A Personal Update

It’s been a while since I gave a personal update, so for those who are interested, here it comes.

I continue to engage in discussion with theists, mostly on facebook in a closed group that exists for that purpose. My experience so far is that reasonable Christians who are prepared to engage with atheists who will directly challenge their beliefs are vastly outnumbered by those who prefer to throw insults and avoid addressing direct challenges. I think this is a feature of the medium being used rather than a true slice of the Christian demographic.

The interface theism and atheism continues to interest me and so I have booked myself to go to the following Christian conference in a week.

https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Features/Unbelievable-The-Conference-2017/Seminars-Topics

Unbelievable? is a weekly UK Christian radio show that focuses on that interface and is pretty much the only religious themed show I listen to. I download the podcast version each weekend.

I am disappointed that the conference based on the show does not have any atheist or non Christian speakers. I am looking forward to hearing what the Christian speakers have to say about atheism and atheists. I am expecting to hear them confidently state what it is that atheists think and believe and I am expecting these projections to not match my own thoughts and ideas. I am stating this up front because it is a common experience I have when Christian leaders talk on the subject. Let’s see how right I am!

I am considering tweeting my thoughts during the event, we shall see. I’m not a big twitter user, so it would likely increase my number of tweets ten fold!

Specifically, I am interested in hearing the talk by Justin Brierley; he is the host of the Unbelievable? radio show and he’s written a book titled “Why after ten years of talking with atheists I am still a Christian”. I am expecting to that I’ll be buying a copy since it’ll be launched at the event. I am also interested in hearing what John Lennox has to say about the case for god, he was on the Unbelievable? a month or so ago and his argument consisted of a list of assertions without evidence, I wonder if the talk will be any different.

Do any of those seminars pique your interest? Which, if any would you go to and what questions would you ask?

I took a big step on my facebook page over Easter last month. I got bored of seeing the same comment item from the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, I can’t find the item right now but it essentially gave a serious of arguments why we should believe the bible account of Jesus, his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. So many of my Christian friends shared it that I put up a post linking to a counter list of arguments poking at all the holes and showing why it is valid to question the bible accounts of Jesus. It’s the first time I have been that blatant. I’m not aware that it’s lost me any friends, and I didn’t get as many bites as I expected, but there was some comment and one person in particular has said he wants to have a conversation on the subject. It’s someone I respect so we’ll see what results.

Away from religion I continue to try to write, I have a handful of fiction projects I want to work on, progress is too slow because time is hard to find. I am also looking forward to visiting the great Canadian state of Ontario later in the year. It’s been about 15 years since I saw Niagara Falls and I am looking forward to seeing them again.

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The Story of Naaman – That’s one mean god

The second book of Kings contains the story of Naaman, the head of a foreign army, who is cured from his leprosy by Elisha.

It’s a story I’ve read and heard preached about many times. For those wishing to extol the virtues of faith and the overcoming of doubt, it makes for a great narrative.

What is less well known is that at the end of the story Elisha’s servant gets a little greedy and claims the payment for the healing after Elisha has turned it down. It’s not clear how Elisha finds out about the deception, but he isn’t best pleased and promptly curses the servant and all his descendent to be forever plagues with leprosy. Nice.

It is this sort of ending that justifies the challenge that the Christian god isn’t a god of love but a moral monster.

Subjective moral values aside, the story creates a narrative that should be testable today. The servant’s descendents were cursed to suffer with leprosy forever. Which means that there should be alive today a family line whose descents all suffer with this disease. This would make for an interesting medical case, especially since leprosy isn’t a genetic disease. Does a family line exist today where all members suffer from leprosy?

The existence of such a family would surely be evidence for the authenticity of this story and therefore affirm the existence of such a curse, which surely would conclude that the Christian god isn’t a myth after all. It would also confirm that the Christian god is a petulant vengeful scumbag that we should be afraid of but is not at all worthy of worship. So if this story can be confirmed to be true based on the servant’s curse, then maybe Christians don’t want the lineage to be identified after all.

There are some Christian objections though:
– maybe it’s not leprosy, the English says leprosy, but the original could mean any skin disease.

My ancient language knowledge isn’t good enough to read the original; there is strong support for it being leprosy and also for a less specific diagnosis. Whatever it is or was, it doesn’t cancel out the many generations being cursed with a disease forever. If that disease isn’t a genetic disease, then how does each descendent get it? Does god arrange for each one to succumb?

– People with leprosy tended not to reproduce due to being outcast so don’t assume the servant did

Well, that puts paid to the all descendents forever part of the curse. Who’s at fault there? The godly Elisha or god? Someone surely messed up.

– Maybe god chose not to honour Elisha’s curse beyond the servant.

This is a good one. It rescues god from the evil very not loving accusation but also removes the testable part of the story. No confirmation means the bible is once more in the cupboard marked myth. Christians probably like it because it means the bible can’t be falsified either. Perfect for those with blind faith.

Seen in a fresh light, the story of Naaman isn’t one of grace and faith, it’s one of betrayal, vengeance and downright nastiness. Who wants that sort of god to rule over them? Not me.

On The Alleged Atheist Assumptions

There are Christians who claim that atheism assumes there is no god (https://lyleduell.me/2017/02/02/the-assumptions-of-atheism/). This is typical of theists who are self-styled atheist experts. Apparently this assumption (which hasn’t actually been established, merely claimed and assumed to be true) is false because

No one can prove that there is no God

If it’s not possible to prove there is no god, then equally it’s also not possible to prove that there is a god, which leaves the theist in the uncomfortable position of assuming there is a god, with no proof, while pointing a finger that the atheist saying you can’t assume there is no god because you can’t prove there is no god.

I participate in regular conversations with theists and atheists and the claims of atheists vary a lot. There are those who confidently claim there is no god and there are those who take the softer road that belief in god is not reasonable if said god cannot be demonstrated. The majority take the latter. It’s not clear from the blog post I linked to if all atheists are lumped into the assumption claim or if it’s only the former. What’s also not clear is how the author thinks atheists come to these assumptions. If the assumption if merely because the lack of a god can’t be proven, that that is an entirely reasonable position to take. Given that you can prove neither the existence nor the non-existence of a thing, assuming it exists is the least reasonable position to take.

Next we get to

The second assumption, which I have found in most atheists, is the belief that they are smarter than those who believe in a God.

Yes, there are many atheists who will comment along the lines of “only a stupid idiot would believe in a god”, or other less salubrious phrases. These are equally matched by those theists who quote Psalm 14:1 or other bible verses which justify looking down their noses at non-believers. I am pretty sure I’ve been called all sorts of variations of stupid by theists far more times that I’ve seen atheists bat it back. The numbers aren’t actually important though because the insult isn’t useful regardless of the direction it flows. It is a tad dishonest to accuse the atheist of assuming higher intelligence while not acknowledging the reverse is an equal problem.

The blog post then makes a reference to poll that claims that 51% of scientists believe in god. The link associated with the claim didn’t work for me but it seems to be this:

http://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/

Note that it’s 33% believe in god and 18 believe is some form of higher power that’s not god. 10 of those 33% are religions other than Christian. Those stats don’t looks so great compared to the 41% with no belief. But I’m not sure what that has to do with intelligence and belief. Intelligent people sometimes believe dumb things. That happens the world over. Trying to point score on an intelligence comparison achieves nothing other than making it look like you are trying to justify an assumption you have.

What an Abortion

Oh boy what an emotive subject this one is!

I think it is fair that I lay out my views on abortion at the start. Hopefully they’ll be clear but I already suspect that someone will see something in the next paragraph that they can use to call me inconsistent or bigoted or immoral, let’s see.

I am pro choice but I am not pro abortion. I think a world in which abortion is never an option is a better world. However, I do not subscribe to the view that restricting access to abortion is the way to achieve that. My view is that an environment where access to education, health and whatever else is necessary so that an abortion never needs to happen is how that goal is met. When a woman gets to the point that abortion is an option then it means that something else has not gone right and removing abortion as an option should never be considered as the appropriate way to fix that. I refuse to hold judgement over any woman who finds herself in that situation and I will defend her right to have an abortion.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get to the meat…

New president Donald Trump has signed a ban on aid money going to international groups who provide any information on abortions, not just those that get involved in providing them; they can’t even talk about abortion.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38729364

The recipients of this aid are now gagged with respect to abortion information. This is precisely why I oppose religiously motivated morality. Don’t like something? Then prohibit everybody from being able to have anything to do with it. That’s nuts, but not the subject of this post.

In an ideal world, contraception would be equally available to all citizens and there would never be a case when a woman finds herself unwillingly pregnant. This isn’t the case though. Rural areas don’t have easy access to contraception. Rural areas are also the poorest areas, so a woman who finds herself pregnant is more likely to be part of a family which can ill afford another mouth to feed. Is reducing the chance of her having a safe and legal abortion the right option here? A woman in a poor, large rural family is more likely to find herself unwillingly pregnant. She’ll also be more likely to seek an abortion than her relatively wealthier city dwelling fellow citizens. Where is the justice in mandating that she, her family, her children and her community all must bear the cost? I don’t just mean financial.

This is precisely the scenario where a desperate woman will seek out the most convenient abortion she can. If you remove the safe option through aid banning, you effectively force her into an illegal and less safe one. A dead woman is of no use to her family.

Among my facebook friends is a very vocal Christian who I’ve known since school. Like most of my friends from that era, she has retained her faith and it is very literal. She is rabidly against abortion and in her defence of this action by Trump she has used the phrase ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’. I’m not sure which is the first wrong she is referring to, but it’s clear the second wrong is the act of abortion. I argue that in this situation the woman taking home a baby to a large and poor family and increasing their level of poverty is also wrong. There is no ‘right’ solution here, every option is ‘wrong’. Yes I am sad that a woman has felt the need to seek an abortion, I am pretty sure she is too; there is no joy in this scenario. If the alternative was better she would not be considering abortion.

The reason the woman is seeking an abortion is because she knows it’s worth it over the alternative. It is the utmost arrogance to decry her actions as morally reprehensible from the comfort of another country where the level of education, medical care and contraception are better in every conceivable way.

Abortion Stats

In checking facts about Mexico, I was surprised to read that contraception is used by about 70% of women in Mexico (http://www.d.umn.edu/~lars1521/BC&Mexico.htm). I understand that Catholicism is the dominant religion, and therefore that means that contraception is shunned doesn’t it? Well apparently not. Adherence to Catholicism is declining and commitment to contraception by those Catholics is very low (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/10/a-snapshot-of-catholics-in-mexico-pope-francis-next-stop/).

The state of women’s health regards to childbirth in South America and the Caribbean is depressing (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673241/), restricting abortion does not solve it, it exacerbates it. In this action, Trump has condemned thousands to greater poverty and health risks and criminalized those who work hard to against poverty and illiteracy.

A Response to Answering The Skeptics

My last post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/answering-the-sceptics/) received a very long reply, so rather than accept a single huge comment, I decided to replicate the whole thing here and respond. At close to 3000 words, the reply is considerably longer than the post it addresses, a tad unreasonable and I suspect the sort of essay I should expect from the poster. (Note to poster, try to keep your comments shorter and to a minimal number of topics in future, it makes maintaining a conversation a whole lot easier.

The reply I received is repeated verbatim below, with outdented commentary from yours truly.

“Presuppositions are fatal. One should never presuppose anything before an argument because that makes the whole point of the argument moot.”

Presuppositions are necessary. You are falsely identifying the fallacy of begging the question with an axiom or an apparent or necessary truth. You must presuppose several things to even make your claim intelligible. One thing you are presupposing is that the fallacy of begging the question is fallacious. And even before that you assume logic…and some sort of concept of truth. But worst of all you have also claimed in multiple places that you do presuppose atheism because you falsely believe that atheism requires no evidence and illogically you presuppose the epistemology of evidentialism & scientism, both of which are demonstrably false yet they are necessary for your worldview to function.

Missed the point that presupposing the conclusion before making the argument makes the whole point of the argument pointless. The writer thinks he can tell me what I believe too, experience tells me that christians who take that attitude tend to be insufferably rude and prone to not listening. Instead of asserting what I believe based on questionable theology, I recommend actually finding out.

“You’ve already decided the result so why bother at all. Unless by argument AiG means those things where spouses shout at each other and throw things. What has happened here is that the non believer has been framed to be just as bad as the believer because ‘they believe we’re wrong’. The correct way to this to have no presupposition and to weigh each option on the evidence available and then test the claims that are produced. AiG can’t do this though because as christians they have to assume and assert their god and in their attempt to balance the scales they project onto those who are sceptical of their claims the opposite presuppositions. That’s deceitful and dishonest.”

Much of this is simply arguing against yourself since you presuppose at least as much as AiG. I’m not a fan of AiG since their misuse of the doctrine of innerancy has led to much confusion amongst both evangelicals (creationists in general) and Darwinists (and anti creationists in general). But as you’ve shown AiG is essentially right unless you’re saying you don’t assume that the universe must have arose from purely naturalistic mechanisms? You can say that your “testable” models are successful and provide evidence for their truth but Darwinism is totally dependent on the presupposition of naturalism/materialism/physicalism.

Christians don’t have to “assume and assert” their God…I’m not sure what that even means. Loads of Christians aren’t YECs. And claiming that the scales are imbalanced is just more presumption on your part. Your sort of atheist is essentially the left wing equivalent of a YEC…which means that the scales are relatively balanced between you. People like Dick Dawkins are essentially left wing versions of Kent Hovind (except Dawkins & co will probably never go to jail…). Its pretty obvious that you’re actually being more deceitful and dishonest because they at least are willing to grant their presuppositions.

Doesn’t know what sort of atheist I am. In the desire to regurgitate AiGs’s ‘atheists presuppose’ trope what I was saying has been missed, again. Is this going to be a theme? I hope not.

“when a Christian is debating with a skeptic, the skeptic will want the Christian to give up their presuppositions and approach the debate “neutrally.” For example, the skeptic may ask the Christian to “prove” that there is a Creator without using the Bible.

That is a very fair thing to do, you want to assert that something exists, demonstrate it. Opening a book and saying ‘it says so here’ isn’t good enough. You need to show your workings and then demonstrate why the conclusion is valid. Don’t do it and you won’t be taken seriously.”

I’ll admit there are problematic things about this sort of approach. But Atheists constantly try to exclude the evidence of history. The apostolic witness contains excellent evidence of God’s activity in the world. But yes if God exists we should be able to provide arguments for his existence and that’s why there are many apologists & philosophers that do exactly that. But to be fair if you have come to the conclusion that the scriptures & apostolic witness are true then you are perfectly justified to use them as evidence for God’s existence. That’s not illogical, it actually follows perfectly. What is illogical is reading a statement in scripture that says scripture is authoritative and that claiming that is why scripture is true. There are Christians that do that…and AiG may be doing that here, I don’t know.

There are claims that apostolic accounts are accurate witness statements of a god. I am sure many believe it, however it can’t be known for certain and certainly can’t be demonstrated. Many historical records contain accounts of events which are rightly doubted. The gospels and other bible books are no better.

“But Christians cannot give up their presuppositions because this results in adopting the skeptic’s presuppositions

If you can’t give up your presuppositions, then you are not being honest with yourself. Claiming that the opposite view has their own does not get you out of that.”

You presuppose the scriptures & apostolic witness don’t give good evidence for the basic facts about Jesus’ life…you can’t argue for that…it’s clearly a presumption… based mostly on your presumption of the impossibility of miracles. In other words “claiming that the opposite view has their own (presuppositions) does not get you out of anything.”

I believe what can be demonstrated. What can’t be demonstrated doesn’t get believed until that changes. Presupposing it’s impossible is as bad as claiming it’s happened but being unable to show it. I take the middle ground, if it’s not been shown, there is no reason to accept it. It will be believed to be impossible when it’s impossibility is demonstrated. Until either happens, neither is presupposed. Want to promote one over the other? Show it.

“There is no such thing as achieving “neutrality” in an argument. Jesus makes this clear when He says, “He who is not with Me is against Me”

I think by “neutrality”, AiG means something akin to the Null Hypothesis (http://psc.dss.ucdavis.edu/faculty_sites//sommerb/sommerdemo/stat_inf/null.htm) in experiments. In an argument context this will mean to take no position and weigh each argument. If the Christian can’t, won’t, or is incapable of doing that, then they have already decided their answer and the argument is pointless. If the only correct conclusion to an argument is to conclude your starting position then you are not being honest with yourself or to your sceptic. This why a Christian should be challenged to prove their god claims using something other than the circular activity of opening the self referencing bible.”

No I don’t think they mean the null hypothesis. They mean that all questions have a right answer and a wrong answer, and since they believe God exists that “neutrality” over whether he exists is not virtuous or desirous. To be fair if God exists the “objective” position will always be Theism. Neutrality is only virtuous in a situation where a null hypothesis is helpful. But because of the implications of Theism & atheism neutrality on either isn’t going to benefit us.

Cool, so until god is shown to either exist or not exist, the correct position to take is the one I hold. No belief either way.

The correct conclusion is the correct conclusion to an argument. Everything you’ve argued for presumes loads of things and you keep arguing for the same position…so I guess you aren’t be honest.

Do at least try to accurately represent what I’m saying. I think this is deliberate.

And as I’ve already demonstrated referencing the Bible isn’t a viciously circular argument (it’s really not circular at all) unless you are making an argument that it is truthful because it is truthful.

“Don’t Accept Atheist Presuppositions

But christian presuppositions are all fine and dandy! Really? The correct sub heading should be don’t accept ANY presuppositions.”

Incorrect. You should assume a lot of things…and you clearly do assume loads of things.

More telling me what position I take, are we all bored yet?

“The skeptic knows that God exists because God has made it plain to everyone through the general revelation of creation.

If that was true they wouldn’t be sceptical.”

That’s a very poor argument because self deception is extremely common and well understood. I think it’s quite clear that many atheists are willfully atheists because their arguments & reasons are of such low quality that it’s hard to believe they think these are good reasons…the same can probably be said for many Christians. The claim that everyone knows God exists but that some suppress that knowledge makes a lot of sense. Humans suppress beliefs all the time.

If that’s what is really thought I think then I don’t see much change of a rational or engaging conversation. Take some time to understand what it is that atheists are saying.

“If there was any doubting as to just how dishonestly AiG wants the christian to argue, there it is, decide you’re right and then tell them you’re right because they are already wrong because they have presupposed the wrong presupposition. Awesome!

Never Assume

Errr!

Most atheists assume several things to be true.

Okay ….

they assume the existence of morality, logic, and the consistency of the laws of nature

Odd choice of assumptions to list and it depends how existence is defined. I’m pretty sure this is wrong about morality and logic, while the laws are nature are demonstrated facts so assume is a redundant option.”

It’s not odd, thats basically the same argument I made earlier.

What definition of reality are you working with?

You really don’t assume logic or morality? That’s pretty hard to believe since almost everything you write presupposes both.

Point missed, again.

“Most skeptics believe in the existence of morality

Blatant assertion with no reference to source. Also still missing key definitions to determine context and meanings.”

Well…it’s true. I mean I guess we could find a poll about whether or not skeptics/atheists are all moral relativists. I haven’t met anyone who was willing to say that the holocaust wasn’t evil…Sam Harris claims to believe in morality even though he really doesn’t. If you really don’t believe there is such a thing as right and wrong then I think you’re right that this argument doesn’t work against you but that doesn’t give good evidence for your beliefs, it makes them seem prima facie absurd.

And again.

“they will often argue against the biblical God by claiming that God is an immoral monster for acts of judgment like the global Flood

True, they do, and for good reason.”

That’s a complete contradiction of what you just said. You can’t argue that something is immoral for “good reason” if you don’t believe in right or wrong.

And again.

“But what standard do they have to claim that God is immoral

Any standard that says it’s wrong to eliminate those whom you don’t like. People who take that view normally get their moral values from themselves, or they conform to the value as a socially accepted norm. I think that the bible also holds that not killing those you don’t like is a good value. How come god gets a pass on that? Isn’t it supposed to be his perfect rules of conduct or something?”

This moral reasoning is arbitrary.

Christians, always giving god a free pass.

The flood is a recreation event within the broader context of the Torah narrative. The people being eliminated have demonstrate their lack of repentance so it has nothing to do with God not liking them. This is childish straw manning and represents your consistent anti intellectual bias. God disciplines those he loves within the narrative of the scriptures. The writer of Genesis clearly views the timing of the flood as merciful because Methuselah lives longer than the other long lived patriarchs and his name means something like “my death brings judgement.” In other words God gives humanity loads of time to repent. Before you lose your mind remember I’m presenting the text as it should be understood in contrast to your straw man and inaccurate understanding. God isn’t being flippant with his judgement, the writer of the Torah always portrays God as being slow to judge. But additionally the univocal teaching of the scriptures and the New Testament is not that taking a human life is always wrong. Killing someone you “don’t like” could be moral. Capital punishment is moral from the perspective of this tradition and humans tend not to like the sort of people that usually suffer capital punishment. Of course not liking someone isn’t relevant to a just cause for taking life. In any case murder is wrongful joking and the Torah and Jesus are clear that wrongful killing is of course wrong. God’s righteous judgement upon wicked people would of course not be wrong.

“If life just evolved naturalistically from matter and energy, then where do immaterial laws of morality come from? And who establishes these laws? Government? Society? The individual?

One wonders if these are genuine and serious questions or if they are being used as rhetoric to shore up the aforementioned christian presuppositions. Giving AiG the benefit of the doubt, the answers are: natural selection, ourselves and societal norms, all three.”

I wonder if you’re being serious here because this makes your worldview evil. This means you deny human rights because you deny natural rights since rights are socially constructed by humans and governments. They just legal fiction. In other words you believe that nothing is wrong…or right. So the Nazis weren’t evil. Slavery wasn’t evil…nothing is evil. And nothing is right or good. If all their is is matter in motion then there simply is no meaning or value to life.

The meaning our lives have is the meaning that we assign to ourselves. It comes from what motivates us, which in turn is driven by what we like, which comes from the chemicals in our brains. It’s a very well understood process, there is no need for any god at any stage.

“If this is the case, and murdering and stealing are right for me, then why shouldn’t I murder and steal from you?

So not serious question then. Is the only thing keeping them from doing bad stuff the belief that god said you can’t? How come so many people who don’t accept the christian god do not do this? Could it possibly be that natural selection has already dealt a dealth blow to the DNA encoding that brings about those characteristics? I wager that a society that finds those actions acceptable is one that would not last very long.”

Right you don’t believe in good and evil. More murder, rape, etc occurred in the 20th century then the previous centuries combined. We clearly haven’t evolved past these things and societies that make peace with evils like infanticide are doing quite well. Doing evil does lead to disaster and the western obsession with infanticide has hurt us badly but natural selection doesn’t select based on any criteria so natural selection cannot be the basis of determining right and wrong. You may as well roll a die. But the bigger problem is that you don’t think evil things are evil you think they are impractical. That is quite evil.

The critical difference between absolute numbers and per capita numbers is not very well understood is it!

“They can’t tell me it’s wrong! It’s just wrong for you.

And wrong for pretty much everybody else, thanks to our evolutionary heritage.”

That makes no sense. You don’t think it’s actually wrong. Explain it’s wrongness. Because you don’t like it? How does evolutionary history connect to morality? It’s a purely physical process. Right and wrong don’t ever come into it. Is it wrong when gorillas rape other gorillas? Is it wrong when wolves eat humans? Give me an example of something that is wrong, universally wrong and why it is wrong base purely on scientism. Unless you think humans are more than matter in motion then we aren’t capable of free will and rightness/wrongness isn’t even relevant to our “actions” since we couldn’t be responsible anyway. This point of view is totally absurd. These are the metaphysics of evil.

I’m skipping some of the remarks you made. Mostly irrelevant.

I’m beginning to wonder if my esteemed responder understands much about evolution and natural selection and how they affect human behaiviour.

“And yet, despite morality being immaterial and not absolute, we manage.”

The claim is that since morality isn’t material it can’t be a part of a materialist worldview…so do you think morality is immaterial as you stated above? And it’s relative? That means there’s no morality.

If it’s relative then it doesn’t exist, what an odd argument.

Yes, we managed to kill a million infants a year for the last 30 years in America alone. Atheist regimes managed to cause the deaths of over a hundred million humans in the 20th century. Your argument isn’t coherent to begin with but empirically it’s completely false anyway.

“Because individual survival depends on the group and if the individual acts against the needs of the group, they don’t survive very well.”

That’s not a reason to not murder, steal etc. That’s just a “theory” of survival. Why survive? Just because? Your worldview is dark and meaningless. Nothing is actually wrong for you.

I was right, doesn’t understand evolution.

It’s also just false. Dictators survive fine. Loads of people have done horrible things and survived just fine. The social contract theory of ethics was exploded over 2,000 years ago by Plato’s myth: the ring of Gyges. And we see that same story inverted constantly through our contemporary myths about superheroes. We consider it morally virtuous to act against our best interests (sometimes to clearly emotionally unhealthy places) and even give up personal survival for the sake of others. You can’t make sense of altruism. Social contract theory is a description not an impetus of morality. It means there is no morality.

And didn’t get my point either, sadly, it was a theme.

“in a random, naturalistic universe, why should immaterial laws of logic exist?

Another faux question I fear.

In a naturalistic universe there is no explanation for laws of logic

As I suspected. The laws of logic are man made by the way (https://www.britannica.com/topic/laws-of-thought)”

This is idiotic. You think that human minds (something you claimed not to believe in elsewhere) came up with the laws that make rationality possibility? Like the law of identity? Or the law of non contradiction? You really don’t know enough about these issues to discuss them. Citing a britannica article as evidence for your faulty claim is an embarrassingly weak argument. Especially since that article doesn’t even agree with you. Laws of logic are necessary truths. Humans didn’t make them, we abide by them.

I’m still being patient with you because I hope you will see some of the numerous errors you’re making and hopefully change.

‘Patient with me’, how about presumptuous and patronising instead.

“you have to assume that the laws of nature won’t change tomorrow.

That’ll explain why I have trouble walking straight when I stay a bit late after work. Those damnable laws of nature always changing when I need them most.”

They don’t change that’s the point. Terrible argument. Why is nature uniform?

“They are immaterial and constant throughout the universe.

That’ll be because they are dependent on the properties of the matter that makes up the universe. Take away the matter and you lose the lawful nature.”

That makes no sense. The immaterial laws depend on matter? That’s absurd. Taking away the matter just takes away the matter. It does nothing to an immaterial law.

Physics class required.

Ignoring more irrelevance.

“I’ll write my own new version, ‘answer with folly and be treated like a fool’.”

That’s exactly why I tell you when you don’t know enough and you certainly do not know enough to intelligently discuss these things. It’s hard to take you seriously. But I’m still being patient.

And relax.

I’ll repeat my suggestion from the top of this missive, if you want to comment here and have a productive conversation, keep your comments concise and to a minimal number of points and do reign in the assumptions of stupidity.

Answering The Sceptics

Some time ago, AiG posted a piece titles Answering The Skeptics (https://answersingenesis.org/apologetics/answering-the-skeptics/).

It’s one of many they’ve posted that address the question of how the Christian should respond to challenges from those who will identify, and draw attention to, consistency issues in the bible.

The opening paragraph identifies Proverbs 26 vs 4-5 as an often quoted source of such contradiction. It says:

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

Personally, that’s not been on my radar as somewhere to go to critique the bible, there are much better places. Searching on the reference and using the key word ‘contradiction’ reveals more pages of christian responses then there are pages of critiquing sceptics. My problem with those verses is when they are used to justify calling the religious sceptic a fool rather than any perceived contradiction.

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.” Presuppositions play an important role in apologetics. Everyone has starting assumptions (presuppositions) that they assume to be true at the onset of an argument. For example, an atheist has the presupposition that God does not exist and that the universe and life arose naturalistically. Bible-believing Christians, however, have the presupposition that God exists

Presuppositions are fatal. One should never presuppose anything before an argument because that makes the whole point of the argument moot. You’ve already decided the result so why bother at all. Unless by argument AiG means those things where spouses shout at each other and throw things. What has happened here is that the non believer has been framed to be just as bad as the believer because ‘they believe we’re wrong’. The correct way to this to have no presupposition and to weigh each option on the evidence available and then test the claims that are produced. AiG can’t do this though because as christians they have to assume and assert their god and in their attempt to balance the scales they project onto those who are sceptical of their claims the opposite presuppositions. That’s deceitful and dishonest.

when a Christian is debating with a skeptic, the skeptic will want the Christian to give up their presuppositions and approach the debate “neutrally.” For example, the skeptic may ask the Christian to “prove” that there is a Creator without using the Bible.

That is a very fair thing to do, you want to assert that something exists, demonstrate it. Opening a book and saying ‘it says so here’ isn’t good enough. You need to show your workings and then demonstrate why the conclusion is valid. Don’t do it and you won’t be taken seriously.

But Christians cannot give up their presuppositions because this results in adopting the skeptic’s presuppositions

If you can’t give up your presuppositions, then you are not being honest with yourself. Claiming that the opposite view has their own does not get you out of that.

There is no such thing as achieving “neutrality” in an argument. Jesus makes this clear when He says, “He who is not with Me is against Me”

I think by “neutrality”, AiG means something akin to the Null Hypothesis (http://psc.dss.ucdavis.edu/faculty_sites//sommerb/sommerdemo/stat_inf/null.htm) in experiments. In an argument context this will mean to take no position and weigh each argument. If the Christian can’t, won’t, or is incapable of doing that, then they have already decided their answer and the argument is pointless. If the only correct conclusion to an argument is to conclude your starting position then you are not being honest with yourself or to your sceptic. This why a Christian should be challenged to prove their god claims using something other than the circular activity of opening the self referencing bible.

Don’t Accept Atheist Presuppositions

But christian presuppositions are all fine and dandy! Really? The correct sub heading should be don’t accept ANY presuppositions.

there’s lots of evidence for a Creator in the universe

Is this using unbiased testable methods or is this a claim that springs from specifically christian presuppositions? Oh dear!

Just as a soldier would not put down his weapon because his opponent doesn’t believe his weapon is real, a Christian should never lay aside the Word of God, which is a powerful sword given to us by God

Interesting analogy.

The skeptic knows that God exists because God has made it plain to everyone through the general revelation of creation.

If that was true they wouldn’t be sceptical.

After we explain that we will not give up our presuppositions but will use the true history recorded in Scripture to interpret the evidence and present arguments, we can “answer a fool according to his folly” by showing him the logical consequences of his presuppositions.

If there was any doubting as to just how dishonestly AiG wants the christian to argue, there it is, decide you’re right and then tell them you’re right because they are already wrong because they have presupposed the wrong presupposition. Awesome!

Never Assume

Errr!

Most atheists assume several things to be true.

Okay ….

they assume the existence of morality, logic, and the consistency of the laws of nature

Odd choice of assumptions to list and it depends how existence is defined. I’m pretty sure this is wrong about morality and logic, while the laws are nature are demonstrated facts so assume is a redundant option.

Let me explain why their assumptions are inconsistent with a worldview that assumes only matter and energy exist

This’ll be fun.

Most skeptics believe in the existence of morality

Blatant assertion with no reference to source. Also still missing key definitions to determine context and meanings.

they will often argue against the biblical God by claiming that God is an immoral monster for acts of judgment like the global Flood

True, they do, and for good reason.

But what standard do they have to claim that God is immoral

Any standard that says it’s wrong to eliminate those whom you don’t like. People who take that view normally get their moral values from themselves, or they conform to the value as a socially accepted norm. I think that the bible also holds that not killing those you don’t like is a good value. How come god gets a pass on that? Isn’t it supposed to be his perfect rules of conduct or something?

If life just evolved naturalistically from matter and energy, then where do immaterial laws of morality come from? And who establishes these laws? Government? Society? The individual?

One wonders if these are genuine and serious questions or if they are being used as rhetoric to shore up the aforementioned christian presuppositions. Giving AiG the benefit of the doubt, the answers are: natural selection, ourselves and societal norms, all three.

If this is the case, and murdering and stealing are right for me, then why shouldn’t I murder and steal from you?

So not serious question then. Is the only thing keeping them from doing bad stuff the belief that god said you can’t? How come so many people who don’t accept the christian god do not do this? Could it possibly be that natural selection has already dealt a dealth blow to the DNA encoding that brings about those characteristics? I wager that a society that finds those actions acceptable is one that would not last very long.

They can’t tell me it’s wrong! It’s just wrong for you.

And wrong for pretty much everybody else, thanks to our evolutionary heritage.

Each of these scenarios is ultimately inconsistent, and the world cannot operate based on such arbitrary standards of morality.

Yet that’s exactly what it does.

We all intuitively know that these things are wrong because God has written His law on our hearts

What font and point size?

in an evolutionary worldview, there is no absolute standard for morality and no reason why anyone should even have a sense of right and wrong since morality is immaterial

And yet, despite morality being immaterial and not absolute, we manage.

And if murdering and stealing helps me survive better, why shouldn’t I murder and steal?

Because individual survival depends on the group and if the individual acts against the needs of the group, they don’t survive very well.

in a random, naturalistic universe, why should immaterial laws of logic exist?

Another faux question I fear.

In a naturalistic universe there is no explanation for laws of logic

As I suspected. The laws of logic are man made by the way (https://www.britannica.com/topic/laws-of-thought)

Skeptics face yet another problem. They assume that the laws of nature exist

Uh oh, I’m getting a bad feeling about what’s coming next.

you have to assume that the laws of nature won’t change tomorrow.

That’ll explain why I have trouble walking straight when I stay a bit late after work. Those damnable laws of nature always changing when I need them most.

They are immaterial and constant throughout the universe.

That’ll be because they are dependent on the properties of the matter that makes up the universe. Take away the matter and you lose the lawful nature.

Secularists have no logical explanation for the existence of these laws

Errr.

Natural laws are consistent because there is a Creator

That’ll be why my prayers never got answered, it was because his godliness was too busy keeping all that nature stuff in order.

There is no explanation for these immaterial laws in a naturalistic worldview.

Says whom and how can they show this?

And yet an atheist must assume these things in order to argue against the Christian worldview. This is like someone who doesn’t believe in air arguing against the existence of air.

Yep, totally comparable.

they are assuming that Christianity is true in order to argue against it

Don’t be knocking those incontrovertible god inspired laws of logic.

we can apply the “don’t answer/answer” strategy found in Proverbs 26:4–5.

I’ll write my own new version, ‘answer with folly and be treated like a fool’.

God’s Flawed Hearing System

Over at AiG, an old item has been pushed through their RSS feed and bumped onto my reader. It’s on how wonderful the human hearing system is.

https://answersingenesis.org/human-body/selective-hearing/

I agree that the human ear is amazing.

The item, written by a Dr. Don DeYoung, includes some flat out incorrect assertions. It seems that lying isn’t really lying when it’s for The Kingdom.

Your eardrum is wonderfully designed to sense the tiniest changes in air pressure. But this has a potential downside. Loud, sustained noises could easily push the delicate parts of the inner ear beyond their safety limit, causing permanent damage.

By God’s wise design, however, something special happens under these conditions. God put a series of three tiny bones in your middle ear to pick up most vibrations. For their protection, He attached two tiny muscles to the first and last of these bones (the malleus and the stapes). At the instant these bones begin to vibrate beyond normal limits, the brain senses danger and sends a signal to tighten the muscles and momentarily shut down the ear’s sensitivity. This happens in a split second and is involuntary, a phenomenon called negative feedback.

The inner ear is thus protected from injury.

This system is so efficient at protecting the ear from injury that “Approximately 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 … have hearing loss that may have been caused by exposure to noise” (https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss)

It is reasonable to suggest that the all-wise Creator planned ahead to protect our ears from modern industry’s noisy environments

And yet the hearing loss page I linked to above goes on to say…
“However, long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for NIHL to happen.”

For reference, 85 decibels is noisy city traffic, that’s quieter than a passing motorbike and music on a personal stereo.

AiG goes to confidently announce.

In contrast, evolution cannot explain how random mutations could possibly plan ahead for future needs.

It seems their god is as bad at planning ahead as AiG is at telling the truth.

But to cover their butts, the following is thrown in at the end.

Your ear must be prepared at all times to hear any intensity, from a mouse creeping behind your desk (nearly 0 decibels) to a jet engine (over 160 decibels). Your job is to take precautions or cover your ears. But God has given you help through the feedback mechanism.

Nothing like a good caveat in case some wretched internet anti-creationist comes along and reads their stuff. Is their faith really so week?

For a good starter on the evolution of the bones in the human ear from the reptilian ear and jaw bones, take a look at this page; https://ecomorph.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/can-you-hear-me-now-the-evolution-of-malleus-incus-and-stapes-in-early-hominins/

Happy New Year Dear Readers

A very Happy New Year wherever you are and whomever you are. I hope your Christmas break was full of family, fun, food and frolics.

2017 has started with a man sized cold and a daughter with a chest infection, so not quite a great as I’d like it to be. Maybe I can blame that on the trumpster, or on brexit, or maybe I’m being punished by some unknowable deity for not giving it the the respect it feels it deserves.

My time sipping hot drinks on the sofa wasn’t all in vain though. 2017 is also the year in which I managed to slay the Ender Dragon, so with that achievement unlocked I now need to plan my assault on the Whither. If that does not impress you, then your life is less wasted than mine so you have permission to be smug.

I managed to get through the holiday period with only one Church service, making it about a year between attendances. Probably a record for me, I’ll do what I can to maintain that. It was a carol service of course (does that count as a real church service?). Anyway, I surprised myself by enjoying the participation and not getting the shouty voice in my head berating me for joining in on stuff I’d rejected. You know, it’s absolutely possible to enjoy the sing along without engaging in the belief. Hallelujah!

Amusingly, I found that I also don’t know the words so well anymore and had to actually read the overhead instead of singing from memory. It gave me a chance to actually read the words to Away In A Manger and conclude that the lyrics to that particular ditty are bat-shit loopy!

One final thing, the limey daughter was given Mike Massimino’s book Spaceman for Christmas and we’ve started reading it out loud at bedtime, as a family. Well one of the family reads it, while the rest listen intently. It’s awesomely engaging and funny.

 

Do You Recognise This Conversation?

There is a regular form of conversation that I tend to have when conversing with Christians on line. It’s regularly tedious and they really do seem to not see the objections to their arguments. It’s almost as though religion gives the adherents the ability to consider themselves right at all times and in all circumstances. This superpower is especially strong when the other party is atheist. It’s the reverse of Kryptonite in that it makes them bolder the stronger they suspect the atheist convictions are.

The following is a fictional account that is based on true events, names and other identifying elements have been changed. I hope it entertains.

Person 1: I have a twin brother.

Person 2: Really? I’ve never seen him.

P1: You can’t, he’s invisible, and immaterial.

P2: But ….

P1: and you can’t hear him, or touch him, but if you ask nicely he might project a thought into your mind, or in mine so I can give it to you.

P2: How can you be so sure?

P1: Are you doubting me? How dare you doubt me! You can’t prove me wrong.

P2: I didn’t say that. I’m questioning how you can be so sure. Is it possible you’re mistaken?

P1: Of course not, I know my brother, we have conversations together and he helps fix things for me, like when he showed me where to look to find my car keys.

P2: That can be explained other ways. I don’t see how that means you have a brother that fits that description.

P1: That’s the argument from silence, that’s a fallacy. You have failed to prove me wrong and your claim that I have no brother is simply an assertion that is incorrect.

P2: I didn’t claim that. I’m trying to understand your claim to have a twin brother I’ve never seen, to see how realistic it is and why you think you have this brother. It’s possible there are other explanations. Let’s test some options to see which is most likely. I’d like to have something to go on before I commit to anything.

P1: You can’t test my brother, he’s immeasurable. You haven’t proven he doesn’t exist. You need to do that first, but you can’t because you are not able to test him. Your claims are all false and I declare you wrong therefore my brother is real.

P2: How can I know if he’s real or if one of the other options is a better explanation if you won’t let me test your claim?

P1: You can’t prove me wrong, you just said it yourself, see! That means my explanation is automatically correct and you can’t claim my brother doesn’t exist because you’ve not proven he  doesn’t. Your only option is to believe, like me.

P2: I’ll take a rain check on the belief option until I get some evidence. Do you have any?

P1: Didn’t you listen to what I just said? That’s all the evidence  you need! He exists and I just told you he does. There’s your evidence.

P2: That’s not evidence.

P1: Now you’re denying what’s right in front of your face! First you claim I have no brother, and now this. Is there no end to the insults you’ll throw at me? Your argument is all fallacy and you’ve still failed to prove me wrong. That means I’m right about my brother.

P2: That’s not what I said and I would like a better demonstration before I believe you.

P1: I HAVE A TWIN BROTHER!

P2: So you said, but I’ve never seen him.

P1: You can’t, he’s invisible, and immaterial.

Deny! Deny! Deny!

I’m sure somewhere in Creationism’s headquarters there is a large red light with the word Deny! embossed on it. Maybe this light is connected to the internet and goes off every time a science article is published to remind the faithful of their solemn duty.

I’ve said this before (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/creationism-is-just-denialism/) and it’s still true today.

AiG HQ must have blown several bulbs when the recent excitement of the feathered Dinosaur tail in Amber was announced (http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/12/dinosaur-tail-trapped-amber-sheds-light-evolution-feathers).

The predictable AiG item (https://answersingenesis.org/dinosaurs/feathers/did-dinosaur-get-feathered-tail-caught-in-amber/) sets the tone of denial from the very first sentence. Scientists have discovered something, they’ve examined it and documented their results and now the hard work has gone public. What do our esteemed creationists do? They scour the releases looking for the tiniest bit absent certainty that they can use to lever in their mantra. Of course, all good science articles will include an element of uncertainty because science is like that. Room for further learning is included as standard. Faith based absolutism isn’t encouraged, and nor should it be.

The key feature of the specimen being discussed is that it has feathers like modern birds “essentially identical” claims AiG, a phrase that I could not find in the science reporting so I’m left wondering what gives them the confidence to state that. Unlike modern birds, there are bones present. This clearly makes it not like modern birds, so what is it?

AiG says it’s just a bird, because feathers, just like Archaeopteryx. They make no attempt to answer the problem of the bony tail, they’ve sown their seeds of doubt with the feathers declaration and have moved on. Fossil birds with bony tails and modern birds without bony tails is apparently not a problem they need to worry themselves with. The challenge of explaining how birds changed so dramatically is not in their remit, their job is to Deny! Deny! Deny!

In case there was any doubt, the AiG item finishes with

I reject the age assigned to these fossils, but it shows that small birds, perhaps juveniles, left evidence of their unquestionably bird-like anatomy in Burmese amber. So where is the evolution?

And exactly how long does it take tree sap to solidify into Amber and get buried? Deny! Deny! Deny!