Why Skeptics have an Anti-supernatural Bias.

Christians will regularly accuse skeptics with an anti-supernatural bias when they approach the Bible with a bias against believing in the miraculous. They claim we have an anti-supernaturalistic bias. This is true, although such a bias is a conclusion we’ve developed over time.

Most all of us started in the homes of people who believed in the supernatural, however conceived. But the real truth is that we first started out with an anti-superstitious bias. We rejected superstitious beliefs. I think most all modern educated people have such a bias, even if there are probably exceptions. Although, before acknowledging these exceptions I would want to know of their education before I could judge whether or not they are truly educated (which is why we have accredited schools).

According to Microsoft Encarta, Superstition is “a belief or practice generally regarded as irrational and as resulting from ignorance or from fear of the unknown. It implies a belief in unseen and unknown forces that can be influenced by objects and rituals. Examples of common superstitions include the belief that bad luck will strike the person in front of whom a black cat passes or that some tragedy will befall a person who walks under a ladder. Good luck charms, such as horseshoes, rabbits' feet, coins, lockets, and religious medals, are commonly kept or worn to ward off evil or to bring good fortune.”

The Christian, however, has his bias too. He approaches the Bible with a supernaturalistic bias, a specifically theistic one. And with such a bias he concludes that the miracles recorded there really happened in history.

So how do we decide which approach, which bias, and which set of control beliefs are preferrable when looking at the Bible? That’s the whole question! Why? Because the set of control beliefs we start with when looking at the Bible is the same set we will usually come away with. It’s a strange dilemna, correct?

I think I have better reasons for starting with my control beliefs, presuppositions and biases. For me it's all about seeing things differently. It's not about more and more knowledge. It's about viewing what we know in a different light. Let me briefly explain why (a much fuller explanation can be found in my book).

One) I have never seen a miracle, even when I was a Christian. Christians have their arguments for why I haven’t experienced one, but it doesn’t change the fact that I haven’t, and because of this I don’t think one happened in the past either. It is more likely to me that Biblical people were superstitious than that the stupendous miracles took place as recorded in the Bible.

Two) Because of the first reason, I find there is real power in Lessing’s Ugly Broad Ditch.

Three) I believe that the control beliefs a person adopts are the ones he picks up based on when and where he or she was born . Therefore, I am skeptical of any specific set of supernatural beliefs. I believe that religious diversity, along with the many splinter groups of each religion, provides us with a good reason to approach any religious claim with skepticism.

Four) Science has taught us to assume a natural explanation for every event, called methodological naturalism. We who live in the modern world operate on this assumption ourselves everyday. This assumption is the foundation of modernity. We now know how babies are made and how to prevent them; we know why it rains; why nations win and lose wars; why trees fall; why most people get sick and how to cure most of them, etc. In previous centuries people either praised God for the good things that happened to us, or they wondered why he was angry when bad things happened. If they lost a war, there was sin in the camp. If someone got sick, it was because of sin in his or her life, and so on. Now we have scientific explanations for these things, and we all benefit from those who assumed there was a natural cause to everything we experience. Because of this, educated people question any unsupported claim. Even Christians do this. The problem is that Christians take the words of some ancient superstitious text as a fact, when they don’t do that with any claim in today’s world. If they were placed back in time with the same mindset they have today, they themselves would ask for evidence if someone claimed an axe head floated, or a donkey talked. But because it’s in the Bible they adopt it unquestionaly, and I find that to be holding to a hypocritical double standard.

Five) Because of reason four, I find it prima facia the case that miracles have a very low degree of probability. Therefore I will need more evidence to believe one took place than there is evidence that one didn't occur. Yet I have all of my waking life as evidence against a miracle happening (see reason one).

Six) The problem of evil. When it comes to theistic beliefs, enough said.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm a Christian and am skeptical of your against the Bible. You regularly accuse Christian skeptics with an anti-naturalism bias why they approach evolution with a bias against believing in the miraculous. They claim we have an anti-naturalism bias. This is true, although such bias is a conclusion we've develpoed over time.

Most all of us started in the homes of people who believe in the supernatural, however conceived. But the real truth is that we first started out with an anti-naturalism bias. We rejected superstitious beliefs. I think most all modern educated people have such a bias, even if there are probably exceptions. Although, before acknowledging these exceptions I would want to know of their education before I could judge whether or not they are truly educated (which is why we have accredited schools).

According to Microsoft Encarta, Superstition is “a belief or practice generally regarded as irrational and as resulting from ignorance or from fear of the unknown. It implies a belief in unseen and unknown forces that can be influenced by objects and rituals. Examples of common superstitions include the belief that bad luck will strike the person in front of whom a black cat passes or that some tragedy will befall a person who walks under a ladder. Good luck charms, such as horseshoes, rabbits' feet, coins, lockets, and religious medals, are commonly kept or worn to ward off evil or to bring good fortune.”

The naturalist, however, has his bias too. He approaches the world with a supernaturalistic bias, a specifically anti-theistic one. And with such a bias he concludes that the missing links recorded there really happened in history.


So how do we decide which approach, which bias, and which set of control beliefs are preferrable when looking at the world? That’s the whole question! Why? Because the set of control beliefs we start with when looking at the world is the same set we will usually come away with. It’s a strange dilemna, correct?

I think I have better reasons for starting with my control beliefs, presuppositions and biases. For me it's all about seeing things differently. It's not about more and more knowledge. It's about viewing what we know in a different light. Let me briefly explain why (a much fuller explanation can be found in my book).


One) I have never seen evolution happen, even when I was a scientist. Evoltionist have their arguments for why I haven’t experienced one, but it doesn’t change the fact that I haven’t, and because of this I don’t think one happened in the past either. It is more likely to me that materialist naturalist people were superstitious than that the stupendous missing links took place as recorded in the Origin of Species(based on 1800s theory).


Two) Because of the first reason, I find there is real power in Lessing’s Ugly Broad Ditch.

Three) I believe that the control beliefs a person adopts are the ones he picks up based on when and where he or she was born . Therefore, I am skeptical of any specific set of supernatural beliefs. I believe that scientific diversity, along with the many splinter groups of each scientific discipline, provides us with a good reason to approach any evolutionist claims with skepticism.

Four) Science has taught us to assume a natural explanation for every event, called methodological naturalism. We who live in the modern world operate on this assumption ourselves everyday. This assumption is the foundation of modernity. We now know how babies are made and how to prevent them; we know why it rains; why nations win and lose wars; why trees fall; why most people get sick and how to cure most of them, etc. In previous centuries people either praised God for the good things that happened to us, or they wondered why he was angry when bad things happened. If they lost a war, there was sin in the camp. If someone got sick, it was because of sin in his or her life, and so on. Now we have scientific explanations for these things, and we all benefit from those who assumed there was a natural cause to everything we experience. Because of this, educated people question any unsupported claim. Even Christians do this. The problem is that evolutionist take the words of The Origin of Species as a fact, when they don’t do that with any claim in today’s world. If they were placed back in time with the same mindset they have today, they themselves would ask for evidence if someone claimed a missing link, or a whale was once a land animal. But because it’s Darwin said it they adopt it unquestionaly, and I find that to be holding to a hypocritical double standard.


Five) Because of reason four, I find it prima facia the case that missing links have a very low degree of probability. Therefore I will need more evidence to believe one took place than there is evidence that one didn't occur. Yet I have all of my waking life as evidence against a miracle happening (see reason one).

Six) The problem of evolution. When it comes to anti-theistic beliefs, enough said.

Daniel said...

Nice copy & paste, James.

What sort of scientist were you? Apparently, your field did not require a grasp of the English language nor basic biology -- "It is more likely to me that materialist naturalist people were superstitious than that the stupendous missing links took place as recorded in the Origin of Species(based on 1800s theory)."

Anonymous said...

daniel if you're a biologist then why are you straying into philosphy. You're trying to tell us how we got here. Biology doesen't explain how we got here. It's your philisopical conclustions that explain how we got here. That is materialistic naturalism.

John W. Loftus said...

James, why is it that God is any better of an explanation for why we got here? I have no experience of an everlasting being who never learned anything and never grew incrementaly, especially a three-in-one being. My experience is against believing something like that could ever exist.

Anonymous said...

John you're claiming people need to go take a biology class to engage you in your philisophical claims. Your philisophical claims are not supported by anything better than your claims of missing links. When asked about where the matter for the universe came from you have nothing better than a philisophical reply based on nothing more than your personal supersitions. Missing links is a superstition.

Drunken Tune said...

I have never seen evolution happen, even when I was a scientist.

You're joking. Right? Please tell me you're joking.

No one can possibly be that willfully ignorant of the advances in evolutionary biology, cosmology, and genetics and say, "I have never seen evolution happen" without looking like an idiot.

Daniel said...

daniel if you're a biologist then why are you straying into philosphy. You're trying to tell us how we got here. Biology doesen't explain how we got here. It's your philisopical conclustions that explain how we got here. That is materialistic naturalism.

James,

I accused you of having a marked deficiency in written communication and no comprehension of biology.

I suppose I should now add "basic reading comprehension" to your list of "need to work on" items.

Nowhere in my comment did I mention how we got here, and how you could surmise this from my comment befuddles me.

What I did do is ask what sort of scientist you were. You failed to answer that question.

I am a chemist, not a biologist.

Anyone who remarks that evolutionary theory has "missing links" displays a rudimentary failure in comprehending that every species is a link to some other species, in time and ancestry. Present species are derived from their parents, who were derived from their parents, ad nauseum. The more drastic morphological disparities between extant species, eg birds and reptiles, or apes and humans, all have representative transitional fossils (see CC200-CC250). Note I don't say, "a link". There is no missing link, James. It's a fantasy of linear descent which persists only in the minds of those who have never taken evolutionary biology.

Back to my question -- "What sort of scientist were you?" Where did you get your degree? Did you take a year introductory course in university biology?

Anonymous said...

daniel you're not a biologist? Obviously you don't know what you're talking about then. Evolutionist claim a whale was once a land animal. That claim is made on the assumption of similarities. That's superstition.

Anonymous said...

drunken name one evolutionary advance that took place naturally. Also, natural selection isn't evolution. Natural selection is an exchange of information that is already created.

Daniel said...

All,

Quit wasting your time with James.

I suspect he's a sock-puppet.

DagoodS said...

Hey Daniel and Drunken Tune!

Have you seen this parable on the missing link “problem” of evolution? I found it quite good.

http://unbecominglevity.blogharbor.com/blog/_archives/2006/12/9/2560579.html

Daniel said...

That was magnificent. I really almost wept as I finished reading it. Thanks, DagoodS :)

Drunken Tune said...

DagoodS,

Thanks for the article! If I ever hear another creationist or IDiot start up, I'll be doing some link-dropping.

james so,

I couldn't resist. It's just too easy.

name one evolutionary advance that took place naturally.

HIV.

If you want to learn about what evolution is, I suggest you go to this link. "Information" my ass.

Bruce said...

Evolutionist claim a whale was once a land animal. That claim is made on the assumption of similarities. That's superstition.

You're right, it makes much more sense to believe that God put an air breathing mammal into the oceans because even though air breathing mammals need air to breath and thus can't live in the water without surfacing for air, it might be kind of fun to watch them try.

thomas4881 said...

John I read your conversion and deconversion experience and it seems to have a problem -

John said:The first is that in Genesis chapter 1 we see that the earth existed before the sun, moon, and stars, which were all created on the fourth day. This doesn’t square with astronomy.

Genesis 1: 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

No where does it say that the earth was created first.

Joe E. Holman said...

Just got through reading this whole thread of comments...

Wow! I don't know what to say!

Not only are we having to deal with distastefully abominable writers who don't seem to have even the most basic reading comprehension skills, but we have some who actually doubt that Genesis 1 affirms that the Earth was created within the first day!

Again, all I can say is, "Wow!"

...Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow!...

(JH)

Rich said...

It still amazes me that people so readily dismiss science. Where exactly is the method of creation explained? If you read the genisis account it sounds alot like a magic wand wave or something.Nowhere will you find what God did to create anything, only that he created everything. Some my question, everytime I see someone try to dismiss evolution, is to say are you so sure evolution isn't the method God uses to create? There is plenty of evidence to back up evolution, the thoery has changed alot recently and you should reeducate yourself on evolution again before youuse the same old arguements against it. For christians it shouldn't really matter how you got here, only how you live here is important.

Tommy said...

Rich, fundies can't allow themselves to accept evolution because Genesis says that God created man in his own image. Because it mentions nothing about descent from an ape, Genesis and evolution cannot be reconciled for Biblical Literalists.

DagoodS said...

Actually, Joe E. Holman…er…*cough, cough*…I happen to be one of those that affirms Genesis 1 does not claim earth was created in the first day.

I will be the first to admit that I do not know Hebrew, so if anyone wants to jump in and correct me I would be more than happy to listen. I tend to review how the Jews read the Tanakh before I rely upon the Christian translation.

In reviewing translations, especially from Jews who are translating their Hebrew, I understand the first two verses of Genesis 1 are better translated: “In the beginning of God’s creating the heaven and the earth, the earth was without form and void…” It is not until vs. 3 that the creative process begins with “Let there be light.”

The Jewish concept of creation was that there was a mess that God was stuck with. That the formless earth was already in existence prior to Genesis 1:1. (Whether God created the mess, or how it became a mess is a different question. Not what Genesis was intending to deal with.)

The first thing God did was “turn on the lights” to see what He was creating! Notice that each creative act starts with “Let there be…” No such verbiage is used in vs. 1. Those are introductory statements to explain what is about to transpire. (The Jews have a great question for Christians: “If it was ‘in the beginning’—‘in the beginning’ of what?”)

Notice also the continuity:

Day 1: Create Light
Day 4: Populate Light (with sun, moon)

Day 2: Create sky and water
Day 5: Populate sky and water

Day 3: Create land
Day 6: Populate land.

Don’t mean to be rude, but I strive to shake off the shackles of my Christian heritage forcing me to read the Tanakh solely within its limited parameters.

Rich said...

DagoodS,
this is the same thing that the mormans believe. It sounds similar to the acount that is written in a book called the pearl of great price and the book of Moses chapter 2.

Rich said...

I would agree Tommy but that is because I don't think they really understand evolution, which I will admit right now that I don't fully understand it but I think I have a decent grasp. It's rejected because they say we didn't evolve from apes, but I understand that evolution doesn't make that claim, only that we have a common ancestor. So I guess my point should better be that there is an understanding gap.

AdNihilo said...

What John really seems to be presenting here about Christians accusing skeptics of having an 'anti-supernatural bias' is the freethinker's natural inclination to oppose 'faith' because it is the very antithesis to reason. Faith is nothing more than "a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny" [dictionary] The supernatural power is based on age old mythical stories lacking factual basis or historical validity. Faith is not based on fact, critical thinking or reason, but rather mythological fiction and lies. So it's ultimately the 'bias' a skeptic or freethinker shows towards facts, critical thinking, rationality and reason that adherents to monotheism are opposing. Faith is an act of mental destruction. If there is no evidence for a claim, then accepting it is irrational.

Building a structure of knowledge on such a flimsy foundation as faith will leave it shaky and unstable. Eventually, even if confronted with evidence against a belief struction based on 'faith', one’s mind becomes so dependent on their irrational beliefs, a fear of one’s world view collapsing around them will encourage a rejection of factual evidence to the contrary. When this happens, one acts against reality. This is an act of destruction.

“I am the Lord thy God and thou shalt have no other gods before me”, saith Jehovah. Which means in plain English, that whatever any given imaginary skygod and his clergy believe, it must be absolutely, positively true; and whatever any other person or group believes must be absolutely, positive false. Such required dogma in religion for an adherent is impossible without this necessary intolerance that is ultimately displayed as very real expressions of bigotry. This sort of absolutist, perfectionist, two dimensional thinking is the prime creator of the two most destructive human emotions: anxiety and hostility.

Which is why I particularly commend the former Christian Ministers, Pastors and apologists for the Christian faith here for challenging the irrationality of faith and the mental destruction that resulted from it. A world view based in Faith and the supernatural rather than fact and reality results in varying levels of psychosis; a mental disorder in which contact with reality is lost or highly distorted....The problem with psychosis, is that those suffering from this mental disease don't realize it.

Joe E. Holman said...

DagoodS said...

[b]"Actually, Joe E. Holman…er…*cough, cough*…I happen to be one of those that affirms Genesis 1 does not claim earth was created in the first day."[/b]


My reply: Oh, no problem. I got no issues with a cultivated thinker looking beyond traditional theism and analyzing the views and coming to a conclusion. It's just when bible believers hold that view, that's what sets me on edge!

I have studied this question and am satisfied with the conclusion that the original ancient Hebrew position was correct; before they knew of evolution, they had no problems accepting the natural language of the text; that is, the most flowing and natural understanding of the verse (minus all other outside considerations) seems to be that this creation was begun on the first day. The ancients had no problem with that until science fought against it, and then the more progressive minds decided to fancy some things lose to make things fit. However, arguments can be made for both positions.

I'm just rather unsympathetic to theist-slanted views that express compromise with science, thus, my protest above.

Christians want to stick billions of years between several verses--ain't gonna fly in my book!

(JH)

John W. Loftus said...

Actually, we see a prefatory comment before several accounts in Genesis: 1:1; 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10; 11:27, and perhaps others I missed. The prefatory comment before an account keeps getting smaller and smaller until we simply read, "This is the account of Terah." (11:27).

This leads us to think that what follows the prefatory comment is a detailed description of the comment itself. So Genesis 1:1 is basically saying, "Here is an account of when God created the heavens and the earth," and then beginning in verse 2 we read of God creating the heaven and the earth. The Hebrew words in Genesis 1:1 could be saying that God created the heavens and the earth, or they could be describing a prefatory comment, like we see later contextually. The reason the later translation is better isn't because of the Hebrew words in Genesis 1:1, but because of the later context.

What I find amazing though, is if we take the contextual translation we have an already existing but unformed earth, even though Christians claim God created the earth "out of nothing." Contextually we do not find God creating the earth at all. It just exists. And even more amazing it exists prior to the universe of stars and planets which were all created on the fourth day. It goes contrary to astronomy and the finding od science so clearly that scholars who adopt the more natural contextual reading of the first verse on Genesis usually see the whole account as mythical in nature.