Saturday, April 29, 2023

Are there laws of Physics? 2

Continue foot note numbering from part 1

Humean empiricql's failure to answer

Alan Chalmers discusses the way that followers of the Philosopher David Hume deal with the problem of explaining the regularity without prescriptive laws. Chalmers represents the scientific realists, Humeans are their oppents. Followers of Hume believe that it's going too far beyond the bounds of what can be proven to suggest that laws govern things or that properties of nature produce the effect of governance. Chalmers goes back to the billiard balls to illustrate Hume's position. Hume argued that we don't see one ball moving the other but one ball stop and the other one start. We don't see the causal process so we must assume it. Hume believed that we don't have a rational warrant for belief in physical bodies or the external world. These must be assumed on faith

. At least Chalmer's and the realists are willing to admit there's a problem. I will demonstrate that his solution is little better than Hume's (in the next chapter). Humean refusal to move out of deniel is indicative of modern science as a whole. This law-like regularity is just a set of behaviors and naturallaws are just descriptions of those behaviors, never mind how law-like they are. Chalmer's argument against Hume does not answer Hume, it just assumes that we know already that nature has activeproperties that make things happen. That's just refusal to believe Hume's logic. Hume's skepticism fuels atheist empiricism, that stands behind all their claims that there is no rational reason to believe in God. I wonder how many of them ever realize that according to Hume there's no reason to believe in the externalworld. Mattey says of Hume: Consider the question whether we are justified in believing that a physical world exists. As David Hume pointed out, the skepticism generated by philosophical arguments is contrary to our natural inclination to believe that there are physical objects. Nonetheless, after considering the causes of our belief in the existence of body and finding them inadequate for the justification of that belief, Hume admitted to being drawn away form his original assumption that bodies exist. "To be ingenuous, I feel myself at present..more inclin'd to repose no faith at all in my senses, or rather imagination, than to place in it such an implicit confidence," because "'tis impossible upon any system to defend either our understanding or senses." His solution to these doubts was "carelessness and in-attention," which divert the mind fromskeptical arguments.[21]

Hume tells us:
[T]he skeptic . . . must assent to the principle concerning the existence of body, tho' he cannot pretend by any arguments of philosophy to maintain its veracity. Nature has not left this to his choice, and has doubtless esteem'd it an affair of too great importance to be trusted to our uncertain reasonings and speculations. We may well ask, What causes induce us to believe in the existence of body?, but 'tis in vain to ask, Whether there be body or not? That is a point, which we must take for granted in all our reasoning.” (A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part IV, Section II) [22]

For an answer to Hume I turn to Hume's contemporary opponent, Thomas Reid. More specifically to G.J. Mattey and his use of Lehrer and Reid. Thomas Reid (1710-1790) Scottish philosopher, leader of the “common sense” school. He studied Philosophy at Marischl college, Aberdeen. He served as a Presbyterian pastor. He influenced modern philosophers such as Charles Sanders Peirce.[23]Reid argues that we are justified in following our senses.That the evidence of sense is of a different kind, needs little proof. No man seeks a reason for believing what he sees or feels; and, if he did, it would be difficult to find one. But, though he can give no reason for believing his senses, his belief remains as firm as if it were grounded on demonstration...Many eminent philosophers, thinking it unreasonable to believe when they could not shew a reason, have laboured to furnish us with reasons for believing our senses; but their reasons are very insufficient, and will not bear examination. Other philosophers have shewn very clearly the fallacy of these reasons, and have, as they imagine, discovered invincible reasons against this belief; but they have never been able either to shake it themselves or to convince others. The statesman continues to plod, the soldier to fight, and the merchant to export and import, without being in the least moved by the demonstations that have been offered of the non-existence of those things about which they are so seriously employed. And a man may as soon by reasoning, pull the moon out of her orbit, as destroy the belief of the objects of sense. (Essay on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Essay IV, Chapter XX) [24]

He doesn't put it in these terms but he's arguing that living by the assumption that perceptions are real works. Ignoring that realization doesn't work. Now he does say that perceptions can be wrong and weneed attention to detail.[25] But in general he's talking about justification of belief in the external world and physical bodies. People go about their lives doing what they do and assume the reality of the world works. Now a student of philosophy may think “but that's the average person who knows nothing of philosophy and doesn't think. No philosopher lives by Humean skepticism. When a philosopher makes love he or shedoes not pull back at the most climatic moment and say “is my partner here real? Is this real? Am I really doing this deed in this place?” Philosophers who are drafted and sent to war don't walk into machine gun fire to see if the bullets are real. Reid argues that we have prima face justification to assume the reality of regular and consistent perceptions. Science couldn't really thrive on Humean skepticism. To a point skepticism is good for science since science is not about proving facts but testing hypotheses. Yet if we never assume the reality of perception why bother with empirical observation?

It seems clear that a great deal of the fuss is the result of the words, “law” vs. “description.” The prescriptive/descriptive dichotomy is probably too simplistic. Neither is it so simple to just find a new term. One of the more interesting developments in philosophy of science is the small, yet determined, group of feminist science critics. Their social project is to clean science up from it's “sexist spin” (my term) by ridding it of paradigms based upon dominance, hierarchy and linear understanding. Naturally one of the first places they have to start is in dealing with the notion of natural law. Nelson quoting Keller:
Our under standing of what constitutes a law (in nature as well as in society) is of course subject to change, and not all laws necessarily imply coercion. Certainly not all scientific laws are either causal or deterministic; they may, for example be statistical, phenomenological, or just simply the 'rules of the game.'....The extreme case of the desire to turn observed regularity into law is of course the search for the one 'unified' law of nature that embodies all other laws, and that hence will be immune to revision.[35]
Keller doubts that the P/D dichotomy distinguishes the law of nature metaphor from coercion, (Nelson's analysis of Keller). Keller wants to draw upon biology rather than bases her alternative on biology rather than physics. She moves from moves from search for laws to a search for order. Linear hierarchy of the legal metaphor limits our relation to and understanding of nature. Keller admits that order can imply the same hierarchical relationships as does law. It also allows for other kinds of relationships. “Order is a category comprising patterns of organization that can be spontaneous, self generated, or externally imposed; it is a larger category than law precisely to the extent that law implies external constraint..”[36]

Ruth Bleier says dominance determinism and hierarchy is in genetics, so biology is not free of it. She also uses that fact to justify using political concerns as guides to scientific paradigms, because in matters such as racism the relationship between the scientific and political was one-to-one. In other words the dominance and hierarchical nature of genetics was used to justify racism.[37] A Derridian might say, however, that the tension between the two implications of “order” is the point of deconstruction. Law and order go together like soup and sandwich. There's an even better answer as to way the idea of using order rather than law is not a defeat for my argument: order, and organizing principle might fit tether well. Oder might be the product of organizing principle.


[21]G.J. Matty, 2002 Lecture Notes, Lehrer's Theory of Knowledg e, Second edition chapter 4 the Foundation Theory: Fallible Foundations. Online resource, URL: accessed 9/2/15. Mattey was one of the top Reid scholars. Mattey is senor lecturer at U*.C. Davis, Joinws faculty in 1977 (Ph.D. from U. Pittsburgh). He specializes in 17th and 18th century philosophy, epistemology and logic.

[22]David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part IV, Section II, Mineola, NY&: Dover Pu8blishing 2003, 134-157.

[23] C. S.Peirce , "Some Consequences of Four Incapacities", Journal of Speculative Philosophy 2, (1868) pp. 140–157, see p. 155 via Google Books. Reprinted, Collected Papers v. 5, paragraphs 264–317 (see 311), Writings v. 2, pp. 211–42 (see 239), Essential Peirce v. 1, pp. 28–55 (see 52).Essay on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Essay IV, Chapter XX)

[24]Thomas Reid, Essay on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Essay IV, Chapter XX, quoted in Mattey, op. cit.


[26] Brian Weatherson, "David Lewis", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .

According to Weatherson:

David Lewis (1941–2001) was one of the most important philosophers of the 20th Century. He made significant contributions to philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of science, decision theory, epistemology, meta-ethics and aesthetics. In most of these fields he is essential reading; in many of them he is among the most important figures of recent decades. And this list leaves out his two most significant contributions.

[27] John W. Carroll, "Laws of Nature," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 Edition),

Edward N. Zalta (ed.), online resourse URL = . [28]Ibid. the article sites: David Lewis, Counterfactuals, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973.

[29]Ibid. The article sites: David Lewis, Philosophical Papers, Volume II, New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

[30]Ibid. On mind dependent criticism: “See, especially, Armstrong 1983, 66–73; van Fraassen 1989, 40–64;

Carroll 1990, 197–206.”

[31]Hugh McCarthy, “The Universal Theory of Physical Law,” Hugh McCarthy's ASC blog. (Dec. 17, 2014) On line Resource URL: I hesitate to site another blog by a Ph.D. candidate, but this is the most cogent and helpful explanation of Armstrong I've seen. McCarthy: This blog is part of an ASC research project that I am completing as part of my PhB (Science) degree at the Australian National University, in the summer of 2014-2015. I am looking at the relationship between law and science, trying to answer questions like “What is difference between a legal law and a scientific law?” The project is supervised by Joshua Neoh from the ANU Law Department, and Pierre Portal from the ANU Maths Department.


[33]Davies, Cosmic Jackpot..., op.cit., 11-12. [34] Plato, Republic. 596a: We customarily hypothesize a single form in connection with each collection of many things to which we apply the same name 596a-b: Then let’s now take any of the manys you like. For example, there are many beds and tables ... but there are only two forms of such furniture, one of the bed and one of the table.

[35]E. F. Keller, quoted in Lynn Nelson, Who Knows?... op. Cit., 220. Evelyn Fox Keller (born March 20, 1936) American, feminist, physicist professor emerita at MIT


[37]Lynn Nelson, op cit, 221. Ruth Bleier was a neurophysiologist, Ph.D, from Johns Hopkins, she was a life long activist, summoned before the HUAAC by Joe McCarthy, for running a peace committee in Maryland. She also taught Psychiatry, was professor at University of Wisconsin at Madison, and one of the first feminist thinkers to bring a feminist critique to scientific paradigms.

[38]Alan Chalmers, in Sankey, op. Cit., 7-8.

[39]Ibid., 10.


[41]Ibid., 11

[42]Brian Ellis, “Causal Powers and Laws of Nature,” in Saknkey, ed. op. Cit. 19-39.

[43]Ibid, 23.

[44]Caroline Lierse in Sankey, op. Cit.,., 83.

[45]Frederic Jameson, The Prison-House of Langauge: a Critiocal Accountof Structuralism and Russian formalism, Princeton: Princeton University press, 1975, 3.

[46]Joseph Hinman, God, Science, and Ideology

[47] Sewell Write, “Panpsychism and Science,” In Mind in Nature.Lanham Maryland:University press of America, ed. Cobb and Griffin 1977, 82. Sewell Wright (1889-19880)American geneticist known who was known for his work on evolutionary theory. He discovered the inbreeding coefficient in hybred animals. He taughtvat university of Chicago and Wisconsin. His Doctorate

. was from Harvard. He won many notable awards including National medal of science (1966). [48] Timothy O'Connor and Hong Yu Wong, "Emergent Properties", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = . Accessed 9/13/15

. [49]David Chalmers, “Strong and Weak emergence,” Research School of Social Sciences, Austrailian National University, online resource, PDF URL: accessed 9/13/15.

. [50] David Cole, "The Chinese Room Argument", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL = .

. [51]Paul Almond, “Searl's Argument Against AI and emergent Properties—part 1,” MLU: Machines Like Us, (December 29,

. 2008) online resource, URL: part-1 accessed 9/13/15.

. [52] Joseph Hinman, The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief. Colorado Springs: Grand Viaduct Publishing, 2014,

. [53] Nagel, Thomas. "What is it like to be a bat?", Mortal Questions, Cambridge University Press, 1979, p. 166. pdf: accessed 9/14/15. originally from The Philosophical Review LXXXIII, 4 (October 1974): 435-50

. Nagel is philosophy professer atv NYU. Ph.D Harvaed 1963, awards: 1996 for Other Minds (1995PEN/Diamonstein- Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay

. [54]Sean Carroll, review “Mind and Cosmos,” Sean Carroll (blog)(posted August 22, 2013) URL: accessedd 9/14/15.

. [55]Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos:...op. Cit., 3. (see chapter 1).

. [56]Ibid., 4.

. [57]Ibid., 55.

. [58]Ibid., 57.

. [59]Carroll, “Mind...”op. Cit.

. [60]Ibid,

. [61]Ibid.

. [62]Ibid.

. [63]Ibid.

. [64]Ibid.

. [65]Ibid.


Monday, April 24, 2023

Are There Laws of Physics? 1

On facebook recently an old atheist friend and sparing partner HRG, a mathematician from Austria, made the statemt that there is nothing in nature that obeys any thing telling nature how to beheave. Thus there are no laws of physics. It's true so called laws of physics reperesnet human obsservations about how things work. Wheather there are laws depends upon how one defines "law." I say there may not be laws of physics. certainly no legislative body passimg them, but is order im the universe.
The reason this question matters to the argument is because there is no good naturalistic explanation for the law-like regularity of physics. That's the essence of the abductive argument, but the same issues will surface in arguing the deductive version. Science no longer defines physical law in the sense of an active set of rules that tell nature what to do (as seen in chapter one). The sentiment is gospel in science. A Canadian Physicist, Byron Jennings, expresses it like this: “It is worth commenting that laws of nature and laws of man are completely different beasts and it is unfortunate that they are given the same name. The so called laws of nature are descriptive. They describe regularities that have been observed in nature. They have no prescriptive value. In contrast, the laws of man are prescriptive, not descriptive.” [1] Santo D’Agostino tells us, “...[T]he laws of science are not like the laws in our legal systems. They are descriptive, not prescriptive.”[2]

Contradiction in the descriptive paradigm

A closer look reveals that there is a contradiction here. The standard line about descriptions is double talk. First of all no one thinks physical laws are on a par with laws passed by congress. Just for the record I am not arguing that laws require a law giver, that is equivocation (although science still uses the misleading term “law”). Physical laws proceed from the mind of God, that is totally different from laws in human society. Secondly, Physical laws are just descriptions but what they describe is a law-like regularity. The question is, why is there an unswerving faithful regularity? That cannot be answered just by calling the regulation a “description.” It is so regular that we can risk people's lives in roller coasters based upon trusting those “descriptions.” D'Agostino again says, “For me, the key word is describe. A scientific law is a convenient description of observations. The law of science does not tell the world how to be, the world just is; science is a human attempt to engage with the mysteries of the world, and to attempt to understand them,” [3]

It just is, there is no why? Do Scientist really live with that? No they do not. “Most physicists working on fundamental topics inhabit the prescriptive camp, even if they don't own up to it explicitly.”[4] But then the Stephen Hawking Center for Theoretical Cosmology puts it point blank: “The physical laws that govern the Universe prescribe how an initial state evolves with time.”[5]

Clearly they want it both ways, they want physical laws not to be the will of God but they want them to be binding. The nature of the problem is deeper than just the language of an antiquated term. It really seems that physicists want it both ways.

In many perhaps most scientific disciplines the finality of a theory continues to be measured by its resemblance to the classical laws of physics, which are both causal and deterministic....The extreme case of the desire to turn observed regularity into law is of course the search for one unified law of nature. That embodies all other laws and that hense will be immune to revision.[6]
They still use the model of physical law, but they deny it's law-like aspects, yet they want it to be unalterable and to sum everything up in one principle. Don't look now but what she is describing is a transcendental signifier! That's the impetus behind grand unified theory of everything. Why add “of everything?” That clearly points to the transcendental signifier.
In his best-selling book "A Brief History of Time", physicist Stephen Hawking claimed that when physicists find the theory he and his colleagues are looking for - a so-called "theory of everything" - then they will have seen into "the mind of God". Hawking is by no means the only scientist who has associated God with the laws of physics. Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, for example, has made a link between God and a subatomic particle known as the Higgs boson. Lederman has suggested that when physicists find this particle in their accelerators it will be like looking into the face of God. But what kind of God are these physicists talking about? Theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg suggests that in fact this is not much of a God at all. Weinberg notes that traditionally the word "God" has meant "an interested personality". But that is not what Hawking and Lederman mean. Their "god", he says, is really just "an abstract principle of order and harmony", a set of mathematical equations. Weinberg questions then why they use the word "god" at all. He makes the rather profound point that "if language is to be of any use to us, then we ought to try and preserve the meaning of words, and 'god' historically has not meant the laws of nature." The question of just what is "God" has taxed theologians for thousands of years; what Weinberg reminds us is to be wary of glib definitions.[7]
Weinberg tells us the theory of everything will unite all aspects of physical reality in a single elegant explanation.[8]Exactly as does the TS! It's really describing a prescriptive set of laws, so it seems. If their theory can only give descriptions of how the universe behaves how is it going to explain everything? It seems explanatory power only comes with certainty about how things work. That is weaker with probable tendencies than with actual laws. Why are they looking for a single theory to sum it all up if they don't accept some degree of hierarchical causality?

Modern “descriptive laws:” Taking God out of the picture.

Is their rejection of law just a desire to get God out of the picture? That is abundantly clear, at least for some scientists. Paul Davies, a major physicist, thinks so:

Many scientists who are struggling to construct a fully comprehensive theory of the physical universe openly admit that part of the motivation is to finally get rid of God, whom they view as a dangerous and infantile delusion, And not only God but any vestige of God-talk, such as 'meaning,' 'purpose,' or 'design' in nature. These scientists see religion as so fraudulent and sinister that nothing less than total theological cleansing will do.[9]
The concept of law was formed in a time when scientists inextricably linked God with science. Robert Boyle purposely appealed to divine command in creation, as did Newton.[10] These were devout believers,and it was also expedient in the confessional English state. The English dealt with heretics by not inviting them to weekend at Westmoreland or by passing them over for honors. After the time of Newton the field of scientific acuity shifted to France. The French put heretics in jail. The Catholic church was much more in charge in France, enjoying the support of the monarchy, than in Protestant England.[11]Thus the French Philosophs rebelled with great ferocity against the Church and religious belief. The French rebellion carried over into all areas of modern letters, not the least in science.

Modern scientists since the enlightenment have sought to take God out of the picture. Philosophers are honest enough to admit there is a problem calling the law-like regularity “description.” After Alan Chalmers explains that Boyle's “stark ontology” made nature passive and left God to do all the work, he writes:

"I assume that, from the modern point of view, placing such a heavy, or indeed any, burden on the constant and willful intervention of God is not acceptable. But eliminating God from the account leaves us with the problem. How can activity and law like behavior be introduced into a world characterized in terms of passive or categorical properties only?"[12]

At least the scientific realists, such as Chalmers know there is a problem in the tension between unalterable regularity, and description. Many scientists either don't see the problem, or refuse to acknowledge it. Some assert a confidence in science's ability to one day answer all questions.

In recent years, under the influence of the new atheism, some physicists have began to compete with God. They claim not only to offer the better explanation, but to learn enough so as to one day erase the God concept from any serious consideration. Steven Pinker, (in answer to a question for discussion posed by the Tempelton foundation, “does science make belief in God obsolete?”): “Yes 'science' we mean the entire enterprise of secular reason and knowledge (including history and philosophy), not just people with test tubes and white lab coats. Traditionally, a belief in God was attractive because it promised to explain the deepest puzzles about origins. Where did the world come from? What is the basis of life? How can the mind arise from the body? Why should anyone be moral?”[13]

Of course he offers no evidence that science can answer such things (notice he expanded the definition of science to include disciplines many scientists seek to get rid of (philosophy)[14] that is an area that could answer the questions that science can't. He also offers no evidence that religion still can't answer them, but he goes on to say, “Yet over the millennia, there has been an inexorable trend: the deeper we probe these questions, and the more we learn about the world in which we live, the less reason there is to believe in God.” So he's made two fallacious moves here, the classic bait and switch and straw man argument. He says science makes God obsolete but then only if we expand science to include non-science. We could just include modern theology instead of nineteenth century theology and bring religion into science. Sorry, but belief in God does not rest with young earth creationism.

Pinker is not just using young Earth creationism to debunk all religion, even though that is a straw man argument. He's really making the same kind of answer that physicist Sean Carroll is making. He's saying“since we now have the capacity to learn everything (someday) we don't need to appeal to God to answer what we don't know thus he asserts that the only reason to believe is the God of the gaps argument). Carroll puts it a bit differently:

"Modern cosmology attempts to come up with the most powerful and economical possible understanding of the universe that is consistent with observational data. It's certainly conceivable that the methods of science could lead us to a self-contained picture of the universe that doesn't involve God in any way. If so, would we be correct to conclude that cosmology has undermined the reasons for believing in God, or at least a certain kind of reason?"[15]

Of course this is the standard wrong assumption often made by those whose skepticism is scientifically based. Explaining nature is not the only reason to believe in God. Moreover, they are nowhere near explaining nature in it's entirety, the TS argument is the best answer to the questions posed by the transcendental signifiers. It's pretty clear that for Carroll, and those who share his outlook the signifier “science” replaces the signifier “God” in their metaphysical hierarchy. They still have a TS and that speaks to the all pervasive nature of the TS. I've discussed in the previous chapter how the best answer to questions of origin have to be philosophical. That is confirmed by Pinker when he argues philosophy as part of science. The TS argument is philosophical. Science is not the only form of knowledge. Carroll admits there is not as of yet a theory that explains it all. He admits, “We are trying to predict the future: will there ever be a time when a conventional scientific model provides a complete understanding of the origin of the universe?”[16] He asserts that most modern cosmologists already feel we know enough to write off God and that there are good enough reasons. In his 2005 article he says, as the title proclaims, “almost all cosmologists are atheists.”[17]

That may be true of cosmologists but I doubt it, and I have good reason to. First, I don't see any poll of physicists in the article. He only argues anecdotal evidence by quoting a few people. If there was a poll it would be at least as old as 2005. A More extensive study from 2007 (two years after publication of Carroll's article) doesn't back up those findings. This study was done by Harvard professors who find the majority of science professors believe in God.[18] They present a bar graph that show about 35% of professor's at elite research universities believe in God with no doubt. About 27% believe but sometimes have doubts. About 38% are atheists. That actually means that 60% are not atheists. True that's not cosmologists but there is good reason to think the majority of cosmologists are not atheists. The most atheistic groups in the study were psychologists (61%), biologists (about 61%), and mechanical engineers(50%), not physicists (among whose ranks cosmologists number).[19] “Contrary to popular Opinion, atheists and agnostics do not comprise a majority of professors even at elite schools, but they are present in larger numbers than in other types of institutions.”[20] No group has “almost all” as atheist. Even if cosmologists are mostly atheists (not studied because they are a handful and highly specialized) it's still appeal to authority and could be based upon hubris. They do not have any empirical data at all to prove the universe could spring from nothing. I will will demonstrate the problems with this view much more clearly in the next chapter. Let's just remember the atheist position on this point is an appeal to faith.


[1] Byron Jennings, “The Role of Authority in Science and Law,” Quantum Diaries: Thoughts on Work and Life From Particle Physicists From Around The World. (Feb.3,2012) Online resource URL: Accessed 8/31/15 Byron Jennings is Project Coordinator for TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory, he's an adjunct Professor at Simon Freaser University. He is also the editor of In Defense of Scientism.

[2]Santo 'D Agostino, “Does Nature Obey The Laws of Physics?,” QED Insight, (March 9,2011). Online resource, URL: accessed 8/26/15.

D'Agostino is a mathematician who writes science text books. Ph.D. from The University of Toronto, he is also assistant professor in Physics at Brock University.

[3] Ibid.

[4]Paul Davies, Cosmic Jackpot: why is the universe Just Right For Life? New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition, 2007, 12. Davies is an English physicist, professor at Arizona State University. He was formerly an atheist and his major atheist book was God and The New Physics, written in the 70s. Since the late 90's he as become a believer, not a Christian but believer in a generic deistic sort of God. He was convinced by

the fine tuning argument and his major book since that time is The Mind Of God. He has taught at Cambridge and Aberdeen.

[5] CTC, “Origins of the Universe: Quantum Origins,” The Stephan Hawking Center for Theoretical Cosmology, University of Cambridge, online resource, URL: accessed 10/5/15.

[6]E. F. Keller, quoted in Lynn Nelson, Who Knows: From Quine to Feminist Empiricism. Temple University Press, 1990, 220. Evelyn Fox Keller is a physicist and a Feminist critic of science. Professor Emerita at MIT. Her early work centered on the intersection of physics and biology. Nelson is associate professor of philosophy at Glassboro State College.

[7]Counter balance foundation, “Stephen Hawking's God,” quoted on PBS website Faith and Reason. No date listed. Online resource, URL the URL for the website itself: accessed 8/26/2015. This resource provided by: Counterbalance Foundation

counterbalance foundation offers this self identification: “Counterbalance is a non-profit educational organization working to promote the public understanding of science, and how the sciences relate to wider society. It is our hope that individuals, the academic community, and society as a whole will benefit from a struggle toward integrated and counterbalanced responses to complex questions.” see URL above. The faith anjd reason foundation helped fund the PBS show. I first founjd thye piece “Stephen Hawking's God early the century, maybe 2004, certainly before 2006. It was on a sight called Metalist on science and religion. That site is gone. [8]Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist's Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 1994, 3, also 211.

[9]Paul Davies, Jackpot...op. Cit.,15.

[10]Alan Chalmers, “Making sense of laws of physics,” Causation and Laws Of Nature, Dordrecht, Netherlands : Kluwer Academic Publishers, (Howard Sankey, ed.), 1999, 3-4.

[11] Joseph Hinman, God, Science, and Ideology. Chapter 2.

[12]Chalmers, op., cit.

[13]Stephen Pinker, quoted on website, John Tempelton Foundation, “A Tempelton conversation, “Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?” The third in a series of conversations among leading scientists...Onlne resource, website. URL: accessed 9/4/15. Tempelton bio for Pinker: Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the department of psychology at Harvard University. He is the author of seven books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, and most recently, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.

[14]Anthany Mills, "Why Does Neil deGrasse Tyson Hate Philosophy," Real Clear Science. (May 22, 2014) OnLine resource, URL:


accessed 10/7/15.

"In a controversial interview, Neil deGrasse Tyson dismissed philosophy as “distracting.” The host of the television series Cosmos even suggested that philosophy could inhibit scientific progress by encouraging “a little too much question asking.” He thus follows a growing secular trend that cordons Science off from all other forms of inquiry, denigrating whatever falls outside science’s purported boundaries – especially the more “speculative” pursuits such as philosophy."

[15]Sean Corroll, ”Does The Universe Need God?” on Sean Carroll's website, Perposterous, online resource, URL: accessed 9/4/2015 Carroll is an astrophysicist and a theoretical physicist, Moore Center for Theoretical Physics and Cosmology, California Institute of Technology. He's authored many books.


[17] Sean Carroll,"Why (Almost All) Cosmologists Are Atheists," Faith and Philosophy, 22, (2005) p. 622.

[18]Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, “How Religious Are America's College and University Professors.” SSRC, (published feb. 2007), PDF URL, accessed 9/4/15 The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: sample was 1,417, representing over 300,000 professors. Neil Gross is assistant professor of sociology at Harvard University. He works on classical and contemporary sociological theory, the sociology of culture, and the sociology of intellectuals. His first book, tentatively titled Richard Rorty's Pragmatism: The Social Origins of a Philosophy, 1931-1982, is


Solon Simmons is assistant professor of conflict analysis and sociology at George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. His recent work has focused on values talk in congressional speeches, third party political candidates, industrial reorganization and the ongoing conservative critique of American higher education



Monday, April 17, 2023

The Shroud of Turin: It's The Real Thing


The Shroud of Turin is easy to dismiss as a hoax. It's right up there with Bigfoot. It began as a Medieval relic so how much easier could it be? Barrie Schwortz the photographer for the official scientific investigation team in 1977, the only team to officially study the shroud, said he had remarked that they would just breeze in,find a few brush strokes and go home and they get a free trip to Europe. That was the attitude for many of the team going into the process. They found no brush strokes. no paint., no way to explain the image. Everyone of the team wound up being convinced it;s the authentic shroud of Jesus of Nazareth. These were all major technicians and scientists working for JPL and other parts of NASSA. They used the most advanced equipment 1978.

There is a lot to be said against the shroud. It was dismissed in 1979 as a hoax due to carbon 14 dating which placed the date of the artifact in the middle ages. The problem is when the cloth was subjected to a fire in the 1500s several places on the fabric were burned and nuns keeping the shroud undertook to repair it with new linen. The sample for the dating was taken from one of those places where new linen had been woven into the fabric. Other more advanced methods have dated much earlier. There two other aspects that help to date it. One is pollen the other coins on the eyes. Both take it back to a range within the decade of Jesus' death. Because of Pollen fragments the team is able to place it in Palestine and the coin dates to between 29-36AD.

The reach team was never able to find a satisfactory explanation for how the image got on the fabric. It is not painted,it's not burned it is 3d meaning it was wrapped around a real body The blood is human blood. They can prove the victim was in his 30s and male and middle eastern. About the 3d information they don't how that works. They can't produce that effect either,

I don't offer this as apologetic argumemt because I lack the expertise to defend it. But it blew me away when I realized the probability is heavily in favor of authenticity. I urge the reader to watch all of these videos. It's intensely interesting.

upon cross x it doesn't appear that her sister was really on the team. She tired to dney that Schwat was on the team but when asked if her sister saw the shroud she said they gave her some fabroc.

"Over 40 years later, the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) investigations confirmed the image was not formed by dyes, chemicals, vapors, or scorching and was not formed by brush strokes. Researchers have investigated multiple naturalistic explanations, but none can account for the unique features of this photographic negative."

Jackson, Jumper and Ercoline compared the results of the above attempts with the macroscopic and microscopic features of the Shroud image, and argued that none of techniques tested can simultaneouslyreproduce its main features, from the 3-D property to the coloration depth, to the resolution of the spatialdetails. The conclusion was that the image on the Shroud of Turin is not the result of the work of an artist orforger.Thoughts decant a few years, until 1990 when Jackson writes a paper entitled “Is the image on the Shroud due to a process heretofore unknown to modern science?” [2]. In this paper, Jackson notes the failure of allthe hypotheses, both "naturalistic" and "fraudulent" (i.e., by an hypothetical forger) on the formation of theimage on the Shroud. However, the image is there, observable and measurable, then it must have been produced somehow. According to Jackson, when known scientific phenomena and paradigm are not able toexplain and create a Shroud-like image, we must look for a physical phenomenon ad hoc, not yet known toscience. Jackson suggests the far ultraviolet radiation as a "physical" method suitable to obtain a Shroud-likecoloration on linen. In fact, the fabric of the Shroud has undergone a process of selective aging. The cellulose of flax fibres, due to oxidation and other chemical processes that occur over centuries, undergo a change at

Barrie Schwortz, TEXed Barrie Schwortz, on EWTN

Janson Media:"This DVD is the most authentic and definitive DVD yet produced on the Holy Shroud. It reports on the first examinations of the fabric and the imprint left on it by the body of a dead man who had been tortured and crucified." Talks about conis on eyes.
Janson Media II

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Refuting the No Tomb Theory

The major argument for the Resurrection as McDowell argued in Evidence that Demands a Verdict, was centered upon the notion of Guards on the tomb: how did they get the body past the guards? One of the major innovations in countering this argument has been a tendency for Skeptics to argue that most crucifixion victims were not buried in individual tombs, but were tossed aside in mass graves or left for dogs to eat. Thus, it is assumed, the narrative of the Tomb was a fabrication, one calculated to produce an apologetic which would set up proof of a resurrection.

This argument can be countered in several ways:

I. Some burials for Crucifixion victims did happen and were not that uncommon.

A. The Skeptical Argument that Crucified Criminals were not given burial.In Fact the Romans did leave bodies on the cross often until they disintegrated.

B. Jews were horrified by non-burial of the crucified.

1) Crucifixion comes under heading of hanging.

This point has often been made in a different way by skeptics in argument. They will say that the references to being hung on tree indicate that Jesus was actually hung and not crucified. But hanging on a tree was the euphemism for crucifixion. It came from the OT custom of handing the body of an executed criminal on a tree. When crucifixion was brought in by the Romans the euphemism was created and applied to crucifixion. (See Raymond Brown, Death of The Messiah, Vol. II p.1209)

This means that the Jews had a horror of non-burial.

Deut. 21: 22-23 "if there shall be against someone a crime judged worthy of death, and he be put to death and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree: but you shall bury him on the same day, for cursed of God is anyone hanged."(quoted Ibid.).

2) Burial of crucified mandatory.

The Conflict between Roman and Jewish practices is phrased thus by S. Liberman: "The Roman practice of depriving executed criminals of the rite of burial and exposing their corps to the cross for many days... horrified the Jews." In the first Jewish revolt the Idumeans cast out corpses without burial. Commenting with disgust on this Josephus states: "the Jews are so careful about funeral rites that even those who are crucified because they were guilty are taken down and buried before sunset." [Ibid. and Josephus in War 44.5.2 #317]

Skeptics will quote this horror as though that is the main thing that made Jews fear crucifixion, but they will go on asserting that the Roman practice dominated, whereas the Jews found it mandatory according to their religion to bury the dead, even those crucified after having been found guilty of a crime.

3) Type of burial is the issue.

Brown point out that the guilty were often denied burial among their ancestors but put into common graves. Brown quotes the Mishna, Sanhedrin 6.6 "even if the accused was the King of Kings he shall be denied burial with his fathers." This phraseology may have been intentionally aimed against Christians. Does this mean then, that Jesus' body would have been placed in a common grave such that there was no actual tomb for him rise out of and leave empty?

C. Jews would probably have allowed burial of Jesus in Joseph's Tomb.

1) They key to the issue is the charge against him.

The charge against the prisoner is what would determine where his remains came to rest. If he was a criminal found worthy of death because he committed a crime he would be buried ignominiously in a common grave. However, political desenters crucified by the Romans did not come under this stricture. The Innocent crucified unjustly by foreign powers (Romans) could be given honorable burial. (Ibid. p.1210).

2) Jesus was not exicuted on criminal charges.

Jesus was executed not for criminal charges, but for political insurrection. Thus he would not come under the strictures of the crucified guilty but could be given a decent burial in an honored tomb.

Jesus was executed by the Romans, not for blasphemy, but on the charge of being the King of the Jews. Could this have been regarded as a death not in accordance with the Jewish law and so not subjecting the crucified to dishonorable burial? [Ibid., p. 1211]

"An innocent or nobel Jew might be crucified for something that did not come under the law of God, or indeed for keeping the divine law. We find this issue raised in Talbad Sanhedirin 47a-47b when Abey complians 'would you compare those slain by a [Gentile] govenrment to those slian by the Beth Din? the former, since their death is not in accordence with Jewish law obtain forgvieness...'Such a distinction had to have been made earlier or there could have been no tradition of an honorable burial for the Macabean martyrs. Thus we cannot discount the possibility of an honorable first burial for one crucified by the Romans....Yet would the tendency be to give Jesus an honorable or dishonorable burial? According to Mark/Mat the Sanhedirin found him worthy of death on the charge of blasphemy, and Josephus would have had the blasphemer stoned or hung...on the other hand Jesus was executed by the Romans not for blasphemy but on the charge of being the King of the Jews...."[Brown 1210-1211]

The Sanhedrin believed Jesus guilty of blasphemy, that doesn't mean that he was formally executed for it. That means his he may have been entitaled to honorable burial.

3) Clues in Mark and in Gospel of Peter (GPet).

a) Time indications.

Mark is probably the basis for Synoptic understanding of the events and John may have an account independent from that of Mark. There is a time requirement implicit in the request to get the body buried since the death occurred about 3pm and some time between this time and sunset the body had to be placed in the ground to prevent profanation of the Holy day (Passover). Thus there was a race against time and it was expedient to to follow through with events as quickly as possible.

b) Jospeh of Aramethia.

Brown points out that since the first mention of Jospeh in all the Gospels is at this juncture, his Role in burying Jesus, he was not thought of as a follower or as a supporter, but merely one who wanted to prevent profanation of the Holy Day. He was a distinguished member of the Sanhedrin and would have had a certain degree of political influence. If he was merely concerned with doing his duty he might be willing to offer his own tomb for the sake of expediency. This makes sense of what seems to be a lack of cooperation between two parties, the women and Jospeh. Had both groups been followers it makes no sense why Joseph would not have been there to roll away the stone for the women, or why the women would not have stayed to anoint the body. This also makes sense of the tendency of John and GPet to speak of the Jews burying Jesus, "they drew out the nails, " and so forth. (John 19:38, GPet 6:21).

4) Roman Respect for Jewish Customs.

"During the Roman period decrees were promulgated which prohibited the removal of the stone coverings of tombs and the mutilation of their contents." [R.K. Harrison Archaeology of The New Testament, New York: Association Press 1964, p. 31]

There is an inscription of such a law, called "The Nazareth law" found on the stone covering the entrance to a tomb, which dates to Claudias' time (about AD 41). This may have been in response to the claims of Jesus' resurrection. Brown does not regard that as a serious argument, however, although it does show that the Roman's were willing to respect the Religious practices of the Jews. We do know this from other instances in fact, that exceptions were made to honor the specific religious requirements of the Jews whenever possible. Thus there would probably have been no insistence that Roman custom be followed with regard to the bodies on crosses. IN fact Browns gives an example of three friends of Josephaus' who were crucified and Josephus was able to have them taken down on the insistence that leaving them up violated their religious customs.

While it is true that in some cases the Romans did leave the bodies of crucified victims on crosses for extended periods of time (typically to horrify rebellious locals), the basic rules for how to treat the crucified was laid out in "The Digest of Justinian" 48:24 in which Ulipian tells us that the bodies of those who suffer capital punishment are not to be denied to their relatives, and this is extended by Julius Paulus to include any who seek them for burial (see R.E. Brown, "Death of the Messiah, Vol. 2, pg. 1207).

As Brown says:
Basically, the Romans successfully held their empire together in no small part by remaining sensative to local sensibilities, especially in times of general peace and tranquility as we find in Palestine in the first half of the First Century. Adding credence to the historicity of the burial tradition offered in the Gospels is the nature of Jewish Law on the matter, the probable historicity of Joseph of Arimathea himself, and the general lack of legendary development in the account by the Gospel authors themselves.
The Death of the Messiah, Vol. 2 (Doubleday, 1994):>

"...I suggested that "a respected council member who was also himself awaiting the kingdom of God" meant that Joseph was a religiously pious Sanhedrist who, despite the condemnation of Jesus by the Sanhedrin, felt an obligation under the Law to bury this crucified criminal before sunset. That Mark created such an identification is most unlikely since it runs counter to his hostile generalizations casting blame on all the members of the Sanhedrin for the injustice of sentencing Jesus to death" (Mark 14:55,64; 15:1).... Raymond Brown, DMV2, pg. 1239

The "laws" that Brown refers to include (Joshua 8:29, 10:27, II Samuel 2:12-14; Tobit 1:17-19; 2:3-7; 12:12-13; Sirach 7:33; 38:16) as mentioned by Josephus in Jewish War 4.5.2; #317 "The Jews were so careful about funeral rites that even those who are crucified because they were found guilty are taken down and buried before sunset." These practices arise especially Mosaic Law.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 "If there shall be against someone a crime judged worthy of death, and he be put to death and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree; but you shall bury him the same day, for cursed of God is the one hanged."

Further, we have from Josephus again mentioning of the command to bury on the same day one who has been hung on a tree after being stoned to death, in a first-century context Antiquities 4. 202 and Jewish War 4. 317.Brown documents the story of Josephus, who saw three of his freinds hanging on corsses, and was able to have them taken down because it was almost sunset. Two of the three survived, but the one who died was burried honorably.

In his concluding remarks on the burial of Jesus, Raymond Brown had this to say:

"That Jesus was buried is historically certain. That Jewish sensitivity would have wanted this done before the oncoming Sabbath (which may also have been a feast day) is also certain, and our records give us no reason to think that this sensitivity was not honored. That this burial was done by Joseph of Arimathea is very probable, since a Christian fictional creation of a Jewish Sanhedrist who does what is right is almost inexplicable, granted the hostility in early Christian writings toward the Jewish authorities responsible for the death of Jesus. Moreover, the fixed designation of such a character as "From Arimathea," a town very difficult to identify and reminiscent of no scriptural symbolism, makes a thesis of invention even more implausible. While probability is not certitude, there is nothing in the basic Gospel account of Jesus' burial by Joseph that could not plausibly be deemed historical." (R.E. Brown, DMV2, pg. 1240-41)

One of history's most liberal theologians concurs. Commenting specifically on Mark 15:42-47:

"This is an historical account which creates no impression of being a legend apart from the women who appear again as witnesses in v. 47, and vs. 44-45 which Matthew and Luke in all probability did not have in their Mark." R. Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition, (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), pg. 274.

"A straightforward reading of the Gospels' portrait of the burial has been challenged by revisionist scholars, who theorize that Jesus died in a mass crucifixion: the body was thrown into a common, shallow trench, to become carrion for vultures and scavenging dogs. This makes for vivid drama but implausible history. Pilate, after all, had been forced in the face of Jewish opposition to withdraw his military shields from public view in the city when he first acceded to power. What likelihood was there, especially after Sejanus' death, that he would get away with flagrantly exposing the corpse of an executed Jew beyond the interval permitted by the Torah, and encouraging its mutilation by scavengers outside Jerusalem?"Revisionism can be productive. But it can also become more intent on explaining away traditional beliefs than on coming to grips with the evidence at hand, and I think this is a case in point. It is worth explaining why I go along with much of the Gospel's account of Jesus' burial, because doing so will help us grapple with the vexed question of what happened three days after his crucifixion."Time and again, the Gospels reveal the tendancy of the first Christians to shift the blame for Jesus' death away from Pilate and onto the Sanhedrin. Yet when it comes to taking on the weighty responsibility of burying Jesus, we find members of that same council taking the lead, while most of Jesus' disciples had beaten a hasty and ignominious retreat. Joseph's and Nicodemus' public act cost them: they donated mortuary dressing and ointment as well as use of the cave. They also contracted uncleanness for seven days after the burial. On each of those seven days they would have had to explain to curious colleagues where and why they had come into contact with a corpse, a powerful source of impurity."Joseph's act went beyond mere display of ordinary decency. He ensured that Jesus was interred in one of the caves he had recently dug for himself and his family. The significance of this gesture is plain: there were those wihtin the council who had not agreed with Caiphas' condemnation of Jesus to Pilate."[Chilton, Bruce. "Rabbi Jesus: The Jewish Life and Teaching that Inspired Christianity", (New York: Doubleday, 2000) p. 270-272.]

II. The "No Tomb" Theory doesn't account for or explain the early faith in the resurrection.

Had it been common custom for crucifixion victims to always have been left on the cross for several days and finally to be thrown to dogs, one can scarily see how anyone would not know this. Knowing the fate of crucifixion victims to always lack any real burial, who in Jerusalem would be convinced by the stories of Jesus and the empty tomb? The very fact of the contradictory nature of the story would turn off any interest in the group from the beginning. It would have been known to most people that crucified and empty tomb just don't' go together, so who would have believed the story? Than to think that they waited 50 years until Mark wrote his Gospel to try and add apologetics touches such as Jospeh of Aramethia volunteering his tomb, is absurd. Clearly the story had to emerge at a very early period, yet if it emerged very early it would have been know to be a lie. No one would believe something that so violated common knowledge and of which they had never heard a word and knew no one else who ever heard of such events. The notion that these aspects of the Jesus story do not have a basis in historical fact just does not hold water.

Sunday, April 09, 2023

"Weak evidence" that warrants belief in Jesus' Resurrection

My friend and loyal atheist opponant "Pixie" states: "The empty tomb is not even considered a historical fact in mainstream history as the evidence is so weak. It all adds up to pretty flimsy evidence that cannot be verified."[]

I will post more "weak eveidece" on Wednesday.

The Gospel accounts of the resurrection were transmitted faithfully from the very beginning. How do we know this? The same way we know that any aspect of ancient world history is a probably true: the documents are trustworthy. Now skepitics are probably spitting milk out their noses reading this, but its true.There are three areas of reliability, and two major misconceptions that have to be avoided. Let me start with the misconceptions:

(1) The idea that "reliable" means "realisitic."

I'm sure many skeptics reading this are saying, How can they be reliable when they speak of miracles?. But reliable doesn't' necessarily mean "realistic." This doesn't mean they aren't hard to believe, or that they don't require an assumption about metaphysics; reliable doesn't' mean true. What it does mean I'll get to in a minute.

big misconception number two:

(2) Faithful transmission of history would have to mean that we can prove that eye witnesses wrote the documents. Or worse, that the name sakes wrote the documents (John wrote John, Matthew wrote Matthew). None of that has to be the case.

faithful transmission means the content has been passed down from source to antoher for generations without significant alteration. Trustworthy doesn't mean "we can prove its true," it means we can trust, within a reasonable estimation, that what we have recorded today is what we would find being transmitted in the earilest times. Here is how we know:

I. The evidence of the Manuscripts (Ms) and the stories themselves.

II. Early date of the Resurrection narrative.

III. Reliability of the Community.

I. The evidence of the Manuscripts (Ms) themselves.

I wont belabor the point about the documents, since that has been talked to death on message boards for years. See my pages on Bible: canonical Gospels for a lot of good info on this point. But, the often quoted statistic is that the NT MS are generally 98% reliable. What that means is, that to within 98% all the thousands of MS that we possess (24,000 of all types including fragments) say the same things. we don't find passages with wildly different events. There is no one secret passage somwhere that offers some totally different account of what happened. Such a Ms just doesnt' exist and there is no evidence that such a thing ever did exist. The closest we come to that is Secret Mark the fragment found by Martin Smith at Mar Saba; but even Secret Mark assumes the world of the Gospels, it assumes a particular event recorded in Mark, it doesn't' change the basic facts of the story at all.

Now skeptics have been known to argue, "but they are just copying the same story." That's the point! If those events didn't happen, or at least if they were not been taught from the beginning as "the truth," we should find other versions. NO program of eradication could take out all copies in the ancient world. Some fragment of a Gospel would have survived somewhere. If there was a version of the story in which Jesus didn't rise from the dead, or in which he rose on the 8th day, or whatever, we would have a copy of it. The fact that the manuscripts give a cooherent and unified testimony going all the way back as early as it can go (and not contradicted by 35 lost gospels we do possess) indicates that this is a good representation of what happened (see F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents,Are they Reliable?

Unified Narratival Framework

The Gospel of Luke is greatly substantiated by artifacts and history, what about the other Gospels, especially the first Gospel Mark? In the totality of the Synoptic tradition we have a unified framework which is kept intact. We do not see the growth and elabortaion of myth. As Stephen Neil points out, quoting Edwin Clement Hoskyns (1884-1937) in The Riddle of the New Testament (p.104) Neil begins by saying,

"We hold with some confidence that Mark is the earliest of the Gospels and that both Matthew and Luke use him in the Composition of their Gospels, if there is any tendency to heighten the drama...we shall certainly find it in those points at which Matthew and Luke differ from Mark. Do we in fact find that this is the process which has taken place? After a careful survey of the evidence Hoskyns answers in the negative. Matthew and Luke have far more material than Mark...but essentially the presentation of Jesus is the same, and if there is any tendency it is not toward heightening the majesty and mystery of Christ it is rather in the opposite direction--Jesus is a little tamed, a little softened and brought a little nearer to ordienary categories of human existence" (p. 216). He then quotes Hoskyns himself: "In this process of editing they nowhere heighten Marks tremendous picture of Jesus. No deifying of a prophet, or of a mere preacher of righteousness can be detected. They do not introduce Hellenistic superstition or submerge in the light of later Christian faith the lineaments of Mark's picture of Jesus.They attempt to simplify Mark, he is more difficult to understand than they are...."

Rather than seeing a myth spreading and growing and moving toward a deified Christ what we actually see is a stable framework of assumed and testified fact and a relatively stable explanation of what the facts mean. This is in sharp contrast to the skeptic's idea that the simple facts grew out of proportion with re-telling until they culminated in the fantastical notion that Jesus rose from the dead!

II. Early Date of Resurrection Narrative.

A.Myth Takes Centuries to Develop

The importance of early claims is this. Myth takes time to develop. Legends might spring up over night, but they take time to assume a consistent form. William Lane Craig quotes prof. Sherwin-White ("Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ," Truth 1 (1985): 89-95)

"For in order for these stories to be in the main legendary, a very considerable length of time must be available for the evolution and development of the traditions until the historical elements have been supplanted by unhistorical. This factor is typically neglected in New Testament scholarship, as A. N. Sherwin-White points out in Roman Law and Roman Society tn the New Testament. Professor Sherwin-White is not a theologian; he is an eminent historian of Roman and Greek times, roughly contemporaneous with the NT. According to Professor Sherwin-White, the sources for Roman history are usually biased and removed at least one or two generations or even centuries from the events they record. Yet, he says, historians reconstruct with confidence what really happened. He chastises NT critics for not realizing what invaluable sources they have in the gospels. The writings of Herodotus furnish a test case for the rate of legendary accumulation, and the tests show that even two generations is too short a time span to allow legendary tendencies to wipe out the hard core of historical facts. When Professor Sherwin-White turns to the gospels, he states for these to be legends, the rate of legendary accumulation would have to be 'unbelievable'; more generations are needed. All NT scholars agree that the gospels were written down and circulated within the first generation, during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses."

B.Resurrection Claims Made Early

(1) Markon Account Very Early

The early date of the transmissions are borne out by the Texts themselves. They are clean and free of myth. The Markon version is especially pure. Consider the use of the phrase "on the third day" which we find in Paul's statement above about the 500 witnesses. Throughout the NT that phrase is used of the Resurrection. Even in Gospels latter than Mark's it is used. But not in Mark. In Mark we are receiving something from the purest strata of the early days. William Lane Craig, (The History of the empty Tomb of Jesus" New Testament Studies 21 (1985):39-67)

Gerd Theissen in The Gospels in Context, (pp. 166-167):

In my opinion, in Mark we can discern behind the text as we now have it a connected narrative that presupposes a certain chronology. According to Mark, Jesus died on the day of Passover, but the tradition supposes it was the preparation day before Passover: in 14:1-2 the Sanhedrin decided to kill Jesus before the feast in order to prevent unrest among the people on the day of the feast. This fits with the circumstance that in 15:21 Simon of Cyrene is coming in from the fields, which can be understood to mean he was coming from his work. It would be hard to imagine any author's using a formulation so subject to misunderstanding in an account that describes events on the day of Passover, since no work was done on that day. Moreover, in 15:42 Jesus' burial is said to be on the "preparation day," but a relative clause is added to make it the preparation day for the Sabbath. Originally, it was probably the preparation day for the Passover (cf. Jn 19:42). The motive for removing Jesus from the cross and burying him before sundown would probably have been to have this work done before the beginning of the feast day, which would not make sense if it were already the day of Passover. Finally, the "trial" before the Sanhedrin presupposes that this was not a feast day, since no judicial proceedings could be held on that day. It would have been a breach of the legal code that the narrator could scarcely have ignored, because the point of the narrative is to represent the proceeding against Jesus as an unfair trial with contradictory witnesses and a verdict decided in advance by the high priests.

(2)Gospel Phraseology implies early telling

"The use of 'the first day of the week' instead of 'on the third day' points to the primitiveness of the tradition. The tradition of the discovery of the empty tomb must be very old and very primitive because it lacks altogether the third day motif prominent in the kerygma, which is itself extremely old, as evident by its appearance in I Cor 15. 4. If the empty tomb narrative were a late and legendary account, then it could hardly have avoided being cast in the prominent, ancient, and accepted third day motif.{81} This can only mean that the empty tomb tradition ante-dates the third day motif itself. Again, the proximity of the tradition to the events themselves makes it idle to regard the empty tomb as a legend. It makes it highly probable that on the first day of the week the tomb was indeed found empty." (Caraig)

(3) Pauline Tesimony Earlier than written Gospels

Paul's statement about the 500 and the credal confession were written prior to any of the Gospels. This places the teaching about 20 years after the fact. That pushes the pre-Markon material in Mark back even further, to near the date of the events (because it took time to form into a credal statement).

"Undoubtedly the major impetus for the reassessment of the appearance tradition was the demonstration by Joachim Jeremias that in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-5 Paul is quoting an old Christian formula which he received and in turn passed on to his converts According to Galatians 1:18 Paul was in Jerusalem three years after his conversion on a fact-finding mission, during which he conferred with Peter and James over a two week period, and he probably received the formula at this time, if not before. Since Paul was converted in AD 33, this means that the list of witnesses goes back to within the first five years after Jesus' death. Thus, it is idle to dismiss these appearances as legendary. We can try to explain them away as hallucinations if we wish, but we cannot deny they occurred. Paul's information makes it certain that on separate occasions various individuals and groups saw Jesus alive from the dead. According to Norman Perrin, the late NT critic of the University of Chicago: "The more we study the tradition with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear upon which they are based." This conclusion is virtually indisputable."
[Craig] Leadership University (Webstie) original "Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ," Truth 1 (1985): 89-95]

We can also include in along with this Pauline testimony Hebrews and 1 Peter. Accounts of points that correspond to Gospels circulating by AD 70 (see Luke Timothy Johnson quotation under point I).

C. Pre Markan Redaction Pushes Date of original Writting to mid Century>

However the material upon which the Gospels are based dates back to an earlier period, and in a form which is essentially the same as that which is found in the Synopitics. This actually pushes the date of the Gospel story, including the death, burial and resurrection (including the empty tomb) to A.D. 50.

"Studies of the passion narrative have shown that the Gospel accounts are dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this accounted ended with the discovery of the empty tomb." Hemut Koster Ancient Christian Gospels p. 231

(1) Diatessaron

The Diatessaron ..of Titian is the oldest known attempted harmony of the Gospels. It probably dates to about 172 AD and contains almost the entire text of the four canonicals plus other material, probably from other Gospels and perhaps oral traditions. It is attested to in many works and is probably the first presentation of the Gospel in syriac.

In an article published in the Back of Helmut Koester's Ancient Christian Gospels, William L. Petersen states:

"Sometimes we stumble across readings which are arguably earlier than the present canonical text. One is Matthew 8:4 (and Parallels) where the canonical text runs "go show yourself to the priests and offer the gift which Moses commanded as a testimony to them" No fewer than 6 Diatessaronic witnesses...give the following (with minor variants) "Go show yourself to the priests and fulfill the law." With eastern and western support and no other known sources from which these Diatessaranic witnesses might have acquired the reading we must conclude that it is the reading of Tatian...The Diatessaronic reading is certainly more congielian to Judaic Christianity than than to the group which latter came to dominate the church and which edited its texts, Gentile Christians. We must hold open the possible the possibility that the present canonical reading might be a revision of an earlier, stricter , more explicit and more Judeo-Christian text, here preserved only in the Diatessaron. [From "Titian's Diatessaron" by William L. Petersen, in Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990, p. 424]

While textual critics find it more significant that the early implications are for Jewish Christianity, I find it significant that the pre-Markan material in the Diatesseran includes a miracle story. Those miracles just never really fall out of the story. They are in there from the beginning. But for our purposes the most important point to make is that here we have traces of pre-Markan material. That is, Mark as we know Mark was not the earliest Christian Gospel written, it is merely the earliest of which we have a full copy. The date assigned to the composition of Mark is not the date assigned to the sources used to redact that composition. This pushes the written record of the Jesus story before A.D. 60 and makes it at least contemporaneous with Paul's writings. In other words it is clear that written Gospels with Jesus in an historical setting, and with Mary and Joseph the Cross and the empty tomb existed and circulated before the version of Mark that we know, and at the same time or before Paul was writing his first epistle (150'sAD).

(2) Papyrus Egerton 2

The Unknown Gospel (Egerton 2) preserves a tradition of Jesus healing the leper in Mark 1:40-44. (Note: The independent tradition in the Diatessaran was also of the healing of the leper). There is also a version of the statement about rendering unto Caesar. Space does not permit a detailed examination of the passages to really prove Koster's point here. But just to get a taste of the differences we are talking about:

Koster says:

"There are two solutions that are equally improbable. It is unlikely that the pericope in Egerton 2 is an independent older tradition. It is equally hard to imagine that anyone would have deliberately composed this apophthegma by selecting sentences from three different Gospel writings. There are no analogies to this kind of Gospel composition because this pericope is neither a harmony of parallels from different Gospels, nor is it a florogelium. If one wants to uphold the hypothesis of dependence upon written Gospels one would have to assume that the pericope was written form memory....What is decisive is that there is nothing in the pericope that reveals redactional features of any of the Gospels that parallels appear. The author of Papyrus Egerton 2 uses independent building blocks of sayings for the composition of this dialogue none of the blocks have been formed by the literary activity of any previous Gospel writer. If Papyrus Egerton 2 is not dependent upon the Fourth Gospel it is an important witness to an earlier stage of development of the dialogues of the fourth Gospel....[Koester , 3.2 p.215]

Koseter shows that the Gospels are based upon pre-markan material which dates from A.D. 50 and ends witht he empty tomb, the resurrection appearnces of Jesus he believes were added from other sources. In this theory is partially in agreement with Crossen who also believes that the pre-Markan material can be traced to A.D. 50 and includes the empty tomb. Koester also uses the Gospel of Thomas and Gospel of Peter and several other works to demonstrate the same point.[please see Jesus Puzzell 2 for more on this point] This puts the actual writing of the Gospel tradition just 20 years after the original events. There still many eye-witnesses living, the communities which had witnessed the events of Jesus' ministry would have still basically been intact. The events would be somewhat fresh, and plenty of oportunity for witnesses to correct mistakes.

Thus the basic historical validity for the Gospels can be upheld, since they are based upon material which actually goes back to within a mere 20 years of the original events. This means that many of he eye witnesses would have been in the community and able to correct any mistakes or fabrications which were put into the text.

Almost all NT scholars put the writing of the Synoptic Gospels within the plausable life span of eye witnesses, Mark around 65, Matt. around 70 and Luke 80. In Ancient Christian Gospels, (1991) Helmutt Koster identifies a proto-Gospel which underlies the synoptic and John, and which has traces in the Gospel of Peter. (Koster is a major textual critic and is certainly placed in the Liberal camp).

(c) Peter not copy of Matt.

"The Gospel of Peter is dependent upon the traditions of interpriting old testament materials, for the description of Jesus' suffering and death; it shares such traditions wtih the canonical Gospels, but is not dependent upon the canonical writtings....[Dominic Crosson] argues that this activity [interpretation of scritpure as nuleous of passion narrative]...resulted in the composition of a litterary document at a very early date, i.e. in the middle of the first century." (Koster, 218).

"The Gospel of Peter as a whole is not dependent upon any of the canonical Gospels. It is a composition which is analogous to the Gospels of Mark and John. All three writtings, independently of each other use an older passion narrative which is based upon a exigetical tradition that was still alive when these Gospels were composed and to which the Gospel of Matthew also had access...However, framgements of the epiphany story of Jesus being raised from the Tomb, which the Gospel of Peter has preserved in its entirety, were employed in different literary contexts in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew." (Koster, 240).

(b) Passion account developed early

"The account of the passion of Jesus must have developed quite early becasue it is one and the same account used by Mark (and subsequently by Matthew and Luke) and John, and as will be argued below, by the Gospel of Peter. However, except for the story of the discovery of the empty tomb the different stories of the appearence of Jesus after his resurrection in the various gospels cannot derive from one single source....each of the authors of the extant Gospels and of their secondary endings drew these epiphany stories form their own particular tradition, not form a common source." (Ibid. 220).

(c) empty tomb part of original story

"Stories of the passion narrative were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering Crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb....for the story of Jesus' burial and the discovery of the empty tomb the Gospel of Peter used the source that also that underlys Mark and John, which ended with the discovery of the empty tomb." (ibid.231).

William Laine Craig tells us:

" The presence of the empty tomb pericope in the pre-Markan passion story supports its historicity. The empty tomb story was part of, perhaps the close of, the pre-Markan passion story. According to Pesch,{79} geographical references, personal names, and the use of Galilee as a horizon all point to Jerusalem as the fount of the pre-Markan passion story. As to its age, Paul's Last Supper tradition (I Cor 11. 23-25) presupposes the pre-Markan passion account; therefore, the latter must have originated in the first years of existence of the Jerusalem Urgemeinde. Confirmation of this is found in the fact that the pre-Markan passion story speaks of the 'high priest' without using his name (14. 53, 54, 60, 61, 63). This implies (nearly necessitates, according to Pesch) that Caiaphas was still the high priest when the pre-Markan passion story was being told, since then there would be no need to mention his name. Since Caiaphas was high priest from A.D. 18-37, the terminus ante quem for the origin of the tradition is A.D. 37. Now if this is the case, then any attempt to construe the empty tomb account as an unhistorical legend is doomed to failure." (The History of the empty Tomb of Jesus" New Testament Studies 21 (1985):39-67)

"Like the burial story, the account of the discovery of the empty tomb is remarkably restrained. Bultmann states, '. . . Mark's presentation is extremely reserved, in so far as the resurrection and the appearance of the risen Lord are not recounted.' {55} Nauck observes that many theological motifs that might be expected are lacking in the story: (1) the proof from prophecy, (2) the in-breaking of the new eon, (3) the ascension of Jesus' Spirit or his descent into hell, (4) the nature of the risen body, and (5) the use of Christological titles.{56} Although kerygmatic speech appears in the mouth of the angel, the fact of the discovery of the empty tomb is not kerygmatically colored. All these factors point to a very old tradition concerning the discovery of the empty tomb."

III. Community as Author

We do not have to know the exact identity of the authors, because the original material comes from the community itself

A.Oral tradition was not uncontroled.

Oral tradition in first-century Judaism was not uncontrolled as was/is often assumed, based on comparisons with non-Jewish models. From pg. 53-55 in 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.(25)

(22. O. Cullmann, "The Tradition," in Cullmann, The Early Church (London: SCM Press; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1956) 55-99; B. Gerhardsson The Origins of the Gospel Traditions (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979); H. Riesenfeld The Gospel Tradition (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970) 1-29; Riesner, Jesus als Lehrer.

23. Rom 6:17; 16:17; 1 Cor 11:2, 23; 15:3; Phil 4:9; Col 2:6-7; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6; 2 Tim 3:14; Titus 1:9; 2 John 9-10; Jude 3: Rev 2:13, 24. Cf. Abot 1:1; Philo, The Worse Attacks the Better 65-68. 24. John 19:35; 21:24-25; cf. 13:23; 18:15-16; 19:26-27; 20:1-10; 21:7, 21-23. Cf. J. A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976) 298-311. 25. On parallels with other rabbis and their disciples and other Jewish usage cf. Mark 2:18 = Luke 5:33; K.H. Rengstorf TDNT 1 (1964) 412-43;.TDNT 4 (1967) 431-55.

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)

------------------ 18. Cf. Josephus, Against Apion 2.25 204: The Law "orders that (children) should be taught to read."; cf. idem, Ant. 12.4.9 209; Philo, Embassy to Gaius 115, 210, Further, see R. Riesner, Jesus als Lehrer (WUNT 2.7; Tubingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1981; 4th ed., 1998) 112-15. 19. Jesus had hearers and doubtless some converts from Syria (Matt 4:25), the Decapolis (Matt 4:25; Mark 3:8; 5:20; 7:31), Tyre and Sidon (Mark 3:8; 7:24, 31; Matt 15:21).

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)

--------------- 65. For example, see H. Wansbrough (ed.), Jesus and the Oral Gospel Tradition (JSNTSup 64; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991), referring to a large amount of earlier work; Bailey, "Informal Controlled Oral Tradition," 34-54. The following discussion depends on these and similar studies, and builds on Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 418-43; and idem, Jesus and the Victory of God, 133-37.)

"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. "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.]

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Atheist Reduction of Knolwedge to science

Leon Wieseltier

The Scientistic movement cuts across many boundaries. It includes, but is not limited to, atheism. One major facet of its ideology which has been especially important to atheism is the transformation of knowledge to technique. I refer to Barrett’s concept of the illusion of technique, of which I spoke in chapter one. The first move is a reduction of knowledge from a multiplicity of forms to one thing only, scientific knowledge. Then scientific knowledge lends itself to the working of technique in shaping our understanding by manipulating reality and thus truth. This reduction of knowledge to scientific data, is reflected on the popular internet site One such question asked: “is science the supreme form of knowledge?” The answer it gives us is, “Science is the only form of knowledge. There is no way to know something without it being scientific in some way.”[1] It goes to ask “what is science knowledge the answer is “science knowledge is the understanding of everything around us how they process or work. To have Science knowledge it will allow you to have good explanations of many things…”[2] It reads like it’s written by a third grader. Science knowledge is everything, nothing escapes it, and it gives good explanations of many things, not all things? It gives a little testimonial just incase the definition doesn’t sound quite right. That its good for explaining things.

In popular terms, the site “” has a debate on the question “is science the only source of true knowledge.” That should at least reflect the fact that people are asking the question. Their straw poll, which is of course not scientific and not representative, shows 44% of people who visited the sight, says yes science is the only form of true knowledge.” 56% say “no.” It’s true that even with a specialized computer going audience the ‘no’s’ have it, yet 44% is a large percentage.[3] They quote Hume:

“If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”[4] English Commedian Ricky Gervias is featured in a piece for Wall Street Journal, “why I am an Atheist.” He says:

People who believe in God don’t need proof of his existence, and they certainly don’t want evidence to the contrary. They are happy with their belief. They even say things like “it’s true to me” and “it’s faith.” I still give my logical answer because I feel that not being honest would be patronizing and impolite. It is ironic therefore that “I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe,” comes across as both patronizing and impolite.[5]

That’s an example of how deeply this kind of thinking as been absorbed by the popular level.

Austin Cline is a blogger and an expositor of atheist opinion. He writes about the nature of scientific knowledge defending the statement “God does not exist,” as a scientific statement. If we examine his view it turns out that the reason he says it is because he’s reduced the nature of knowledge to his understanding of science. He says that objecting to the statement on the grounds that God is beyond scientific proof is a misunderstanding of what the statement means. The statement, “God does not exist” (as a scientific statement) means that it can’t be proved by scientific means. If it can’t be proved then it doesn’t exist. That’s the same as saying “my view is all there is.”

When a scientist says "God does not exist," they mean something similar to when they say "aether does not exist," "psychic powers do not exist," or "life does not exist on the moon."

All such statements are casual short-hand for a more elaborate and technical statement: "this alleged entity has no place in any scientific equations, plays no role in any scientific explanations, cannot be used to predict any events, does not describe any thing or force that has yet been detected, and there are no models of the universe in which its presence is either required, productive, or useful." [6] I’ve never actually seen a scientist who says that, except for the professional atheists such as Dawkins. Even Dawkins doesn’t actually say that he’s making a scientific statement. One might think that the comparison to aether is not valid, seeing the Michaelson/Moraelly experiments as disproof of the possibility of aehter. Technically all they really did was fail to find any evidence in favor of aether and the modern scientific understanding of the universe failed to produce a place for it.[7] That’s really the point Cline makes, science doesn’t have to disprove God, just not finding a place for God means God doesn’t exist (for scientism) because scientism only accepts that for which science makes a place. In other words, by this method, knowledge is reduced all other forms to science alone, or least to their reading of science alone. Cline himself rejects an absolutist position (of disproof) on the part of science. “What should be most obvious about the technically accurate statement is that it is not absolute. It does not deny for all time any possible existence of the entity or force in question.”[8] Of course it doesn’t have to. Since it has mandated a methodology that excludes God sense it only allows that which is found in sense data, then God will never meet the requirement unless he wants to submit to scientific scrutiny. God seems to have his own ideas about being in charge, so this is not likely. The effect is only things that compare to scientific methods can be considered knowledge. That is only a good argument if one only accepts religious belief as a scientific hypothesis. The assumption is clearly that science is the only from of knowledge and if it’s not scientific then it’s not worthy to be known. The point is that for scientism (and New atheism) science is the only valid form of knolwedge.

Jerry A. Coyne argues that science is the only valid form of knowledge and he doesn’t mind castigating the arts in doing it. On his blog[9] he takes to task Patrick MacNamara, the professor in Neurology at Boston University who edits the series of books on Where God and Science Meet.[10] In the course the discussion Coyne begins to argue that science is the only from of knowledge, only scientific knowledge can be validated. He says:

First, music, literature and poetry don’t produce any truths about the universe that don’t require independent verification by empirical and rational investigation: that is, through science (broadly interpreted). These fine arts don’t convey to us anything factual about the world unless those facts can be replicated by reason, observation or experiment. All of the other “truths” from the arts fall into the class of “emotional realizations.”

I may, for example, feel a oneness with humanity from reading Tolstoy, or a feeling that I need to “seize the day” from watching Never Let Me Go. While one might consider these things worthwhile knowledge, with “knowledge” defined broadly, they are not what we atheists—and many of the faithful—mean by “truths.”[11]

His reasoning is pretty convoluted. Literature and poetry don’t produce truths because they don’t require independent verification. That’s a statement not in evidence. Just because they don’t require his kind of verification doesn’t mean they don’t require any. That may be what personal experience is for. Or that may be what other literature is for. Moreover, who says that knowledge has to be verified to be knowledge? That’s only the case if you already accept up front that scientific knowledge is the only kind. I think that writers like Coyne are merely demonstrating the failure of our educational system to instill within the students in its charge a love of learning or a sense of the humanities. At the very least his position is begging the question. He doesn’t understand the nature of literature or what it does for you, and he takes it very literally and tries to approach it like science. We can see this in his statement:

when you read a novel like Anna Karenina, you know it’s fiction: if from the endeavor you realize things about yourself, or about human emotions, you are not required to sign onto the genuine physical existence of Count Vronsky or Karenin. In contrast, emotional realizations that derive from faith require absolute belief in a number of ridiculous, incorrect, or unverifiable propositions.[12]

. He does understand that fiction is fiction but then why can’t he extrapolate from that to the nature of religion? He thinks religious belief has to be literal. It can’t refer to emotions or internal states. That feeling stuff is not truth that’s just stories. He issues his own challenge to believers: “tell me exactly what ‘knowledge’ religion has provided that is not derivable from secular reason. Like Hitchens, I still have not received an answer.” [13]He sure will. I’ll send him a copy of this book. Why would anyone think that reality one discovers in God is not knowledge or that it’s not “real?” Why shouldn’t it be verifiable? But why must it be verifiable in scientific terms? Spiritual knowledge is real; Knowledge of God is real knowledge. Noetic knowledge from mystical experience is real. Historical knowledge is real knowledge that can pertain to religious teaching. It’s absurdly silly to say that science is the only true knowledge. I’ll go into greater elaboration on this in the chapter on supernatural. This will all be discussed in the chapters on supernatural (chapter nine) and perspective (chapter 10).

Peter Atkins writes, in “Science as Truth,” that “…there can be no denying that science is the best procedure yet discovered for exposing fundamental truths about the world…This claim of universe competence may seem arrogant, but it appears to be justified.”[14] He points to science’s experimentation guided by elaboration and improvement of theory as the basis of scientific acuity. He points to the function, the success, the “science works” aspect to demonstrate the truth of science. “No other mode of discovery has proved to be so effective or to contribute so much toward the achievement or aspirations of humanity.”[15] Like Atkins those who defend Scientism and who seek to reduce all human knowledge to one form of knowledge, scientific, usually claim to do so in the name of humanity. Yet in so doing they threaten to destroy not only some of the most cherished aspects of human knowledge but humanity itself. This is no ideal threat. There are four major harms impending as a result of this movement:

(1) Loss of the arts as a valid understanding of human being
(2) Loss of human freedom as a value in society,
(3) Loss of humanity itself in the face of technological augmentation
(4) Separation from God.

The process of reducing knowledge to just scientific knowledge alone was at work eroding the value of the arts through most of the twentieth century. George Richmond Walker wrote a fine article for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, way back in 1964. In that article, “Art, Science, and Reality,” he demonstrated that civilization has always assumed that knowledge spread over a wide variety of subject matters and disciplines. Knowledge belongs to all the endeavors of humanity, they were all worthy of being called by that name, especially the arts. As sited in the first chapter, Dewy and the positivists were skeptical that the arts provide knowledge, yet, “in times past there have been many thinkers who asserted or assumed that art as well as science reveals something of the true nature of the actual world.”[16] He cites Plato and Aristotle who say that art is a form of knowledge. I would not expect Plato and Aristotle to cut much ice in this day and age. He adds, “religion was understood and is still generally believed to be concerned with reality of some kind.”[17] He quotes the philosopher Bosanquet “the spirit of art is faith in ‘life and divinity with which the external world is inspired so that the idealizations that are characteristic of art are not so much imaginations that depart from reality as they are revelations of the life and divinity that is alone ultimate reality.’”[18] Richmond argues that modern science is giving us an exacting knowledge of the external world but through quantum theory we know that the essential substance of the world is mathematical not physical and external. Thus he grounds true knowledge in experience of the world, which is reflected through the arts as well as science. He sites Whitehead in saying that neither physical nature nor life can be understood without understanding the interconnections that can only be understood through experience. He bases this view in a monism that speaks of the interconnections of all things, thus to screen off just one aspect such as the objective quantifiable aspects that science provides and ignore the experiential that the artistic provides is merely to miss the whole. We are not missing just one aspect but the whole.[19] All knowledge is generated by experience and the only thing we know of that brings experience to the table is humanity. He makes the point that we don’t know what we are approaching as a species or what we are unleashing but we do know we can’t escape being human. We are finally confined to our humanity and art is our unique expression as humans that reflect our experience in ways that allows us to bridge the known.

Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic, gave the commencement address at Brandeis University in 2013. Peter Lawler wrote an article for The Standard based upon that speech.[20] He pointed out the threat to the arts and thus to freedom from scientism and technologism. He points to Neuroscientists who seek to displace theology, philosophy, poetry. This is the idea that there is a ready genetic explanation for all we do and that understanding brain function is to understand all that there is to know. We can see that through Cyone’s literalistic approach to literature. The technologism of which he speaks is a good example of what I talk about in chapter one under the heading of “illusion of technique.” the idea that we can do anything, we can manipulate the world to match our desires, thus we control meaning and truth. Yet this only applies to one form of knowledge, science, and all other forms will all but wither away. This is because science feeds technology, the basis of manipulation and control.

Reduction of knowledge to science will only result in a loss of freedom; free speech, freedom of action, political freedom. Back in the 1970s B.F. Skinner achieved fame and notoriety with his work Beyond Freedom and Dignity[21], in which he argued that freedom and dignity were concepts holding us back from saving the planet. He pointed to pollution and world hunger and agued that we were not doing the things needed to be done because ideas of human freedom stood in the way. We are not willing make the impositions on the individual that need to be made to illicit the proper human behavior. He advocated using operant conditioning. Skinnerism found a wide audience for a time but then I think society began to take a real look at what he was talking about and decided human freedom and dignity were worth keeping. Skinner’s school of thought made an impact in clinical psychology, the giving tokens for rewards in exchange for behavior, this school was called “behaviorism.” We began to figure out that freedom and dignity are two of the things that make life worth living. Losing them is losing some of the thing for which we want the world made safe and preserved so that we might enjoy them. Saving the world at the expense of those is like destroying the village to save it. Wieseltier points to Marxism as an example of what the scientistic mentality does to freedom.[22]

Determinism is the outcome of scientism: because we know it all we can study and understand what causes everything, thus we have proved that there is No free will. Because there’s no free will there is no problem taking away political freedom. All we need to do is tell the sheep they won’t miss it because they only think they want it anyway. There is no greater threat to freedom then the philosophical twaddle that rationalizes it’s loss with a lot of nonsense about how veg the concept of freedom is. Daniel Dennett tries to answer by showing that he believes in freedom politically and lives free in a deterministic world because determinism cuts down on randomness. Randomness is what destroys freedom because you can’t predict the future in reliable way,[23] while determinism doesn’t mean inevitability.[24] To pull this off Dennett uses some slick tricks. To prove determinism is not inevitable but allows freedom he does two things; first, he uses the analogy of a bullet, its trajectory is inevitable if unblocked, but we have a bullet proof vest the striking is not inevitable. Of course the problem is that it assumes we can think freely to act. If our thoughts and desires are also controlled, then we can’t act freely to wear the vest. With Harris’s ideas of determinism, for example, all causes are the same as determinism and for him free will is just a illusion.[25] Thus we can’t think freely to wear the vest. The second thing Dennett does is to compare scientific determinism to belief in God. He refers to aspects of belief a lot. He refers to the Deus ex Machina[26] (don’t look now, not a Biblical concept). The reason is because he expects us to accept that by comparison scientific determinism is less inevitable and controlling than the concept of fate, which he links to God or the divine. A large portion of the book is aimed at disproving notions of free will, which means he’s just doing the reductionist trick (see chapter “reductionism,” chapter 5) reducing reality to the bit he can control then claims that’s all there is. Loss of free will isn’t a problem because free will is not very expansive anyway. Based upon this lackluster performance of its defense we can assume it is in grave danger. One can only imagine how this tactic would be applied by the real purveyors of power in a world ran by the dictates of scientism.


[1] “Is Science the Supreme form of knowledge?” Internet resource: (accessed 12/27/13). is owned by the Answers corporation began in Israel. The name domain name was purchansed by Bill Gose and Hendrick Jones. The domain name sold to guru net based in Israel.

[2] Ibid, (accessed 12/27/13).

[3] Debate.Org, “Is Science the Only True Source of Knowledge?” owned by Juggle, LLC online resource: accessed 12/31/13.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ricky Gervais, “Ricky Gervais: Why I am An Atheist.” Wall Street Journal: Arts and Entertainment. (Dec. 19, 2010). Online copy: accessed 12/31/13.

[6] Austin Cline, “Scientifically God Does Not Exist: Science allows us to say God Does not Exist, there is role for God in science, no explanation that God can provide.”, Agnosticism/Atehism. Online publication: accessed 12/27/13. [7] Richard Staley, (2009), "Albert Michelson, the Velocity of Light, and the Ether Drift", Einstein's generation. The origins of the relativity revolution, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-77057-5

[8] Ibid.

[9] Jerry A. Coyne, “Once Again, Does Religion Produce Knowledge,” Why Evolution is True, blog, Mya 4, 20/11. URL: accessed 12/27/13. Coyne Ph.D. , is professor of Ecology and Evolution at University of Chicago. From his blog: “Coyne has written over 110 refereed scientific papers and 80 other articles, book reviews, and columns, as well as a scholarly book about his field (Speciation, co-authored with H. Allen Orr). He is a frequent contributor to The New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, and other popular periodicals..”

[10] Patrick McNamara ed., Where God and Science Mee:How Brain and Evolutionary Experiences Alter Our Understanding of Religion, volumes I-III. Westport CT:Praeger Publishers, 2006.

[11] Coyne, Op. Cit.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Peter Atkins, “Science as Truth,” History of the Human Sciences, Volume 8, no 2 (1995) 97-102

Attkins is former professor of Chemistry at Oxford, author of many books, scholarly and popular. He’s well known as an atheist and speaks and writes on behalf of atheism. [15] Ibid.

[16] George Richmond Walker, Op. cit. 9.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[20] Peter Augustine Lawler, “Defending the Humanities,” The Weekly Standard, Jun 17, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 38, 2013. from the Online copy Jan 1, 2014 accessed 1/1/14.

[21] B.F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971. 1.

[22] Quoted in Lawler, Op. Cit. [23] Daniel C. Dennett, Freedom Evolves, New York: Penguin Books, 2004, 13, 309.

[24] Ibid, 56.

[25] Sam Harris, Free Will, New York: Free Press, 2012.,10.

[26] Dennett, Freedom Evolves, Op cit. 47.

iriginally posted MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2015