: Physics and the Mind of God: The Templeton Prize Address (1999) [3]

That's a good reason to believe in God. It may not be absolute proof, but it's a fine diving board. We need the courage to make the leap and jump in the water of faith.  Yet you can't ask for a better diving board from which to leap. The atheist is still standing here saying "not until I have empirical proof." Actually in a scientific sense this is empirical proof, it's not derived from logic alone but from observations of astronomy and phsyics. It may not be strong enough to call the God concept "fact." Strong enough to warrant beilef. If you were on a high dive and you wanted to proof that diving from that level would not kill you, you could test it by having someone else of your general physical level go in first. That would be a sort of test even though ti wouldn't be absolute proof. This might strong enough to suggest that someone else has dove in first an survived. That still doesn't prove you will survive and so you must make the leap on a bit of faith. But you have a warrant for the assumption that it wont kill you. See my own fine tuning argument with evidence on my old God argument list on Doxa.

In response to the argument atheists try to negate it by using the multivariate argument. A very big deal it is by a star of atheist scinece Tegmark.[4] They allude to the theory that There are numerous (in fact endless) parallel universes, each one it's own space/time continuum. They are infinitely and eternally there. Now the odds change. Now we have an infinite number of universe one must be fine tuned. There are many responses to this. I have something like 26 on my own argument. I don't want to get into just this one argument. This is just one example. Yet there is only one answer we need and it's absolute. Multiverse is not the product of empirical proof. There is no empirical evidence. We have never seen a multivariate. We have no physical observation for them. It's all completely theoretical. Atheist Multiverse supporter Martin Rees states that the status of hte theory is “is plainly still no more than a tentative hypothesis.”[5]

The counter argument is that the theory is made sure by mathematics. We can't doubt math that's the illusion of technique. we are so good manipulating thing with mathematics. Yet it's still not empirical. They will also argue that the accuracy of the math is proved by the recent discovery of Higgs boson particle that confirms that our mathematical skills are such that we can locate a nat on a dime. (homespun aphorisms complements of yours truly). [6] "According to a popular but polarizing framework called string theory, the number of possible types of universes that can bubble up in a multiverse is around 10^500. In a few of them, chance cancellations would produce the strange constants we observe."[7] Unfortunately that string theory is another example of a theory that has no empirical backing (although atheists back it and use it as a basic assumption propping up their ideology). So this one unproven non empirical thing is supporting this other unproved non empirical things. These are the major supports of the people who say "you can't believe things that aren't proved empirically." They are just special pleading. They are really saying "you can't believe things that aren't proved empirically unless they support my view."

O But this science? This isn't arrived at by superstition this is scinece! Right, just like my 200 studies on religious experience which are published in academic journals by social scientists in good standard, based upon empirical research which the atheists carm refuse to read (for 5 years--I linked to the chapter in Hood's book 147 times plus a huge number I didn't count--2 people read it, one I'm sure only read a couple of pages, the other admitted he didn't understand it). Yet they never case to tell me how stupid the studies are how bad badly they are done (without reading them, without quoting anyone, without understanding the methodology). I even went so far as make my own very simple study that was designed to show them that the M scale (Ralph Hood's "mysticism scale) could not be validated by a purposeful campaign to lie bout one's experiences. They tried to validate another writing by lying about their experiences and they could not do it. Yet every time they say "he just ask them to say what their own experiences are and they are lying about it." The M scale is the most validated (by other studies and replication) study in the history of scientific study of mystical experiences. There could not have been a purposeful campaign to lie to validate the M scale but even if there was it would not have worked. (see my article on religious a priori for details). Every kind of stupid and irrational and ignorant critcism has been made of those studies the one thing they wont do is read one.This is the way they treat empirical evidence, when it doesn't support their ideology.

The point is that when they don't have the empirical evidence they are quite content to make a leap of faith. They make with the aid of their diving board constructed out of scientific theory. Science theory doesn't always support atheist views. I will leave off the Multiverse argument here, but that's not the end of the line. Even if Multiverse is proved that's a far cry from proving that life bearing universe is not a fixed game. (see my 26 other arguments). But we can at least that well with God arguments. The 200 empirical studies on mystical experience lend themselves to God arguments in three ways: (1) empistemic judgment; (2) co-detemrinate; (3) universality argument.

Epistemic judgement: we cant' prove reality directly. We live in complaisance with our judgements of reality we don't prove reality by our experiences. We follow the experiences that work. We just a criteria to make the judgement as to what works: that the experience is regular, consistent, inter-subjective and enables us to get by--that it works to assume it's real. Go on the battle field and assume hte enemy boynettes aare not real, you don't come back. That didn't work. Assume they are real, get out of the say. those who did not don't come bac, you do, so it works to make that assumption.

Co-deterinate: like the footprint in the snow, the signature of the absent foot is the print, the trace, the trace. Religious experience is the trace of God. Why? Because we have made that historical association throughout history. That's why religion exist in the first place.

Universality: We find through Hoods work that when they take off the specific names of a tradition the experiences are all the same. The actual experiences themselves are the same. That doesn't mean that all religious tradition are the same or that Jesus is not unique. I am not a universalist in that sense, see my article "Salvation and other Faiths." The universality argument on mystical experience is that such experiences are not universal to all people but they are to all faiths and cultures and times. That is a good indication that there some objective thing being experienced. That's how we determine objective truth, that we all experience the same thing. The atheists argue that it's due to having a human brain that they have the same experiences. But that doesn't wash since not everyone has the experience. It's also that the experience is understood in relation to cultural icons and constructs, (religion is cultural) those are not genetic.That's all derived from empirical research on mystical experience.

 Another example is Cosmological necessity argument. The argument basically says that there must be an eternal necessary (as in not contingent) aspect to being that serves as first cause and since that fulfills the major attributes of God we can assume that God is real. That's not proof, it is a warrant for belief. It's a good platform from which to make the leap. That's based upon empirical evidence of  cosmology. Atheists have tried to swing that issue their way by appealing to Quantum theory as evidence that the universe just Popped up out of nothing. The last time they tried that was Krauss with A Universe out of Nothing. He did not fair well with that but went down in ignominious defeat to a philosopher with a physics Ph.D. David Albert.

leap of faith, evidence, empricism on our side, scinece is nuetral they want to treat it like atheist enformcement. illusion of technique. The next time you hear an atheist say "scinece supports atheism because we have all the fact and there are no facts supporting belief in God," tell them both sides have gap to cover that is nothing more than unknown air, so we have to make a leap either way. The God leap is based upon more empirically based data than than the atheist leap of doubt, that is a contradiction to the whole atheist ideology.


[1]Michel Antony, "The New Atheism: Where's the Evidence?" Philosophy Now: a Magazine of Ideas, sept/Oct,, 20/13.
accessed 10/13/13
[2] Adrian Jarvis, "Christianity + Science: Do Science and Religion Conflict," be thinking.corg. The Christian unions, quoting a published letter by Dawkins to his Daughter.
URL:  accessed 10/13/13

[3] Paul Davies, "Physics and the Mind of God, Templeton Prize address," First Things, Aug/Sept 1995.   accessed 10/13/13.
Paul Charles William Davies, AM is an English physicist, writer and broadcaster, a professor at Arizona State University as well as the Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. Wikipedia (b.1946).

[4] Multiverse, Wikipedia, accessed 10/13/13

[5] Martin J.Rees,  Just Six Numbers: the Deep Forces That Shape the Universe. New York: Basic, 2000. 150.


[7] Ibid.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Traces of God: Answering the Reverse Design Argument

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Atheists have an arugment that seeks to reverse the design argument. It does exactly what the design argument does, which is probably reason enough to disregard it; it reasons form the apparent state of the world to the probable non existence of God. If it is illogical to reason form the wrold to God, it is equally illogical to reason from the world to not God. For this reason I swore off design arguments years ago. I have violated that oath twice, but for good reason (I'll get to those in a minute). In any case, there is a great deal wrong with this argument, and in figuring up all the many problems I see it I began to think of two things:

(1) Perhaps it would be instructive to delineate the cases under which one can argue from the state of the world to the existence of God.

(2) In pondering this question, I began to think about perhaps what might be the ultimate God argument.

The problem is that really if you think about it almost all probabilistic arguments are really arguing from the state of the world to the probable existence of God. But somehow this seem less drastic in some cases than others. I know there are those who just turn off at any kind of God argument. But for us Connoisseurs of God arguments, this should be a thorny issue. After all, what's the real difference between arguing form the contingency of the world, and arguing from the design of the world? Well, off hand the real difference is that one can be compared to something, the other can't. That's one of the major problems with this atheist argument, which was advanced at one point by Richard Carrier at one time. We do not have a designed universe to compare outs to, so we don't know what we are observing, design or random devleopment?

The argument says if we were to consider a random universe that came about by accident, you couldn't do better than our own. It really looks accidental. Life is precarious and rare, the universe is very hostile to it. It's vast, far more vast than it has to be. On the one tiny oasis we know of where life took root it blossomed into something as glorious as Richard Carrier's ego, we have no really obvious clue that God exists. If we were to consider what a puroespful logical creator would do we should expect sign posts to his existence everywhere, right? Well, maybe. maybe not. That's the problem the argument is nothing more than begging the question. It assumes we know what God would do, and after constructing a straw man God who behaves the way we want him to, we just assume we know what he would do and than access the tragic fact that it hasn't been done. So by golly, there must not be a God, because this non God doesn't' follow my advice! Of course the model for his straw God is fundamentalism.  Athens are so afraid to take on liberal theology honestly, but it's because they are all secretly fundamentalists. What I mean by hat is they are the "tails" to the fundies "heads." Like communist and anti-communists, they are both parts of the same thing.

The difference in this argument and one that actually has something to compare, a base line from which to work, should be obvious. The atheist who argues for Carrier's idea must forge his own base line by setting up a straw man (um, God) and then priviliating his assumptions about the nature of religion in such a way that he just nixes the possibly of any other kind of theology. That's not a real comparison. The fine tuning argument can compare fine tuning to lack thereof, compare target levels to the actual hitting of same. The contingency arguments (quantum and other forms of cosmology) can compare contingency to necessity. Religious experience arguments are drawn from the results of experience, they compare experience to non experience. The two instances in which I do use design arguments are those in which comparisons can be made between the nature of the world and state of existence known to lack that attribute as known non designed reality; the use of the "God Pod" as evoking innate ideas. We can compare reactions to God talk to other kinds of talk and see that our brains only react to God talk in the way that they do. Thus we can compare the innate ideas of God to reactions to other ideas. The other instance is the fine tuning arugment,which has already been explained. But the Carrier reverse design argument has nothing to compare except Richard's ego. With that as the standard for assumptions, we have no basis upon which to draw conclusions about the nature of God from the state of the universe.

This argument does have one other troubling application. It could be a "possible defeater" for proper basically. To be properly basic an idea must be logically apprehended as it is, with no possible alternative explanations, or  "defeaters." The argument is a possible defeater only if we understand it to be indicative the kind of universe God would not make. But we can't make that assumption beause we can't pretend to know all the things God would do. Once can find many alternative theological explanations that involve both Evangelical views of God and non Evangelical views. The most obvious non Evangelical view is that of process theology. The atheist can only think of God as a big man upstairs. This is the basic image they rebel against. The will of the father is their Kryptonite. They foresee a big man on a throne who decides and deliberates such a potentate wants to be served, they reason, and thus must make a universe in which he is known commonly to all. So we should expect the universe to be smaller, easier to navigate, easier to understand, filled with sign posts of God. No disease, no problems and everyone automatically given tons of faith so the world would be a paradise. If some serpent spoiled it, it should be put right immediately so that we can go on in our little heavens, where no doubt we get to listen to Richard Dawkins directing the chores of angels.

The God of process theology, on the other hand, is more like the Hegelian dialectic, or like some organizing principle. This is not a God deliberates and decides. this is a God who is potential in one realm, and who micro manages (literally) creation in the other; almost a law of physics, changing with creation, bringing subatomic particles into being and ushering them out of being. This is more of a stage director in the play of the universe (and in other dipolar structure stage director and producer) than a big king on a throne. Such a God would start the process of life and allow it go where it will, then embrace (to whatever extent possible) any beings that evolve sufficiently to come up to its level.

Another version would be my own idea of God as being itself (Tillich's idea--). This version of God is much like the process God, but I fell that God is too sacred a mystery to pin down to dipolar structures or to analyze all of "his" ("her," "its") doings. God is the great wholly (Holy) other. WE cannot know except through mystical union what God is doing. But such a God is the basis upon which being proceeds into concrescence and the basic reality of the Platonic forms. Such a God does not design or make plans, but the whole of creation is a non deliberating plan in the sense of being an expression of God's charter indwell; yet not necessity the result of raciocentination. Thus God starts a principle of life emerging from the nature of being, because that's what being does it spreads the beings, it "let's be" (John Mcquarrie). The evolutionary course that is followed may be assisted in an automatic sort of way, not as a plan, not as a deliberate gesture, but as the result of a nature that has to manifest itself creatively. This being doesn't' say "I will make men, and men will serve me." But men evolve out of the storm and the wastes of the abyss and they naturally come to find God because theta's he nature of beignet is there to be found in the sense of the numinous. When humanity reaches a point where it comprehends the numinous, to seeks God and finds God.

Humanity finds God in a million different places. It finds God in flowers and trees, in brooks (and in books), in grass, in each other. It finds God in storms and scary things, and in the night. It finds God in the sky and the stars in the darkness of a vast and endless expanse. It reaches out for what is there because it has been put into it to do so; not because God sat and said "I will make men and men will seek me" but because God provided for the reality of the Imago Dei to evolve and develop in whatever species reached the point where humanity has come to. God did this automatically as an aspect of self expression, as an outgrowth of consciousness. This kind of God would make a universe of the type we see around us. This type of God would also place in that universe hints so that whatever species reaches that level that God's manifestation would be waiting to show them God's solidarity with them. God would plant a thousand clues, not as a matter of deliberation like one plants Easter eggs, but as the result of being what God is--self communicating and creative. Thus we have design arguments and fine tuning arguments, and contingencies and necessities and the lot. We can find the God Pod in our heads that lights up when it hears God ideas. We can do studies and determine that our religious experiences are better for us than unbelief, because the clues are endless because the universe bears the marks of its creator.

Yet these marks are sublet for a reason. This is where the Evangelical view of God can also be a sophisticated view. The Evangelical God can also be the God of Tillich and the God of process, after all, these are all derived from the same tradition and the Evangelicals have as much right to escape anthropomorphism as anyone. The Evangelical God seeks a moral universe. This God wants believers who have internalized the values of the good. We do not internalize that which we are forced to acknowledge. Thus God knows that a search in the heart is better to internalizing values than is a rational formally logical argument, or a scientific proof. Thus we have a soteriological drama in which we can't tell if there is or is not a God just by looking at the nature of nature. That must remain neutral and must illud us because it is not given to us to have direct and absolute knowledge of God. Knowledge of God is a privilege. We must seek it through the heart, that's where it isthmian to be found. It's a privilege but faith is a gift.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

I must risk offended some readers: Tea Party acts like communists

  photo Statue-Liberty-weeping_zps5f735d61.jpg

Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121

I would love to just stay in the ivory tower and talk about theology all the time. But there's a real world going on out here. We are in the world, if not of the world. At some point we have to care what happens to people. I don't know what percentage of my readers term themselves "evangelical." Or even what percentage of those who do identify with the political right, vote republican, I'm sure some do. Even a lot of republicans are ready to end the government shut down. I would really rather just ignore it all and talk about God. we have 10 days to raise the debt ceiling so I don't have to time play games.

I live on SSI. I am disabled I have a problem with my legs. The government shut down doesn't effect SSI but the failure to raise the debt ceiling will.

CBS News Money Watch
Alain Sherter
October 7, 2013

Experts agree that failing to raise the nation's debt ceiling by Oct. 17, when U.S. officials say the government will run out of money to pay its bills, would gravely wound the economy, and perhaps even throw it back into recession. Because Treasury bonds and the dollar are cornerstones of the global financial system, meanwhile, the shock wave would be felt around the world.

"The potential is disastrous," said Gus Faucher, senior economist with PNC Financial Services Group. "We would see interest rates spike across the board. We'd see a huge crash in the dollar. People count on lending their money to the federal government and getting it back, and if that trust is taken away -- it's never happened that we haven't met our obligations as a nation -- then that has very, very negative consequences for the U.S. economy."
The consequences are so severe that, even as the government shutdown enters its second week, most seasoned political observers still expect Congress to ultimately reach an eleventh-hour deal to lift the government's borrowing limit.

If there is a failure to raise the debt celing social security checks will stop and disability benefits will not be paid.

The republicans are demanding cutting benefits for disability as the price for raising the debt ceiling. How can the Dems actually accept that kind of bull? That would be like giving in to terrorism.

Huffington Post 10/3/2013

First and foremost, he said, retirement and disability benefits for millions of Americans would be at risk.
"In a government shutdown, Social Security checks still go out on time," Obama said. "In an economic shutdown, if we don't raise the debt ceiling, they don't go out on time."
More than 57 million Americans receive monthly benefits from the Social Security Administration. The average monthly check for retirees totaled $1,224 in September.

 Isn't that nice we'll be camping on the side walk? No it means we will lose everything because we have  no place to go. My insane brother will be wondering the streets shouting at people and getting his legs infected. I will get my legs infected becuase I wont be able to change my bandages and I'll have to have my legs cut off, if I don't die first. lose all the books we spent a life time collecting, we wont even have the pictures of our childhood's to console us becuase we have way to store or transport them, and we will probably be arrested when we start shouting at people. Needless to say I wont be able to write my books. I will never blog again.

I think about the little Spanish woman I prayed with in the laundry mat who said "we have to pray so much." She escaped Guatemealan death squads who wanted to murder her, but now she's 81 and she can't go on the run anymore. What's she going to do when she can't pay rent. I guess we  are not in God's favor because we are not rich.

Social Secuirity Admin
official website
In 2013, almost 58 million Americans will receive $816 billion in Social Security benefits.
June 2013 Beneficiary Data
Retired workers 37 million $47.4 billion $1,269 average monthly benefit
dependents 2.9 million $ 1.8 billion
Disabled workers 8.9 million $ 10 billion $1,129 average monthly benefit
dependents 2.1 million $ .69 billion
Survivors 6.2 million $ 6.6 billion $1,221 average monthly benefit
Social Security is the major source of income for most of the elderly.
  • Nine out of ten individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits.
  • Social Security benefits represent about 39% of the income of the elderly.
  • Among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 53% of married couples and 74% of unmarried persons receive 50% or more of their income from Social Security.
  • Among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 23% of married couples and about 46% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.
Social Security provides more than just retirement benefits.
  • Retired workers and their dependents account for 70% of total benefits paid.
  • Disabled workers and their dependents account for 19% of total benefits paid.
    • About 91 percent of workers age 21-64 in covered employment in 2011 and their families have protection in the event of a long-term disability.
    • Just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67.
    • 69% of the private sector workforce has no long-term disability insurance.
  • Survivors of deceased workers account for about 11% of total benefits paid.
    • About one in eight of today’s 20 year-olds will die before reaching age 67.
    • About 96% of persons aged 20-49 who worked in covered employment in 2011 have survivors insurance protection for their young children and the surviving spouse caring for the children.
An estimated 161 million workers, 94% of all workers, are covered under Social Security.
  • 51% of the workforce has no private pension coverage.
  • 34% of the workforce has no savings set aside specifically for retirement.
In 1940, the life expectancy of a 65-year-old was almost 14 years; today it is more than 20 years.
By 2033, the number of older Americans will increase from 45.1 million today to 77.4 million.
There are currently 2.8 workers for each Social Security beneficiary. By 2033, there will be 2.1 workers for each beneficiary.

All of these people stand to have their ability to live cut off like that!

What are the acting like? When I was a communist I saw them play a game called "rule or ruin." They would totally trash an organization they wanted to rule if they didn't get their way. So the organization was no good any more becuase they couldn't run it. That's what communists do. That's what the tea party is doing. They are acting like communists. They are doing what the communists do.

Please call your congressman and demand that they start the government and meet the obligation to raise the debt ceiling? If we don't do it the recovery will be destroyed we will plunged into economic ruin that will make 2008 look like a good time.

My parents lived through the great depression. The children who came after them didn't listen so they never learned. One of the major lessons my parents taught me is "don't be fooled by wolves in sheep clothing who talk about God and who reat the powerless like trash.

The servants of the rich are willing to murder the poor be curry the favor of their masters. Make your will known to your congressman!

Don't blame both sides. Obama is not just being suborn he's clearly and obviously standing up to them becuase they that's all you can do. If he allows them to get their way we might as well just end democracy now and allow terrorists to run things. Anyone who is willing to destroy the country if he doesn't get hi sway get's to be potentate.

call congress now. It's easy to find out now just Google it.

 Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121