Christians Live in an Intellectual Box and Cannot Think Outside of it

Yep, that's true of most of them in my opinion. Here's exhibit "A" named Brad Haggard, and my response. Watch how easy this is because I am not in that box of theirs.

I had asked several questions about how we as human beings first had to die to learn that some things will kill us, like lead poisoning, drinking polluted water, and eating poisonous plants for example seen here. And I have been engaging Joel Watts about these questions seen here.

Now along comes Brad in the first comment in that last link above. He's a Christian who seems to think he can answer most of my arguments quite easily, or it seems. Watch then how easy this is for me, okay? He wants me to pay attention to him when I have bigger fish to fry. And since I ignored him, BK from Cadre Comments chimed in as if I might not be able to. Well, remember this the next time I ignore a comment. Do not think it's because I cannot answer it. It may be as I said, because I have other things to do.

Brad asked:
How exactly do you imagine God would have given us the knowledge? Would it be written revelation, instincts, or some sort of self-presenting knowledge?
I’m arguing at a more fundamental level. If God created us then he did a poor job of it and/or placed us in an environment that is dangerous, sure to kill us without notice or provocation. He could have created us with better immune systems if nothing else. No, I don’t think there was some sort of Fall in Eden, either. The process of evolution won’t allow it. That’s science, but you won’t accept it. The Genesis 1-3 stories are mythical tales like Aesop’s fables. And if God couldn’t create us better then he could've at least performed perpetual miracles such that even if lead poisoning could kill us it wouldn’t do so because of a perpetual miracle inside our bodies that would not allow it.

Once you get past those insurmountable problems then I can talk about how God would give us the knowledge not to drink polluted water. But that problem can never arrive since those previous problems cannot be solved. Still, if we can teach primitive people not to drink polluted water then so could God teach us from the beginning. He could have made it one of his hygienic laws in Leviticus. And yes, as you say he could make such things instinctual. There, that was easy. As far as plumbing goes, yes, I see no reason to suppose God could not have given us the proper information both to use plumbing and to tell us about lead poisoning at the same time. Sheesh.

Don’t you see what’s going on here? I do and it’s plain as the nose on your faces. You cannot think properly because you’re hamstrung by an ancient canonized set of superstitious pre-scientific documents called the Bible. The reason why you cannot think is because your first priority is to defend them. So it becomes obvious you lack the capacity to think because you cannot think outside the box that those so-called inspired documents put you in. Only if you come out of that box can you properly think about these questions. And they are all easy to solve from outside that box.

Brad again,
I sometimes give my girl some freedom (or responsibility) in order for her to "learn from her mistakes." I think she is better for it, but according to you, does that make me a bad parent?
Let’s say she was about to drink polluted water, okay? Let’s say you lived in Indonesia just after the 2004 tsunami. And she was ready to take a drink of that polluted water that in the aftermath killed as many people as the tsunami itself. What would you do? Come on now. All you have to do is think. It’s easy when you step outside that pre-scientific box the Bible forces you to live in.

Brad again:
Could God not have other reasons for "withholding" information other than just malice or incompetence? Are you presenting a false dichotomy with this argument?
Listen, Brad. If your God exists and created me with my mind how can he expect me to believe in him if I use it and cannot see any good reason for why he did not do the things I would easily expect from a good parent? It’s like giving me something that in the use of it will cause me to disbelieve. That makes your God duplicitous. Again, that was easy, but only for people willing and courageous to think outside the mental confines of this superstitious box.

Brad again:
I think your argument raises more questions than it can answer.
Not at all! Not by a long shot! Not even close! Your argument in a non-answer. Your answers solve nothing at all.

-------------
Brad do not do this again. I'll answer the arguments I have time for. Don't expect me to do otherwise.

83 comments:

ZDENNY said...

John,

I thought Darwinian evolution is supposed to perfect humanity. If you really believe in Darwinian evolution, you should know that someday man will no longer be affected by environmental conditions. Mutations and natural selection over long period of time is supposed to create a superman.

Of course, it may be that Darwinian evolution has actually corrupted the original design of God.

The Bible says, "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

John, it looks like you simply provided another red herring. You simply are upset that Darwinian evolution takes millions of years or you are upset that mankind has fallen into sin. In other words, you are upset that Darwinian evolution has not made us a god yet or you should be upset with your sin.

Do you want to be upset with Darwin or are you willing to start hating your sin which is responsible for your death?

In the beginning, God created it good; however, it appears that the original design was corrupted. In fact, your idea of evolution may partially responsible for the corruption of the original design.

If I were you, I would get upset about Darwinian evolution because you mechanism for change is failing on the macro-level! I personally have decided to place my faith in Jesus Christ because I don't think Darwinian evolution will create a superman; rather, I believe that sin has cursed our existence.

God Bless

David said...

"Christians Live in an Intellectual Box and Cannot Think Outside of it"

I have often thought that a more appropriate metaphor would be to think of a religionist as an ostrich. I don't know if they actually do it, but the cartoon image from my childhood has an ostrich in fear sticking it's head in the sand so it can't see what's coming.

I have a sister like that. She has buried her mind in a hole in the sand. She has mastered the geography of that little hole quite thoroughly, knows every nook and cranny. Her mistake, in my view, is in believing that this little hole world is ALL THAT IS and that her "understanding" of the world of that hole is all the understanding that she needs.

From my perspective, she has mastered a tiny little hole (box?) that has no relevance to the bigger world outside. She has no awareness of a bigger world, much less any appreciation for my refusing to accept her little world as ALL THAT IS. But for me, she has her head in the sand and all that is being exposed to the bigger world is her fundamental orifice.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

John said, "If God created us then he did a poor job of it and/or placed us in an environment that is dangerous, sure to kill us without notice or provocation. He could have created us with better immune systems if nothing else."

I know, but inspite of all the antagonistic forces against life the population of human race is thriving.

Samphire said...

John, your example of the use of lead in plumbing could be better.

Here in England, until the mid-nineteenth century, internal plumbing in urban areas was rare. Drinking water came from communal standpipes or wells. For the common man there was no internal water supply for the removal of sanitary wastes. Inevitably, disease was rife.

The one major factor in the decrease in infant mortality and a concomitant increase in longevity was the installation of a fresh water supply into every urban home despite it arriving through lead pipes. I suspect that the current supply to my own house in the country is, to some extent, via lead pipe. Certainly, when I lived in the city, the water into each home from the mains in the street was supplied through lead and there has been no major program to replace it except when it inevitably falls into disrepair.

A large proportion of people in London and other towns and cities still have drinking water supplied through lead pipe and, as far as I am aware, lead poisoning is not a regular cause of death.

So I give thanks to our local water board for supplying me with fresh, clean water even if it does arrive through lead pipes.

Samphire said...

I thought Darwinian evolution is supposed to perfect humanity.

Then you have no knowledge of the (ex)theory.

Mutations and natural selection over long period of time is supposed to create a superman.

Cite your authority.

Of course, it may be that Darwinian evolution has actually corrupted the original design of God.

Make your mind up, squire. Does “Darwinian evolution” make a superman or a fallen man?

Do you want to be upset with Darwin or are you willing to start hating your sin which is responsible for your death?

Do you get upset at Newton when you drop a sledge hammer on your foot? Darwin did not invent evolution - “God” did.

I personally have decided to place my faith in Jesus Christ because I don't think Darwinian evolution will create a superman;

2,000 years of christianity and still no supermen to be seen. On the other hand, 200 years of science enables you to live in luxurious comfort and, probably, to a ripe old age.



I’m only wasting time commenting on Zdenny’s post because my chain saw won’t work and my prayers won’t make it work either. Consequently, I’m going to have to get it serviced by the local shop the owner of which I am fairly certain is neither a christian nor a superman.

So much for my ruined Saturday afternoon tree-cutting plans. Oh, God!

Russ said...

ZDENNY,

You would benefit greatly from making a real effort to understand evolutionary theory. It is clear from what you've said here that you currently don't understand it at all.

Along with other scientific achievements - quantum mechanics, atomic theory, geocentrism, germ theory of disease, and gravitation, for instance - modern evolutionary theory contributes to our understanding of the natural world. Evolutionary theory plays its part by providing the best explanation for the diversity and relationships of all living things. It shows us the bough where humanity hangs on the tree of life and underscores our relatedness to and our dependence on the rest of things alive.

Like so many things which impact our understanding of who we are and the journey that has lead us to this place, evolutionary theory should be studied to the point where it is well understood. Understanding allows you to intelligently converse about it. Not understanding leads you to say things such as you said here:

I thought Darwinian evolution is supposed to perfect humanity. If you really believe in Darwinian evolution, you should know that someday man will no longer be affected by environmental conditions. Mutations and natural selection over long period of time is supposed to create a superman.

You shine a light on your ignorance starting with "I thought." Let me explain.

There is no "should" in the processes of evolution, and those processes do not "perfect" anything, including humans. For evolution there is no "believe" for the same reasons we do not "believe" gravity, quantum mechanics or atomic theory: it consistently agrees with what we observe in the world. No living thing including human beings is unaffected by its environment. One does not need evolution to realize this. Every living thing is intimately connected to its environment, and is completely dependent on that environment to provide the necessities for survival. Let me reiterate, there is no "supposed" in evolution. Provided the organism and its descendents survive, heritable mutations and natural selection, along with various other evolutionary mechanisms, will, over a long period of time, produce an organism. That's about as much predictability as you can get. Given enough time, it is possible to go from single celled organisms to humans while it is also possible to diversify the single-celled ancestor into numerous distinct but still single-celled descendents. Both have been observed over the 3.6 billion years of life here on earth.

ZDENNY, study some evolutionary theory. Unlike religion it will accurately explain your origins, and it will allow you to be an intelligent discussion participant.

Richard H said...

@ZDENNY

I think you misunderstand evolution at a very basic level.

The important idea here is that all living things had ancestors which survived to have children.

So, 'successful' or 'good' in a Darwinian perspective is not at all related to achieving some platonic ideal.

Instead, it has to do with propagating often enough to continue to exist.
---
Also, your post seems to have the implicit assumption that the only options are Christianity and secularism.

This is not the case.

So, attacking evolution really shouldn't be mistaken for an argument in favor of Christianity.

ZDENNY said...

If you believe that evolution has limits, then you just became an Inteligent Design proponent.

There is no a prior reason to reject the idea that non-dying cells have a better chance of survival than dying cells. As a result, evolution does predict that life will be perfected because life continues to adapt and experience mutations that eventually will perfect mankind.

John is just upset that his mechanism for change, Darwinian evolution, hasn't perform it's ulimate function yet.

I am glad to hear that you all have decided to put limits on evolution. You are really all just ID proponents and just don't know it yet!

God Bless.

Brad Haggard said...

Was this a rebuttal or a scolding?

John, it's real easy to accuse someone of being "in a box". Let me show you how it can cut both ways.

"No, I don't think there was some sort of Fall in Eden, either. The process of evolution won't allow it."

I can think of three solutions to that "insurmountable" problem right off-hand. C.S. Lewis offers his version in Problem of Pain, using evolution to arrive at a Garden of Eden. God could have front-loaded creation, or if you are an open-theist then the cosmic war theory explains it. So without any research, there are three possible solutions to your "insurmountable" problem, and I'm sure there are many more sophisticated theologies of which I'm not aware. (also, if you take the Hebrew grammar seriously in Genesis 1, it doesn't necesitate ex nihilo for the formation of the world. But I won't bother you with the actual specifics of what the Bible does say.)

Maybe you can't see outside of the box because you are blinded by naturalistic presuppositions.

OK, how about how God would have given us the knowledge.

1. Perpetual miracle: besides making God capricious, this option would negate the need for any sort of created order and hamper our ability to do amazing things like science. And who knows what the alternatives for us would be if God perpetually tinkered with the chemical properties of the world. If He's going to do it with lead, then He's going to have to do it with a lot of other chemicals which may otherwise have useful outcomes.

2. Make it a hygenic law in Leviticus: this would only help the Hebrews, and there may be times where drinking mildly polluted water is better than not drinking water.

3. Make it instinctual: how exactly would humans be able to instictually tell what is good or bad water? It seems like there would need to be some large changes to our being for us to be able to perceive that beyond our normal senses. Those changes might have detrimental outcomes, and if we have an instinctual aversion to certain types of water, then it could hurt us more. Really, do you think God should have given us an instintcual aversion to water?

Brad Haggard said...

Part 2:

Would I give my daughter polluted water to drink? No, of course I wouldn't. But that's not the point of the analogy.

Where did most of the pollution come from? Modern city infrastructure, just like the plumbing example. There wouldn't be the problem of pollution if there was no urbanization (which is the extreme environmentalist advocacy position). So take your pick, does God keep us from urbanization and infrastructure? In this case I am thinking inside the box of our world, because it doesn't seem like there is another option.

"How can (God) expect me to believe in him if I use (my mind) and cannot see any good reason?"

Well, first, I think I've shown at least that your air-tight reasons are not so air-tight. Maybe the way things are now are better than your proposed alternatives. But beyond that, what reason to you have to think that your mind is reasonable. Evolution only gives us survival mechanisms, not reason. And if you try to establish your reasonableness by an argument, then you already have a defeater because you are using your evolution-given mind (speaking as a natrualist, of course). You literally cannot think outside of the box if you are a naturalist.

But then you might say if God gave me my mind then He should make it obvious to me. But you know as much as anybody that no one makes decisions in an intellectual vacuum. If you accuse me of sticking to belief because of social pressures, the same could be leveled against you. Besides, if God gave us all the answers, then there would be no need for anything like science or creativity. Once again, I don't like the alternative.

Now listen, I know you're a "big fish" now and don't have time to ineract with the "rabble" like me (can I say that it sounds like you protest too much?), but taking condescending attitudes like this will lose followers on both sides. If your purpose is to debunk, then you want to keep all the influence you have. You can call me names all you want, but I would like to keep the discussion more about the arguments.

Brad Haggard said...

One more thing, John.

In all of these posts you point out how amazing it is that we are even here with all of the poisonous plants, lead, vicious animals, disease, natural disasters, dangers in the solar system, vast areas of uninhabitable universe.

Judging by the fact that we are here, your posts seem to give backhand support to the design argument.

John W. Loftus said...

Brad, as I said, you are on display here as exhibit "A". Every single one of your objections shows us you do not think. You're defending.

I'll let others do your debunking from here.

Cheers.

John W. Loftus said...

I'll tell ya what Brad. Show me you can think. Tell me how I would respond to each of your recent points and then argue against them and I'll be impressed. Until then you are not worth much more of my time. Get an education okay?

Brad Haggard said...

You are amazing, John. You didn't anticipate my responses in your post. You have to think to defend, and since you brought out the argument, technically you are the one defending it. Remember how easy it is to prove a negative? I just have to show that your argument is bad.

But

Your challenge sounds like fun and hopefully I'll get to it soon. (BTW, I am getting an education, which is why I'm more active now on break.)

BK said...

And I responded to you on the CADRE blog.

Piratefish said...

Hehe, they just can't do it, so easy for us, so hard for them. Some brain research guy should round them up and see this amazing effect of religion. :)

Brad Haggard said...

This was fun.

Ok, here's the key:
Original argument=OA
John's purported response=JPR
My response=MR

We'll take it paragraph by paragraph.

OA: I have three solutions at least to the problem of evolution and the fall
JRP: Each of those solutions have other problems, like animal suffering, atonement, or God's sovereignty
MR: I don't have to defend any of these, I just have to show that it's possible. John is the one trying to prove it is impossible, which is a much bigger task.

OA: Genesis 1 doesn't require everything ex nihilo in the Hebrew
JRP: ???
MR: I don't think you know much about Hebrew Grammar

OA: Perpetual miracles are bad.
JRP: God could have done it in such a way as to not affect anything else.
MR: Still doesn't answer the scientific objection, plus death by a 1000 qualifications

OA: Levitical law wouldn't have enough scope
JRP: If the Bible is God's revelation, why didn't he give us information to help us?
MR: The Bible is not exhaustive, wasn't meant to be, and God still gave us reason (see BK's post)

OA: Instinctual aversion to water is bad
JRP: It could be an instinct that knows when water is good and bad, He is God, remember?
MR: Death by 1000 qualifications

OA: Urbanization is better overall than subsistence farming
JRP: God could have given us all the knowledge we need to build safe infrastructure
MR: Doesn't take into account human greed. Plus, God could have given us a lot of information, but, again, how, and where does it stop? The scientific objection comes up again.

OA: Plantinga's EAAN
JRP: We can correlate our perceptions to reality by science
MR: You still have a defeater, namely, the box of your own mental faculties. There is nothing in evolution that produces logic, reason, or creativity.

OA: Our minds don't work solely on intellect, so God isn't at fault.
JRP: God made everything about us, so He should know what would work with us and what wouldn't.
MR: Meticulous providence doesn't sound like a good answer, probably not the biblical answer. Plus, it may be metaphysically impossible to create one reality that would convince everyone since we are all unique. Still doesn't answer the scientific and aesthetic objection.

OA: Taking condescending attitudes toward commenters hurts your reputation.
JRP: I don't care what you think of me, I have my own plans and my attitude is justified by the previous attacks on me by deluded Christians.
MR: :)

Brad Haggard said...

Hey Piratefish, it's funny you would mention that because "some brain research guy" did round up some religious people and study the effects.

http://www.psy.miami.edu/faculty/mmccullough/Papers/Relig_self_control_bulletin.pdf

David said...

"There wouldn't be the problem of pollution if there was no urbanization."

It's a minor point, but the microbiologist in me demands that I point out that this is an erroneous argument. Transmission of disease by a number of means, including pathogen-contaminated polluted water, can occur, and often does occur, in the absence of urbanization.

Otherwise, Brad's arguments seem to consist of little more than just assuming what needs to be assumed in order to make things turn out right. Assume that God can do anything, and assume that however things are, it's the way it should be, and you're done. It's like having a universal cheat code.

John W. Loftus said...

David, thanks so much for your comment. But it's actually worse than that. Brad does not actually think God can do anything, now does he? His God cannot warn people about polluted water, nor perform perpetual miracles (which might be nothing more than the regular laws of nature by his lights anyway), and he cannot create us differently or a better environment.

John W. Loftus said...

To continue...but as you say "Brad's arguments seem to consist of little more than just assuming what needs to be assumed in order to make things turn out right...It's like having a universal cheat code."

Yep. That's what he's doing. He not thinking. He's regurgitating. He's vomiting up Chick Tract Theology and even thinks I cannot answer his arguments. Is that not the hoot? He's defending what he was raised to believe in a Christian culture in no different or better fashion than a Muslim or Mormon would. Why? Because he refuses to think about that which he was raised to believe. He assumes it's true.

What a brainwashed little fella.

Samphire said...

Brad,

Samphire's Law: For every religious research conclusion there is a balancing counterconclusion.

http://bhascience.blogspot.com/2009/01/improve-your-self-control-with-religion.html

Samphire said...

OK, how about how God would have given us the knowledge.

1. Perpetual miracle:................ blah blah

blah blah ..................... certain types of water, then it could hurt us more. Really, do you think God should have given us an instintcual aversion to water?


But, Brad, God didn't do any of those things. The world is *exactly* as one would expect it to be if He wasn't there. Perhaps He isn't or is just allowing us to get on with things without interruption.

But Craig says that God is omniscient - He knows where each atom is in the entire universe and what it is doing at any given time. Craig does not mention the constantly boiling volume of empty space and within the nucleus of every atom where virtual particles constantly pop in and out of existence but I assume he includes this element to be God’s immediate responsibility also.

I question why God would want or need to manage his creation? When I buy a car I don't expect the manufacturer to live in it and plot every second of its life so why cannot God just let his creation get on with it? In fact, every indication is that this is exactly what happens. So either Craig is wrong or we need another definition of omniscience.

On the other hand, perhaps God is just not very good at creation if He needs to check out every Planck volume every Planck time and to keep an accurate record of it. But to pay credit where credit is due, He is doing very well to keep up with a universe which is expanding in all directions at the speed of light. It makes you wonder how He spent his time when the universe was much smaller.

So, Brad, if God is in the business of nanomanagement as Craig seems to suggest explain using both sides of the exam paper the 2004 Tsunami in terms of His personal relationship with Craig, yourself and the 300,000 who died. I can explain it if God does not exist as a personal or interactive Being but cannot even start to make sense of it if Brad and God really do have the personal relationship you claim.

Gandolf said...

David -"Otherwise, Brad's arguments seem to consist of little more than just assuming what needs to be assumed in order to make things turn out right. "


Yes "Classic Theism" seems is almost like...First you think of the worst case scenarios, then try to think up all the most "classic" ways you might make it all some how seems to fit.

(Using) the mind of ancient early uneducated man. Experiencing things like lightning bolts killing people,experiencing them as if they looked like they were simply cast down from the heavens, by some "supernatural being" with such deadly accuracy like its obviously definite intent to kill people.

Even early Humans not understanding what really made people get killed by these lightning bolts, sure must have "conjured" up quite a few pretty crazy "classic" thoughts and ideas and theorys of what maybe god/s might really be like.

Suppose we really cant blame early man for imagining there must be gods, who it seemed might have some strange reasons like the "fall" to be into punishing us.

Joshua Jung said...

Brad really doesn't get it. At all.

He keeps bring up red herrings.

Pollution being man made has nothing to do with John's Argument. John's argument has to do with God-made things that destroy us. Like poisonous plants.

Brad, just go away. You aren't making any sense and your ignoring the point. Just... go away. You're exasperating.

Your like a little kid who just picked up the guitar and thinks he can play so he is banging away and yelling loudly that his music is as good as Mozart or the Beatles, just no one else can "see" it.

J. K. Jones said...

Why does God owe us a pain free life? Since he is holy, and we have sinned against him either in person or by representative, why would we expect to get along well in the world He made? We deserve His wrath, not his kindness.

The question is not "Why do bad things happen to good people?" It is "Why do good things happen to bad people?"

Pain is a consequence of the fall.

Gandolf said...

J. K. Jones said... "The question is not "Why do bad things happen to good people?" It is "Why do good things happen to bad people?"

Pain is a consequence of the fall."

Of course ...sounds real "Classic Theism" and good common sense and reasoning and quite logical too ,gods would likely treat the bad people good. And good people bad.

Why that would work real wonders! if you wanted more people to act bad,so they got treated good by gods.

Russ said...

ZDENNY,
You said,

If you believe that evolution has limits, then you just became an Inteligent Design proponent.

Uh, no.
Every process in nature has constraints, evolution is no exception. If you have a child, he or she will have a few hundred genetic mutations compared to you and the child's mother. Those mutations are an inherent part of the evolutionary process. What are the limits in this case? One limit is the starting organisms, you and the child's mother. Another limit is the robustness of the genes at the point where the mutations occurred. Mutations in the wrong place, too many mutations, the wrong kind of mutations can lead to miscarriage, physical deformity or a physiological failure to thrive. Problems like Down Syndrome and phenylketonuria come to mind.

The constraints inherent in evolution are unrelated to the basic thesis of Intelligent Design, that some aspects of the natural world are too complex to have evolved. They claim to have found some of these too-complex phenomena, but all the examples that IDers present as evidence for their case have been shown to be evolvable by standard mechanisms of evolutionary theory. For all their talk about irreducible complexity and complex specified information, they have never produced a single datum to support their claims.

Realize, too, ZDENNY, that while everyone is witness to 100 percent supernatural-free phenomena all the time, no one has ever presented credible evidence of anything supernatural. We know that natural processes like evolution produce complexity without a designer. The id/creationism crowd claim to know all things that evolution can produce and they further claim to have found some things in living systems that they say they know evolution cannot possibly produce. Well, they've not produced evidence for either claim.

Fact is, during the 2005 intelligent design creationism trial in Dover, PA, Michael Behe, under oath confessed to having almost no familiarity with evolutionary mechanisms, processes and pathways published in professional journals. Id creationists are not being honest.

So, uh, no. The inherent limits on the processes of evolution do not equate to accepting the claims of intelligent design creationism.

You said,

There is no a prior reason to reject the idea that non-dying cells have a better chance of survival than dying cells.

Are you saying that dead cells are as likely to survive as living ones? If so, I disagree. Living cells are a lot more likely to survive than are dead ones. Just thought you'd like to know.

You continued,

As a result, evolution does predict that life will be perfected because life continues to adapt and experience mutations that eventually will perfect mankind.

Nope. Wrong. Dead wrong. Perhaps you could read Finding Darwin's God by Roman Catholic Kenneth Miller so you might become better informed.

You said,

God Bless.

Gods are imaginary and so don't do anything, including bless. Maybe we could just sacrifice a goat.

Piratefish said...

Brad Haggard said...
Hey Piratefish, it's funny you...

Thanks for the paper, a quick look tells me it mentions many good benefits by being religious, which is a fact nobody denies, what most of these researches didn't address is whether the end justifies the mean. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is a very decent guy and wants world peace, but he thinks he can levitate, conspiracy theorists seem very logical and rational, but they arrived at the wrong conclusions and are really paranoid. If being deluded makes a person's life purposeful and fulfilled, that does not justify being deluded, only that most people don't know they are.

P.S. Oh Samphire, thanks for the counterpoint.

Brad Haggard said...

Hey John, the cavalry came...kind of.

David, you make a good point about transmission of disease. My point was related to the tragedy in 2004 specifically, and not in general. To be more exact I should have said that urbanization exacerbated the tragedy.

As for you reckoning my argument to a Game Genie, I don't think you see that John is trying to engage me in theodicy. John's argument is that, if God exists, He must at least be incompetent because John can think of ways that the world would be better if He were God. I'm trying to show that those "improvements" that John proposes are not really improvements, which is why I'm trending toward the status quo.

Let me give you one example of how our "improvements" can actually backfire. My dad got a sinus infection a year ago and the doctor prescribed a large antibiotic. The antibiotic killed the infection, but it also killed the bacteria in his digestive tract. He lost about 25 pounds and still has digestive problems at times. The unexpected consequences of the doctor's actions actually put my dad in worse shape than before.

Note that I'm not attacking modern medicine, my main contention is that when we try to confidently assert that we know better how things should work, we're mainly ignorant (see Job 38-39). So John's argument that God should know better doesn't stand because we can't confidently perceive the repercussions of actions from our standpoints. It is a false dichotomy, because John cannot demonstrate with any sort of conclusiviness that God has been incompetent or malicious. There may be consequences (probably, if my arguments stand) that would make the alternatives worse. The short answer is that there is no conceivable logical contradiction.

Samphire, the counter-conclusion you posted doesn't deal with the substance of the article. Go back and actually read the introduction. There is meta-study after meta-study chronicling all sorts of positive effects of religious participation. Why won't atheists actually deal with hard evidence? I have seen a pattern lately of skeptics dismissing peer-reviewed research results that I use to support arguments. Who exactly is more scientific?

As for your other post, I think you are conflating omniscience with meticulous providence. Read below in my response to John to see why that it important.

Gandolf, if you read the competing mythologies in Israel's time (Middle Bronze II up through Iron III) you'll be amazed at the depth and sophistication of the Hebrew writings. Richard Dawkins (in)famous "desert nomad" meme is in one word, false.

JJ, if you've read this far in the comment, hopefully you'll see the point to my argument. I'll give another historical example to illustrate my point. Before Fleming serendipitously discovered penicillin, fungus could be marshaled in support of John's argument, but we would now easily recognize that as ignorance at the time. We're even finding out more of the usefulness of the human appendix now.

I do play guitar, but I would feel bad if I subjected you to that online here.

Brad Haggard said...

John (aka Rumpelstiltskin), I did exactly what you asked, and I still get a dismissive attitude and no answer.

First, lets look at your conflation of perpetual miracles and laws of nature. You should know that they would not be the same thing in this case. You are proposing that lead behave in a certain way in general and in a different way according to a human's use of lead. Thus there would be at least two different laws of nature, and maybe more depending on humanity's use of lead. If God was required to do this, then surely you can see the impediment to science that would bring about. God could do it, but it would be a bad idea.

Where have you seen this argument on a Chick Tract, BTW?

Your argument sounds more like a whine. Why did God not create us with this or that? Why didn't God make the world like this or that? You could endlessly raise these questions because they are based on personal perception. I don't like how you run your blog sometimes, but I'm not in the position to change anything. If I did, you probably wouldn't like it and want to change it back. The short answer to all those questions of why God didn't do this or that is: He thought it would be a bad idea.

I could bubble wrap my entire house to make my kid safe, but it would be a bad idea in the end. I could hover around her at all times to make sure she never falls (read: meticulous providence), but that would be a bad idea for both me and her. Do you know that our excessive use of hand sanitizer is leaving us our immune systems more vulnerable? This world, despite what you might argue, has an amazing balance.

Here's another example of nature's design and our ignorance. I learned when my daughter was born that in the womb her digestive tract was sterile. The bacteria would have been harmful, and her mother's digestive tract was doing all of the hard work. When she was born (lungs leaping into function on her first breath) her mother's milk acted as nourishment and a laxative. The laxative flushed out the meconium in her intestines and began to let good bacteria ferment in her digestive tract to allow her to independently digest food. In addition, the milk strengthened her immune system by borrowing from her mother's anti-bodies.

Researchers and companies investing millions of dollars in formula have yet to come up with a formula milk that performs these functions. How much should we say that we actually know about nature?

Do you realize that to make your argument obtain you have to show that it is impossible for a good God to have reasons for the current state of the world? You have to uncouthly display images of dying children in Africa in order to give some emotional weight to your rhetoric. That shows that it is not a rigorous logical argument, when you have to consistently go for outrage and bombast to make a point.

One last minor prod: can you explain the significance of the use of the hiphil in Hebrew in days 4, 5, and 6 of the creation account contribute to a clearer understanding of what was involved in God's creating?

Russ said...

Brad,
You said,

John, it's real easy to accuse someone of being "in a box". Let me show you how it can cut both ways.

Do you think that by demonstrating your ability to reverse an accusation that you have refuted an argument? Do you think that such a reversal demonstrates an equivalence? Perhaps you think that creating a reverse accusation somehow negates the original. Is that it?

Do you think that in saying,

Maybe you can't see outside of the box because you are blinded by naturalistic presuppositions

that you make it seem more likely that your version of a Christian god is real? Does it at the same time make Thor or Poseidon or Aphrodite or Venus more likely to be real? Recall that mankind in the West lived without naturalistic presuppositions for the first 16 centuries of the Christian era and the human outcomes were barbaric. Once naturalistic presuppositions were adopted, mankind began to understand the world he lived in, the food he ate and himself well enough that progress could be observed.

Socially you are coerced like some Discovery Institute stooge to combat naturalism, while every bite you feed your daughter is produced entirely under naturalistic presuppositions. Mankind has been living under naturalistic presuppositions for millenia, all the while denying it at the behest of self-interested clergy. To this day this denial degrades humanity.

Brad, your reasoning about how your god would have given us the knowledge leaves me wondering if you really believe your god to be omniscient and omnipotent. I understand your need to apologize away your god's apparent reluctance to use those powers but those omni's mean it could do literally anything it wanted at any time.

It appears to everyone that your god wants not to use those powers to our benefit. We know it appears that way to you and your similarly-minded religious comrades since you have created vast amounts of apologetics, which are often mutually contradictory, to explain it away. We know it appears that way to everyone else because we can simply observe the world.

You said,

1. Perpetual miracle: besides making God capricious, this option would negate the need for any sort of created order and hamper our ability to do amazing things like science. And who knows what the alternatives for us would be if God perpetually tinkered with the chemical properties of the world. If He's going to do it with lead, then He's going to have to do it with a lot of other chemicals which may otherwise have useful outcomes.

You claim that your version of god miraculously answers prayers, miraculously performs medical miracles, miraculously changes lives. It seems this god of yours does lots of miracles. Now, you give a list of excuses for why you think your god wouldn't perform perpetual miracles, so are you saying that your god can't perform perpetual miracles? Since your god can do anything how do you know it's not already doing them? Did your god tell you this?

Russ said...

Your second point was,

2. Make it a hygenic law in Leviticus: this would only help the Hebrews, and there may be times where drinking mildly polluted water is better than not drinking water.

I've read so many Christian theologies I'd like some clarification about yours. Why would this only help the Hebrews? Is it that it's in the OT that renders Christians unable to make use of it? To be sure, many Christianities reach back into the OT to get Original Sin, maybe a few commandments, and hatred for homosexuals, while rejecting everything else. Or is it Leviticus that makes it so only Hebrews can respect it? You might be the first Biblical literalist I've seen admit that you get to reject what your god said in particular parts of the Bible. Is that Brad Haggard theology or Tate's Creek theology? I'm sure you will have devised what seem to you to be perfectly sound reasons, but I am curious.

The theology says, MY GOD CAN DO ANYTHING. The apologetics says, HERE'S WHY MY GOD NEVER WANTS TO DO ANYTHING. My god sure as shit can do anything. It just doesn't want to while you're alive, but it will really show you when you're dead. You'll see. How's the theologist know? God tells him. How's the apologist know? God tells him too.

Wouldn't it have been impressive if your god stuck a sign in Leviticus saying: for Christians only - not Hebrews. And then he added a few lines about boiling water or filtering it through hot sand or gave them a magic spell or gave them a prayer that it would actually answer. It would have been especially impressive if the god then did answer the prayer. But, it wouldn't do that, of course, since people would then know it was there. Too bad.

Your third point was,

3. Make it instinctual: how exactly would humans be able to instictually tell what is good or bad water? It seems like there would need to be some large changes to our being for us to be able to perceive that beyond our normal senses. Those changes might have detrimental outcomes, and if we have an instinctual aversion to certain types of water, then it could hurt us more. Really, do you think God should have given us an instintcual aversion to water?

How? you ask. Remember that omnipotent thing. It can do anything...ANYTHING. Your game, your rules. You claim your god can do anything. Anything at all. It can; it just doesn't want to do this.

If needed your god could change the size of atoms to accommodate anything. It just don't wanna. It could change the laws of physics. It just doesn't want to.

I had to chuckle when I saw you had used all-natural justifications for why your omnipotent god chose not to make us that way. Think omnipotent and nothing you said here makes sense. If your god wanted it different, no matter how different, it would simply be that way. Do you really believe it, Brad?

Looking at what your god might have done from a naturalistic standpoint to allow people to tell what is good or bad water, I can tell you that it would not have taken much and people would not have to look any different than they currently do. There are single-celled microorganisms which can detect the presence of certain substances in their aqueous environment down to parts per billion. Your god could have given man the same ability he conferred onto a bacteria.

Small changes in the shape of olfactory receptors would have allowed man to detect the presence of many impurities with no physical changes. Vultures can detect carrion from ten miles away. Sharks can detect blood in the water from a couple miles away.

Your god could have given man the sensitivities he gave to bacteria, vultures and sharks with the intent that we could detect more high quality water.

All this would have been possible for a thing that was actually omnipotent. You've countered nothing John said.

Brad Haggard said...

Hey, Russ,

1. If I can change one proposition in an argument and show the opposite conclusion obtains, then it does become a sort of meaningless argument. Ad hominem arguments are particularly easy to turn around.

I'm not sure how natrualistic presuppositions produce food. And if you think that natrualistic presuppositions propelled the world into the modern age, you should read some of the devotional works of the fathers of science.

2. I'm not sure you understand the difference between a miracle and a perpetual miracle and their relation to the natural order. See above in my comment to John as to why perpetual miracles in this case are not a good idea.

3. Re: placing water restrictions in Leviticus.

It would only have helped the Hebrews because they were the only ones at that time who had the materials, not because of canon considerations. But do you expect the Bible to contain every sort of tidbit like that? I don't think that is the Bible's purpose.

4. This argument does address my contention (finally!). If I knew more about our olfactory organs I could say something more, but I still think it is difficult to figure out the consequences of physiological changes.

These are just maybes: 1. Sharks and vultures detect organic matter, lead (John's example) is inorganic, so it might require more than simple changes 2. It's tough to compare bacterial physiology to human 3. perhaps if our sense of smell were that strong, it would counter-balance our most useful sense, sight 4. we might still have an unhealthy aversion to slightly polluted water
(once again, these are just maybes)

5. If omniscience breaks all the rules, then theodicy arguments become completely unfalsifiable (read: not good arguments). Theodicy has to deal with what is, and then understand God's relation to reality.

Shane said...

Brad,

You said the following... "And who knows what the alternatives for us would be if God perpetually tinkered with the chemical properties of the world. If He's going to do it with lead, then He's going to have to do it with a lot of other chemicals which may otherwise have useful outcomes."

I think you are forgetting that God is supposed to be both magical and all powerful. Why does God suddenly need to bow down to the laws of chemical reactions?

I think most of your posts make the same sort of mistake. You assume that God is somehow limited. However if he's limited then he ain't God.

Also I think you are trying to defend God by appealing to what's possible. Sure it's possible that God had good reasons for making the world the way it is. But it's also possible that Alien's staged Jesus' ressurrection. You can defend anything with the words "it's possible".

Shane said...

Brad,

This time you said... "If omniscience breaks all the rules, then theodicy arguments become completely unfalsifiable (read: not good arguments). Theodicy has to deal with what is, and then understand God's relation to reality."

If Omniscience doesn't break all the rules then God is subject to rules, which in turn makes God not Omniscient, which in turn makes him not God.

Brad Haggard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brad Haggard said...

(blogger issues above...)

Shane, the "omnis" also mean that God can subject Himself to rules, like working within an ordered creation. He can do anything, and even the NT see God as subjecting Himself to various mundane restrictions (Phil 2:5-11). That is why theodicy has to work within the constraints of creation, because if God decided to change the fundamental rules of creation (which He could do) our cosmos wouldn't be our cosmos and you wouldn't be you and I wouldn't be me. And the more you press this, the weaker an less falsifiable an argument becomes.

But if you're willing to accept that it's possible God had reasons to do what He has done, then the argument already obtains. John's claim is that it is impossible, given God's "omnis" for the world to be like it is. Thanks for the endorsement!

David said...

Does everyone get it yet? God is whatever Brad needs God to be.

TRUTHSEEKER101 said...

Maybe I am wrong, I am no expert in philosophy or any of the hard sciences.

But Mr. Loftus has the right idea.

Outside of what seems to be(based) off what I can get out of your responses you seem to be argueing semantics, and also assuming what you are trying to prove. Nothing you have said proves God's(in the most general sense) existence as far as I understand it. It seems to be proving your version of god.

Now maybe it is just I am uninformed(a big possibility) but I think the last comment is right

God is whatever you need it to be.

Gandolf said...

Brad-- "if you read the competing mythologies in Israel's time (Middle Bronze II up through Iron III) you'll be amazed at the depth and sophistication of the Hebrew writings. Richard Dawkins (in)famous "desert nomad" meme is in one word, false."

Hi Brad yes im sure it would be quite amazing.Im sure many things were very sophisticated for the time.We have good reason to be amazed at the complex and intricate systems many early man had designed,the Maori hadnt settled that long here in NZ. Yet by the time the English arrived here they had already perfected how to build very sophisticated fortifications, that the english found they just couldnt deal with.

And i most certainly dont mean to downgrade anyones inteligence when i mention them not understanding certain things like lightning or tsunami etc.Im just understanding reasons they likely had for wondering if there might be gods behind many of the effects they were experiencing,such as folks getting killed by lightning bolt.And how easy it would have been,for early man to considder "maybe" gods threw lightning bolts etc directly at man for some reason.

These theorys evolved.I think its not so very surprising (gods were created) in their theorys.Naturally they would have believed seemed to them,it looked like gods likely struck both the (good and the bad) with sickness, lightning bolts or tsunami etc.Why?,because thats what "guessed" they actually had observed!..Good and bad folks they noticed were effected... And they had no other way at the time to figure it out what was actually happening. To be able to gain a "more educated" understanding of some of the phenomena they experienced...So they pinned the theory that they thought it looked like had to do with gods.

In my opinion Dawkins is still kinda correct if he was suggesting there was plenty of ignorance around, because the truth simply is there was! still plenty of ignorance of many matters.

So we ended up with omnipotent gods who it seems we thought could quite easily simply throw lightning bolks at (any of us) if they so chose to.These gods were looked upon as some type of father type figure,but he was kinda both omnipotent or even (impotent) also whenever it suited the theory.

Think its called "classic theism". Its a theory, but seems to me kinda lacking in good reasoning for modern thought. Specially now that humans understand so much of the phenomena we never used to.

Brad you said --"Let me give you one example of how our "improvements" can actually backfire"

Brad you explained it all very well about what happened to your dad.But did you notice your theory you built, missed out one very important factor!.Its the omnipotent god bit.You neatly formed the theory you were thinking about, but the theory simply left the (omnipotent) god out were ever it suited.Yes mere man and medicine might make mistakes with consequences.

However this omnipotent god it so happens could have supposedly designed and created the (whole universe),crikey.. he`s just not likely to ever go making any mistakes with knowing what he needs to supply us right?.

Brad Haggard said...

David,

God can do anything, can't he?

Really, though, I don't think anything I've said deviates from credal orthodox trinitarianism. I even used a trinitarian passage for illustration (Phil. 2:5-11). Maybe it is broad, but I do have some definite countours to my theology.

Truthseeker,

I'm no expert either, I've just been borderline obsessed with this for a couple of years.

The reason that it seems like I'm assuming God exists is that this isn't technically an argument for God's existence. It's a counter to John's argument for God's non-existence. The most this argument can do, by definition, is show that in this area it's not impossible for God to exist. If I wanted to prove God's existence I'd have to vigorously defend the battery of arguments WLC uses in his debates. If you want to look into that, you should get the Blackwell companion to Natural Theology.

Let me illustrate quickly. Many skeptics now recognize that the Jesus=Mithras theory is about 50% half-truth and 50% nonsense (http://jerome23.wordpress.com/2009/12/22/the-myth-of-the-pagan-christmas-or-why-stephen-fry-was-wrong-on-mythmas/) But just because they recognize this is a bad argument doesn't mean they automatically accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. They have other reasons, just not that one.

John won't give up his atheism if I convince him of my side. He wouldn't be epistemically justified in doing so, because he has other reasons. So just keep the scope of the argument in mind and I think it will make much more sense.

Gandolf,

Even Israel's predecessors were thoughtful and skeptical. The Gilgamesh epic is a great illustration of that depth of thought and skepticism. Mythologies were more of a way to tie everything together rather than anthropomorphize. Plus, the evolutionary theory of religion doesn't quite work with ancient Yahweh worship. There are too many oddities and conflicts with the surrounding cultural milieu to allow for a gradual accretion of monotheistic ideas. Read the Enuma Elish and then read Genesis 1 (roughly contemporary) and then analyze the differences.

And I purposefully left God talk out of my illustration with my dad to show how we humans can't correctly predict the outcomes of our actions. That is why we need science, to learn from the consequences. There were two instances of answered prayers in that time, but that was irrelevant to the argument, so I didn't include it. The main point is that claiming that God should have done something differently (if He were real) doesn't hold much weight because we can't see the unexpected outcomes of such actions while God, if He were real, would.

Russ said...

Brad,
What you said in 1. is far too broad. If you alter a proposition you can make it meaningless or have it imply just about anything you choose.

When you say "I'm not sure how natrualistic presuppositions produce food" I think you're being intentionally obtuse, Brad. Agriculture has been practiced for more than 10000 years. Mankind has never needed a god or anything supernatural to make plants grow. The closest they've come is the post hoc fallacy of "I prayed for rain and it rained! My prayer was answered!" Of course, to be able to give the gods their post hoc due they neglect that they were farming in an area chosen in part for its regular rainfall and that the rains would have come prayer or no prayer. lf men had depended on the supernatural rather than the natural, agriculture would have been a non-starter. It would have been the "Agricultural Dark Ages."

Instead, by relying purely on naturalistic presuppositions, man was able to advance himself and agriculture. Man and wolf began cohabitating over 15000 years ago, and man learned that he could genetically choose the traits wanted in his canid friends. Man evolved cabbages, corn, wheat and barley, and they domesticated the ancestors of today's cattle, pigs, horses, chicken, sheep and goats.

All before the world even existed by the lights of most Biblical literalists, but then not all Biblical literalism is created equal.

Russ said...

Brad, you said,

And if you think that natrualistic presuppositions propelled the world into the modern age, you should read some of the devotional works of the fathers of science.

I have. Not one points to anything of value coming from some supernatural notion. Every idea is an all-natural one.

Let's see...how this should play out? Oh, yeah.

Gutenberg was religious. How do we know? He would have been killed by the Christians if he had not been.

Bacon was religious. How do we know? He would have been killed by the Christians if he had not been.

Brahe was religious. How do we know? He would have been killed by the Christians if he had not been.

Priestley was religious. How do we know? He would have been killed by the Christians if he had not been.

Copernicus was religious. How do we know? He would have been killed by the Christians if he had not been.

Newton was religious. How do we know? He would have been killed by the Christians if he had not been.

Galileo was religious. How do we know? He would have been killed by the Christians if he had not been.

Okay, okay, I get it. You were right, the fathers of science were religious. How do we know? They would have been killed by the Christians if they had not been.

Brad, under church rule no one was free to dissent. You know that. I rag on you, but I know you're a smart guy. However, I do question your honesty when you try to imply that the devotionals of important persons in the history of science means that they were supernaturally guided. Like the others in those societies, these scientists had accepted their lot as a member of a religiously oppressive community.

Since private written thoughts having as much as a hint of variance from orthodoxy could get you killed almost no one wrote down such thoughts. Persons in higher profile positions like academics and those in science, that is, those who might have had an opportunity to lead others astray were especially highly scrutinized.

Isaac Newton came very close to being tried for heresy. His Christianity was not your Christianity. It was not the Christianity of the Church of England. He was able to hide his writings and using his considerable political influence to stave off prosecution.

You know these things, Brad. Shame on you.

The chain of discovery shows no discontinuities like one would expect following supernatural events. The chain of discovery shows an unbroken chain of one all-natural phenomena building on the ones before it.

The devotionals of scientists living in religiously oppressive societies do not suggest at all that the supernatural played a part in their scientific discoveries. Shall I outline for you some of the actual insights, insights actually put into practice, arrived at through supernatural thinking? These are real. These came directly from supernatural thinking. You know demons, gods, devils and so forth.

Abandonment of orphans. Over much of the Christian church's history, orphaned children were abandoned. Why? Supernatural thinking. God was punishing that child, so the church, acting on God's behalf, left the child to fend for itself on the streets.

Bloodletting. Demons, you know. Supernatural thinking. Lots of unnecessary deaths from that one. God couldn't be wrong, could it?

Asylums. Supernatural thinking. Diabetics, epileptics, the mentally ill, the handicapped. Chained or caged because they were demon possessed. How could god have been wrong? What is the reason we don't do that today? Naturalistic thinking brought us to understanding and that understanding to compassion.

Witch hunting. Christian supernatural thinking. Today. Throughout the third world. Children and adults being killed as witches. Hundreds every year. Your same god, Brad. Bible believing Christian god.

Russ said...

Brad,
These are all examples of where supernatural thinking leads you, Brad. This is the same supernatural thinking you want others to take seriously. Yes, you'll blame people, but they were relying on god just as you claim to be. They had their notebooks of answered prayers and other miracles, just like you do. Their answered prayers led them to chaining the afflicted, and even today torturing and killing their own children.

Water restrictions would have been better than what is actually in Leviticus.

You said,

But do you expect the Bible to contain every sort of tidbit like that? I don't think that is the Bible's purpose.

Without a doubt, the Bible could easily have been a far more helpful book. Replace the slavery rules and maiming for petty crimes and personal affronts with some germ theory, personal hygiene, and cooking safety tips. It's a fact(Princeton Theological Seminary) that most church-going Christians never read the thing anyway. Clergy are only slightly better.

The important part in that last quote was "I don't think that is the Bible's purpose." Aren't you admitting that you are deciding the Bible's purpose? It's not being laid out for you by some deity, you are deciding this yourself.

In number 4, Brad, any difficulty in figuring out consequences is irrelevant. Omnipotence is an ultimate trump card. Isn't it? Or is it the case that you get to decide when or if your god gets to be omnipotent?

Think about this a bit. In all of your compare and contrast you look at it only naturalistically. Have you forgotten that your god can do anything at all? Isn't it the case that if your god wanted to it could change the shape of humans every day while it left us none the wiser? It could do that, right?

Concerning number 5, I have to ask: since when have theodicy arguments ever been falsifiable? I suppose from a purely pedagogical standpoint we can assess the correctness of the argument in light of the starting assumptions. Still, there is a wide gulf between good argument and falsifiability. Falsifiability also assumes a standard, which the variability in religious assumptions precludes.

This was a joke, right?We have no means to determine if Christian gods exist or what causal properties they might have. To do philosophy on gods, we assume a bunch of stuff about them, including their existence, and build arguments from those assumptions.

You said,

Theodicy has to deal with what is, and then understand God's relation to reality.

Here, there are terrible problems with semantics. Theodicy does not "deal" with what is. That is it does not endeavor to solve anything. Theodicy is purely contemplative apologetic. Its objective is to defend a concept of a god who has the power to end suffering while it appears unwilling to do so.

When you say "understand God's relation to reality," you're suggesting that such a relation already exists and it is your task to determine what that relation is. To determine that relation you must receive information. What form does that information source take? If you get it directly from a god, is it the same information as others get? Is this the same god that had diabetics and the handicapped chained to walls? If you are doing scholarly research, you're relying on the thoughts of others. How do you know they are reliable? The clergy, typically considered reliable, have ordered the killing of many as witches or heretics. If you rely on faith for insight, others relying on what is supposed to be the same god, are given different insights. But, then, doesn't differing answers to the same question mean that your source is unreliable?

All the best.

Chuck O'Connor said...

russ

I love your intellectual honesty and find it effective in combatting the rhetorical tricks proposed by theists defending their superstitions. thanks.

dguller said...

One question that I have for religious believers is how they would distinguish between the following:

(1) An all-powerful deity created and guides the universe ultimately towards a good purpose;

and

(2) An all-powerful deity created and guides the universe ultimately towards an evil purpose, but have chosen to maliciously presented himself as benevolent to play a trick on created beings.

I mean, since believers are big on creating conceptual space to make their positions logically POSSIBLE, then it is also possible that God is a Cosmic Trickster who takes pleasure in fooling them.

How could one refuse (2)? Only based upon one's religious beliefs that (1) must be true. The problem is that one's beliefs that (1) must be true could be part of the cosmic joke in scenario (2), and thus there is no real way to differentiate between (1) and (2) for a religious believer.

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks, dguller, later today I'm making your comment into a post of its own.

Brad Haggard said...

Russ, more rhetorical tricks for you...

1. I still don't know how you can claim naturalistic assumptions produce food. You must be conflating natural processes with naturalistic assumptions. If you're trying to claim that in prehistory people operated on a naturalistic worldview, well I think you're on your own there.

2. This "fathers of science were atheists in disguise because of coercion" is a meme, like "desert nomads" and "Jesus=Mithras". There are a host of problems with this:
a) This is total speculation, how could you know they were specifically under threat?
b) Many of the scientists I will cite below lived post-enlightenment, when the threat of excommunication was almost worn as a badge of pride, many others post-reformation, where dissent was not met with death.
c) It cannot explain why they would write devotional materials and theological treatises.

So let me list some of these fathers by age:
Pre-reformation:
William Occam (wrote treatises on Lord's Supper and the Body of Christ)
Robert Grosseteste (Franciscan monk)
Roger Bacon (Franciscan monk)

Post-reformation:
Francis Bacon (Franciscan monk who challenged Greek deductive thought on Christian philosophy)
Copernicus (published by Lutherans, Duke Albrecht of Prussia)
Johannes Kepler (various letters, dedications, persecuted for Lutheran convictions)
Royal Society of London (founded by Calvinists)
Isaac Newton (professed the Apostles Creed)
Gottfried Leibniz (developed apologetic arguments, professed the Augsburg Confession)
Blaise Pascal (the wager is just the tip of the iceberg)
Robert Boyle (theological essays and contributed money to bible translation)
Paracelsus (overturned long standing Greek medical texts on Christian convictions)
Ambroise Pare (attributed medical success to God)

Post-enlightenment:
Gregor Mendel (Augustinian monk)
Alessandro Volta (Practicing Roman Catholic)
Georg Ohm (relied on God's providence for his work)
Andre Ampere (deconverted and then returned based on design considerations)
Michael Faraday (member of the Glasists)
William Kelvin (criticized for his harmonization of faith and science)
Antoine Lavoisier (actually killed by French revolutionaries because he professed faith)
John Dalton
Joseph Priestly (clergyman and scientist)
George Washington Carver (attributed all of his success to God)
Louis Pasteur (died with a crucifix in hand)
James Simpson (wrote a Gospel tract)
Joseph Lister (practicing Quaker)

(HT to Alvin Schmidt, Under the Influence)

Let's not let false memes reproduce themselves.

Brad Haggard said...

Part 2

Re: abandoning orphans

I have no idea where you got that, because in the early church one of its distinctive features was its care of babies left to "exposure" by their pagan neighbors. Kill the memes!

(witch-hunting is unfortunate, and I have no answer to that objection, only to say that it is overshadowed by Christian influence on modern society. Remember that in no other society in the history of the world did these scientific ideas arise. We can draw a neat philosophical/ideological line between their faith and their accomplishments.)

3. Here's some ad-homs that are without substance and can easily be used against either side
"You're brainwashed/deluded"
"My position is more moral than yours"
"You believe that because you like the outcomes of the belief"
etc.

4. Some more examples of how omnipotence arguments against God drift into meaninglessness
"If God created us with wings, we could fly away from natrual disasters"
"If God made us invincible, we would never die"
"If God gave us x-ray vision, we would be a lot better at medicine"
"If God gave us all knowledge, we wouldn't have to learn stuff the hard way"
ad absurdum

If God wanted a comic book universe, He could have done it, but He created this world (hence, theodicy deals with real world problems). It seems to me that God wants us, more specifically our volitional hearts (at least according to biblical revelation).

5. I determine the purpose of the bible inductively by studying the literary elements and what they try to convey. It's an open process and not dependent on tradition, though tradition is one of the factors.

Hope that answered some of your objections.

KILL THE MEMES!!!1!!

Scott said...

Brad wrote: I could bubble wrap my entire house to make my kid safe, but it would be a bad idea in the end. I could hover around her at all times to make sure she never falls (read: meticulous providence), but that would be a bad idea for both me and her.

Brad,

Yes. This would be a bad idea for both of you because your daughter needs to learn how to avoid dangerous and problematic situations by going though a particular process which may result in suffering and even death. However, I don't think John is suggesting YOU should act in any different way, given the circumstance we find ourselves in.

Why? Because this process is a consequence which is beyond our control. As such, we must work within the framework we find ourselves in.

As a finite being, you had very little to do with how your daughter is "designed" at a biological or neurological level. Nor did you design the laws of physics or invent time itself. However, theists tell us that God designed us in his image. And, more recently, theists claim that God fine tuned the universe to the exact specifications with human beings in mind.

Having infinite nature, God isn't just supposedly smarter than us, he's supposedly all knowing. That is, he has infinite knowledge about everything. Furthermore, he is supposedly infinitely powerful as well. So why is it that God couldn't have created both our universe and human beings in such a way that prevented this kind of problem at a lower level?

Is it completely logically impossible for God to otherwise or is it just logical impossible given our current universe and design of human beings? But, again, these aspects are supposedly designed down to the most intricate details by God as well.

At best, you'd have to suggest that God has a specific set goals for human beings that required him to create things the way they are - therefore it's logically impossible. While I think this too is a result of being stuck "inside a box" let's assume this is the case for the sake of argument.

But if these things must remain a constant, the problem seems to be we have a God who has designed a system were people must die to learn important things about our environment. So, while it might not be possible for God to design us or our environment differently, it would seem his expectations given the circumstance should be different.

For example, If you were a universalist, and the particular state of belief that someone held when they died had no impact on their eternal disposition, this might not be nearly as much of an issue. But when the means by which we must learn about cause and effect can cause death, and death is a event horizon which supposedly locks our eternal soul in to a particular eternal fate, we have what appears to be particularly poor design on God's part.

As such, think John's argument is a pointing to a symptom to a bigger problem: Something in the equation doesn't fit. We've made an assumption that is very wrong.

Given what we know about human beings and our environment, I think we'd agree that you should not overprotect your daughter. We need limited exposure to bacteria to build proper immune responses, etc. So if nature leaves us no room for alternatives, what's left?

It would seem that, in some way or another, our concept of God is significantly wrong.

If the dualistic nature of heaven and hell - good and evil - is merely a human invention to explain suffering and cosmically right all wrongs, then this aspect of God start to make sense as a product of finite beings.

However, should this core part of the Christian meta-narrative be wrong, the question becomes, what parts, if any, do we have right?

Shane said...

Brad,

You said,"Shane, the "omnis" also mean that God can subject Himself to rules, like working within an ordered creation. He can do anything, and even the NT see God as subjecting Himself to various mundane restrictions (Phil 2:5-11)."

My response: Right, God can give himself whatever arbitrary rules he wants. But that only moves the answer to John's questions about suffering back a step. If the answer to John's questions about suffering is that God had arbitrary reasons for allowing suffering then the next question is *why* would a benevolent God value arbitrary reasons over a lack of suffering. If God is truly benevolent then lack of suffering should take #1 priority.

You also said, "That is why theodicy has to work within the constraints of creation, because if God decided to change the fundamental rules of creation (which He could do) our cosmos wouldn't be our cosmos and you wouldn't be you and I wouldn't be me. And the more you press this, the weaker an less falsifiable an argument becomes."

My Response: So theology has to work within the confines of naturalism? That's self refuting. If theology must work within the confines of naturalism then theology is effectively working within the confines of atheism.



You also said,"But if you're willing to accept that it's possible God had reasons to do what He has done, then the argument already obtains. John's claim is that it is impossible, given God's "omnis" for the world to be like it is. Thanks for the endorsement!"

My response: I was only accepting it for argument's sake in order to show the absurdities that follow from appeals to "it's possible".

Eric J.S. said...

I think if we discover why "Christians live in an intellectual box and cannot think outside of it", we (freethinkers) will make some progress.
The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture is a good book by Dr. Darrel Ray on the subject.

Things freethinkers should keep in mind for the deconversion is:

1) Christians become believers when they are not rational enough to reject the dogma they receive either as children or when they are in a crisis.
2) Their religion often ostracizes them for leaving the sect or threatens them with Hell. This is a fear.
3) Many receive emotional comfort from their invisible friend.
4) They have community to which they are loyal and receive support.
5) The religion effectively rejects doubt and tries to imitate rationality by some degree. This in turn allows for very intelligent people, engineers, philosophers, scientists, etc... to believe in absurdities like young Earth creationism. The part of their brain that puts claims into reasonable doubt is sick in that it will not doubt their religion.
6) Religion uses guilt, especially something like sex and sex drives. Almost everybody has sex drives that they cannot control. By teaching sex is dirty or one must never ever have pre-marital sex, the religion can control the people through marriage but especially through guilt.
7) To criticize religious people to aggressively cause them to put on their armor against antagonism. This is a trait religions emphasis as being strong in faith.

Russ said...

Brad,
Before I start in on ya, do me a favor. Put yourself in a headlock and give yourself a noogie. A good firm one. This is your punishment for not recognizing that I did not even suggest that the fathers of science were atheists. If you can show me where I did, I'll withdraw the noogie and give myself one.
--------
Regarding the naturalism, I have yet to see anyone who actually lives under anything other than a naturalistic worldview. That includes you. We see it in what you pass off as miracles; we see it in how you structure miracles; we see it in the language you use to outline your conception of a god. You're a naturalist with a tendency to assert that some things are supernatural.

While I'm convinced that everyone lives out a naturalistic worldview, I do think that many have had their cognitive capabilities deeply impaired by memes about the supernatural. People all deal with the world around them completely naturalistically, but their minds and thinking skills are damaged by memes of gods and devils, ghosts and angels, heaven and hell. When the picture of the natural world is obscured with supernatural overlays, problems often arise: orphans abandoned, bloodletting, witchhunts and all the other horrors. The memes cause them to misread the world they live in and to misattribute what surrounds them to supernatural phantoms.

The supernaturalist memes effect erroneous and inconsistent thought. In the normal course of events, some particular occurrences might be singled out as desirable and some are seen as undesirable. Both happen to theists and non-theists alike, but the theist picks out some normal events to call miracles or answered prayer.

For instance, medical professionals make predictions of life expectancies for the terminally ill based on available information and their experience. The character of biological systems makes down-to-the-minute predictions impossible, and such predictions vary widely. That's normal. So, essentially every one of these predictions will differ from the actual time of death. If the difference in time of death is viewed as desirable, theists call it a miracle while non-theists call it fortuitous. If difference is not to their liking, it's not a miracle, and it's never counted as evidence against the faith or the god. Being inconsistent is part of the structuring of miracles. If you pray for it and it works in your favor its an answered prayer due to the post hoc fallacy. If not the miss is forgotten. This slicing up of the normal into miraculous and non-miraculous parts guided by supernatural memes is standard religious practice.

Of course, you're correct that naturalistic worldview does not itself produce the food, it is the actions taken due to that worldview that produce the food. We can pray over the fields, douse them with holy water, wave incense at them, kneel, genuflect, sacrifice a goat, anoint it or act out some other religious meme, but the crop yield will still be determined from good old-fashioned and all-natural factors. Even today these are actually done, but they have no effect - with controls, Brad.

No one needs supernatural memes to grow food. What we eat today is for the most part what we've tamed from the flora and fauna we found growing wild more than 10000 years ago: long before the Greek, Roman, Norse, and Celtic pantheons had been conceived; long before today's one thousand gods were assumed into existence; and, long before the industrial and commercial religious infrastructures that keep the memes of today's gods alive.

Russ said...

You made a list of problems addressing the claim I did not make. I hope you have been duly self-noogied.

You asked, "how could you know they were specifically under threat?" Concerted study. Forty years of it now. The Catholics admitted it. The Calvinists admitted it. The Lutherans admitted it. The Puritans admitted it. Reading Luther alone on thought and reason makes me grateful that while the Christian world was stultified for 16 centuries by its supernatural memes, the rest of the world continued to progress.

With your list and your comments here Brad I do think you're being disingenuous. You've stated on this blog recently that you're a scholar, so it seems to me that, beside the oversight that I didn't make that claim, that you haven't dealt with what I did say.

By the way, I want to point out that you left off your list my personal favorite among Christian scientists, Charles Darwin. He and Dickens are my two favorite CD's. If you left off Darwin for evolutionary thinking, several others should have been excluded for the same reason. Pasteur, for instance, made contributions to evolutionary thought. Kelvin thought Noah's Flood was bunk, that the earth was hundreds of millions of years old, and that the earth was at some point too hot to support life. Sure enough they all bear the "Christian" label, but that doen't tell us what's in their minds, does it? They could be the wrong kind of Christian.

I expected your list to include Francis Collins, but, then, he, too, accepts modern evolutionary theory.

You want it to be construed that the supernatural claims of Christianity played critical roles in the contributions made by some scientists important in the history of science. I say that the supernatural claims of Christianity played no role. Your religious memes weren't needed for science in China or India. Your religious memes weren't needed for the invention of the wheel or the waterwheel or relativity or quantum mechanics or the transistor or antibiotics. And your memes weren't needed to get the telescope, the microscope, the compass, the clock, the printing press or the electric light, the phonograph, moving pictures, the telephone, or the CAT scan.

I could reverse your notion and try to suggest that atheism caused many of the things you enjoy in life. Ever use a home computer? Thank atheist Bill Gates. Ever use a light bulb? Thank atheist Thomas Edison. Ever sing White Christmas? Thank atheist and secular Jew Irving Berlin. I could claim that these useful and enjoyable things came about only through cosmic atheist forces, but that wouldn't be true would it? No.

In all these "atheist" things, for all the contributions made by those on your borrowed list, and for the untold millions of unnamed and unsung of the past whose contributions kept us moving forward, they had a common standard, a metric, a means to assess correctness: nature. It wasn't atheism, it wasn't Christianity - it wasn't religion of any sort. It was a system of thought that said: If you think your plan or scheme will work, use nature as the template and see if light shines through. Only if nature gives the go ahead will it work.

Our unknown ancestors who first used fire, have in a real sense made us who we are as a human community, but they didn't know, believe in or live their lives according to your supernatural memes.

You might find this video interesting. There really are pre-modern societies without gods. There have been lots of them. This particular society has some of the happiest people on earth. The video is also useful from a philosophy and linguistic standpoint.

http://fora.tv/2009/03/20/Daniel_Everett_Endangered_Languages_and_Lost_Knowledge#fullprogram

Russ said...

Brad,
I freely grant that the church - not yours by the way, Brad - fed and clothed many scientists. I'll grant further that had many of them not been supported by the church, their particular contributions would not have been made by them or perhaps at that specific time. But, again, they were guided by the light of nature, not the hand of superflous deity-memes.

You said,

witch-hunting is unfortunate, and I have no answer to that objection, only to say that it is overshadowed by Christian influence on modern society.

Bullshit. There is nothing exclusively Christian that has contributed to the benefit of mankind. NOTHING. Being nice is observably human. Confucius, Buddha, Lao Tzu were saying things attributed to Christianity centuries before Christianity was invented. All humans care for each other. All humans build hospitals. All humans show generosity and compassion. Take from the Christianities all it has in common with humanism and all you have left is superstitious and supernatural memes that impair thinking. People do not need gods or saviors to be wonderful contributing members of society. That so many are duped into thinking they do is a measure of the marketing effectiveness, not the effectiveness of imagined supernatural entities.

Brad, when you said,

Remember that in no other society in the history of the world did these scientific ideas arise. We can draw a neat philosophical/ideological line between their faith and their accomplishments.

Are you out of your fucking mind? Is quantum mechanics an "atheist" accomplishment because Bohr, Planck, Heisenberg, and so many of the rest of its early contributors were atheists. No.

So, a Christian and an atheist are working on an evolutionary mechanism and the Christian gets there first. Is it "Christian" science because he did? Is it "atheist" if the atheist gets there first?

Can we draw a neat philosophical/ideological line between their faith and their accomplishments for the inventors of gunpowder? The light bulb? Do photons become infected by demons if they stream from atheist lightbulbs? Is Microsoft Windows an atheist operating system?

This exemplifies perfectly the intellectual box John's post addresses, Brad. Realize this: you and your brand of religion are not the only people on the planet. Observably your supernatural memes do not lead to solutions to real problems. When Christians work in the same ways as other humans employing 100 percent supernatural-free means, it accomplishes exactly what other humans do. When it prays, nothing happens. When it relies on supernatural memes in denying access to condoms in Africa, people die by the millions. And, in this, we can absolutely,

draw a neat philosophical/ideological line between their faith and their

adverse effects on humanity. Christianity right now has its grubby hands on the throats of millions.

You said,

3. Here's some ad-homs that are without substance and can easily be used against either side
"You're brainwashed/deluded"
"My position is more moral than yours"
"You believe that because you like the outcomes of the belief"
etc.

I appreciate your obsession for deflecting the weakness of your position by using tu quoque. You seem to have little else, Brad. I'm sure that like the "if I call it a meme I'm saved" defense, you feel comforted after you have successfully turned an argument back on your interlocutor. If you had positive evidence in your favor you wouldn't need to resort to that rhetorical trick so often.

Russ said...

Brad,
As to the specific charges.

If you can't see beyond the confines of your version of Christianity in a way that allows you to understand that the rest of humanity gets along just fine without the confused thinking that accompanies your supernatural memes, you are indeed "brainwashed/deluded." If you think everyone has to think exactly like you do, you are "brainwashed/deluded." Even other Christians don't believe what you have to say. Roman Catholics don't want to be your kind of Christian and you don't want to be one of them.

The thesis of John's post is true. The box obscures your view.

"My position is more moral than yours." In many ways my position is indeed more moral than yours. Creation Scientists let their children die. Not having competing ingrained and cherished supernatural memes that are just as stupid but must be defended at all costs, and which can be just as easily ridiculed, I can fight for those children. You can't fight it. You must remain silent as those children die for you to present a united front under the Christian banner. Christian pedophile clergy and all those who are culpable for their silence? Do you really think Christianity makes people more moral?

You fight me, but you Christians give each other tacit endorsement for all sorts of crimes against humanity. Does your god give you extra points for ignoring the crimes of those wearing the Christian label?

You call yourself moral when your morality consists of spreading supernatural memes; doing some 100 percent supernatural-free humanitarian aid and attributing your work to that of a god; sending missionaries around the world to try to make more people you view as spiritually defective think exactly like you do; and, defending the generic Christian when in reality the only thing you share with most of the others is a label.

You said,

4. Some more examples of how omnipotence arguments against God drift into meaninglessness

Do yourself a favor? Using your tried and true trickiness, reverse this and show us how omnipotence arguments for some god drift into meaninglessness.

Philosophically, a god what don't use no omnipotence, ain't no better than a cat what don't use its omnipotence, too. Loftus is omnipotent. How do I know? Revelation. But, John is modest and doesn't like to show off, so he never uses it. Plus if he strutted his stuff, next thing you know, he'd have billions of people bugging the shit out of him. I used to be omnipotent, but now I got's some arthurrightus in my right knee. In fact I come from a long line of omnipotents, as omnipotent as your very own god, and just as unwilling to use it. Can you prove that I'm not omnipotent? Are "not omnipotent" and "never uses omnipotence" the same thing?

You say,

He created this world.

You get there by embracing superstition, supernatural memes, and by allocating your time in ways that do no not enhance your understanding of the natural world. That last one is very important. Most of the world sees your claim rather differently. Those who understand the natural world the best see the world very different from the way you do and they lead wonderful lives and make great contributions to the the human community. The members of the Royal Society of London - according to your copied list evidently founded by Calvinists - is nearly 100 percent atheists, 350 years later. The members of the National Academy of Sciences is nearly 100 percent atheists(maybe "We can draw a neat philosophical/ideological line between their [lack of] faith and their accomplishments?").

Russ said...

You said,

5. I determine the purpose of the bible inductively by studying the literary elements and what they try to convey. It's an open process and not dependent on tradition, though tradition is one of the factors.

What you're describing here has such wide scope that you, just like all other same-named Christians, might as well say you're making it up. In saying that you determine the purpose of the Bible you're admitting that you're making it up. If you determine the purpose, then you also get to determine which verses your god meant as humor, irony, metaphor, allegory, literal, or satire. From there you can reach any conclusion about the world you want. Some Christians, even some in orthodox traditions, reject the Bible completely. Some think of it as a worthy piece of literature, but nothing more. Some treat the Bible as a mix and match set of various rhetorical approaches. None, of course, live as though they believe the Bible to be literal, though they call themselves Biblical literalists. No sane moral person is actually a Biblical literalist.

Though you say it's an open process and not dependent on tradition, that can't be true. You say the Bible is true. Why? Tradition. You assign original sin to DNA that will be guide the development of a human being, but not the DNA of chimpanzees. Why? Tradition. At the point of conception that one cell gets a soul. Why? Tradition. Even though almost all fertilized human eggs do not implant and end up discarded with the rest of the menstrual flow. Of the ones that do implant most of them have the same fate. Tradition. Hell. Why? Tradition. Heaven. Why? Tradition.

Lots of Christianties throw out much of this tradition and choose to rely on more humane moral understandings. Some traditions run there course and should be discarded. Zeus, Jupiter. Lots of ancient religious traditions thrown out with none of the claimed adverse consequences. Christianity is no different than those religions that humanity has intentionally shitcanned or the ones that have passed away with the death of the last of its believers. The god memes in Christianity afflict minds, but there is nothing more behind those god memes than there was the memes for Apollo, Athena, Loki or the several hundred gods in the Celtic pantheon. Sometimes traditions need to be thrown out. It's time for Christianity as a religious tradition to go the way of Romulus and Remus and to settle into a comfortable retirement among the pages of mythology texts.

Brad Haggard said...

Scott, I've enjoyed these first couple interactions with you. I think you frame the issues cogently and genuinely challenge my thinking.

You hinted at some of the possible solutions in your post, most that seem unsatisfying.

A) It is possible that it is just logically impossible for things to be any other way, but not very satisfying or helpful.

B) God's purposes for us include suffering, also not very satisfying, seems to make Him indifferent or at worst malevolent.

So perhaps my task now in defending a theodicy (as opposed to just attacking John's argument) is to try to give some credible reasons.

As far as I can tell from creation narratives, our original purpose on this earth was not enjoyment but stewardship. I think it is better on the whole to have responsibility than simply passive consumption of pleasure. So however you understand the fall, whatever happened "before" (depending on your view of origins) we were still expected to do some labor/take responsibility.

As we have abdicated that responsibility we have alienated ourselves from God, who gave us the charge in the first place, and have misused our natural resources, upsetting to some extent the natural balance of the world. We have also turned on each other, resulting in all sorts of suffering of our own making.

God could rightly have wiped us out (without pain) and started with another race to act as regent. He hasn't, instead opting to renew the creation from the inside, a wonderfully serendipitous notion. God, in Jesus, shares in our suffering and redeems it for ultimate good. The positives that come from the inner redemption of creation outweigh by far any temporary sufferings. In short, I am the problem with the world.

Objections: a) If God knew that we would turn on him and suffer, then he shouldn't have made us (I still prefer existence over non-existence)
b) God should have done something to get the same effect without the suffering (seems to be a contradiction in terms to the narrative above, plus takes away the notions of responsibility or growth)
c) the suffering in the world is excessive (God promises to right the wrongs and hear the cries of the afflicted, even post-mortem, in the final judgment)

d) Hell is too much of a punishment
This point seems to be a sticker for most skeptics today. One response would be that there are evangelical universalists who see hell as restorative rather than retributive, and there are also anhiallationists who don't see hell as eternal. Both make a biblical case and may be right. One thing that is clear is that God is the final judge, so we can trust him not to make any capricious judgments about a person's eternal fate, on the more traditional view. I'm actually pretty ambivalent to all the options, and I don't think either of the three are un-biblical.

I think some of our thinking on suffering is colored too much by prosperity theology.

Brad Haggard said...

Scott,

I almost forgot. The main point in the analogy with my daughter is not my relation to her world. It is her reponse to my actions.

Bananas constipate her, but she really loves to eat them. One day she saw some sitting out and asked for one. I reluctantly only gave her half and ate the other half. She was heartbroken that I didn't give her all of the banana, and cried inconsolably. To her, I had no good reason to withhold the banana because she couldn't see the consequences I could. In the same way, when we accuse God of incompetence or indifference, we are speaking from a position of ignorance.

Brad Haggard said...

Shane,

1. The first point I tried to address in my post to Scott.

2. Don't confuse theodicy with theology.

3. Well, I'm not sure whether you think it is possible for God to have reasons or whether it is impossible. I hope you can at least see that it is pretty extreme to hold that it is absolutely impossible for God to have reasons.

Brad Haggard said...

Russ, (sigh),

Let me clear up some things.
a) I think you took my comment that I am getting an education to mean that I thought myself a scholar. I actually resent that label and proudly wear the moniker "wannabe".
b) Darwin wasn't on the list because he wasn't a Christian, maybe not even a theist
c) Collins wasn't on the list because he is contemporary and not really a "father" of any discipline in science, at least yet.

1. If someone does something in the natural world, it does not mean that they operate with a naturalistic worldview. A natrualistic worldview denies any sort of supernatrual reality.

If you kept on with this, we could ascribe 9/11 to a natrualistic worldview because the hijackers didn't simply pray or give alms or sacrifice a goat to get the desired results. They actually learned how to fly a plane and did it in the natural world taking advantage of natural aerospace physics. Obviously this is nonsense, because they were motivated by their political/religious convictions.

I know of a missionary who feels called to teach Sub-saharan africans sustainable farming techniques and trades. The work is in the natural world, and uses natural means, but is motivated, at least in the missionary's mind, by his Christian convictions. He would not be over there otherwise.

Methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism are not the same thing. I think you're conflating the two, unless you do thing the ancients did uniformly reject the divine. The natural processes aren't the key, those are a given. The motivations behind the human actions are how we determine the effects of belief systems.

2. Let me draw the line for you. In classical Greek thought there were a few big trends. Platonism and Neo-Platonism (from Plotinus) pushed an idealist philosophy that treated the world as a shadow (see: Cave allegory) and not worthy of study. The other option was Aristotelian "moderate realism" and its Stoic progeny, emphasizing inductive study of the world but with no real concept of an orderly universe (the stoics also blurred the subject-object distinction). Other pre-modern societies saw the universe as essentially arising from chaos, and as such had no confidence in the orderliness of the universe. Most eastern religions placed taboos on natural study because of monistic concerns.

Let me stop here to say that inventions are not the same as science. Science is a directed, methodical study of the natural world that may or may not produce inventions.

But early Hebrews, somehow, made a distinction between God and cosmos, and saw the cosmos as under a reasoned God's sovereign care. Christianity fused this thought with neo-platonism in its early years, until in the late middle ages monks, like Occam, began to demand to study nature as an object, orderly because it reflects God's order. When that realization the subject-object divide met with a ground for orderliness, the rest is history. Even atheists such as Aristotle or Buddha did not found that distinction. It is a fact of history.

Ideas have power.

Brad Haggard said...

(continued)

As for your other contentions on this point:
a) It is not true that hospitals are ubiquitous to all cultures. Outside of a few scattered ones in India, hospitals are absent until the spread of Christianity.
b) Generosity and compassion are common, but they weren't necessarily lifted up as virtue in every culture. Buddha emphasized detachment from the world, not compassion. Confucius has a lot of wisdom, but he does not highlight love as the principle virtue.
In fact, if you look at the state of the populus in the Roman empire and compare it to today's values, you would be amazed. Adultery, infanticide, abandoning of sick, degrading of women, and a degredation of human life were common. The typical westerner would be horrified at the daily practices of the Roman world.
c) It's no surprise that humanism looks a lot like Christianity because HUMANISM WAS BIRTHED FROM CHRISTIANITY. Ever hear of Erasmus?

That the European constitution decided to leave out the contribution of Christianity to Europe's culture can only be described as revisionism. We have the facts of history as public knowledge.

Allister McGrath has also drawn a line from the Reformation to Liberalism to Atheism, ideologically speaking. So I do think you can connect atheist scientist accomplishments to a natrualistic worldview, but the original base was undeniably Christian.

3. I have never called anyone "brainwashed" or "immoral" on this forum because they are, ahem, bad arguments. They don't prove anything, at most they are only descriptive.

It would mean nothing rhetorically for me to say you've been brainwashed by your research or participation in atheist groups. I'm surprised you still want to use it as an argument.

And when have I defended Christian scientists? Let me be specific and clear: they have a bad theological construct, not based on the bible at all. This is a classic strawman. What united banner? Christians all the time are discussing theological, ethical, social, and political issues. What was the reformation?

And once again, let me re-emphasize that most of the medical mission work in the 3rd world is motivated by Christian values. It is another one of those pesky public facts.

4. As for arguments for God's existence and creative activity, at least natrual theology has public arguments. I'm not espousing presuppositionalism here. The ontological argument could be turned around, though, if you reversed the first premise (from possible to impossible, but thanks to dgunner, we can see at least that it is at least possible).

5. I'm not making up the purpose of the Bible because it is an objective body of literature. There actually is broad consensus among even atheists who study the bible as to the genres and purposes of biblical literature. I'm not on my own here, by a long shot.

And I don't just take the bible's authority on tradition, though it's longevity has something to say for its authority over, say, the Enuma Elish or The Republic or The Iliad. But I also get the bible's authority from its resonance to my life, correlation to contemporary life, depth of wisdom and thought, aesthetic considerations, results of its ideology, correlation to history, and because of my personal religious experience.

The continued growth of Christianity across the globe is another confirmation for me of the authority of the message.

Shane said...

Brad,

1.Your point about the bannana seems to be a bad analogy. The question isn't why God denies us pleasure, but rather why does God *allow* suffering. When you deny your daughter half a bannana you are not *allowing suffering* but *denying pleasure*.

2. Theodicy is part of Theology.


3. John shouldn't have to make such silly claims in the first place. Should evolutionists have to claim that it's impossible for the devil to have planted all the evidence for evolution? I think I have clearly shown in my previous posts why possibility defenses should not be allowed. It would be interesting to see you engage me on that and I would be extremely grateful. :)

InfidelAvenger said...

I like to ask Christians this one question:

Judges 1:19 -- God was not able to defeat the "residents of the valley, because they had iron chariots."

I thought the god of the Bible was omnipotent....

Rhoni said...

COME, LET US REASON TOGETHER.

in professing to be wise,they became fools

Creation Scientists use Science to DEFEND the Bible from the VERY FIRST VERSE. And they do it well.

It's the difference between the Truth of God and the lies of the enemy and the world.

You should be better able to clarify the side your on, because I'm gobsmacked!!!

Russ said...

Brad, (even bigger sigh)

[Aside: please forgive me if I give you a lot of punctuation, spelling, and grammatical errors. My vision is particularly bad today. I have to use 48 point type to make out the text.]

I was sort of sad that you abandoned meme-speech. It was nice to see you embrace the language and concepts invented by Richard Dawkins.

With each comment you make you strengthen John's intellectual box thesis. The box is strong with you, young Jedi. Your comments here so clearly underscore the impenetrability of your box that I won't bother you after this comment, though I will consider your response.

You said,

a) I think you took my comment that I am getting an education to mean that I thought myself a scholar. I actually resent that label and proudly wear the moniker "wannabe".

I suspect this is another means for shielding your claims from criticism. You're not really a scholar. In fact, among those you associate with, words like "scholar" and "intellectual" and "educated" are taboo. Wannabe is far more comfortable and carries much less accountability for stuff like that nasty "evidence." "Scholar" would suggest a certain level of actual understanding behind which it is far more difficult to hide. Wannabe provides more smoke, less clarity, more diffuse thought and allows greater certainty, however unwarranted. I'm sure for your brand of intellectual compatriot, the comfort associated with 'wannabe' far outweighs the responsibilities of 'scholar.'

In this you epitomize what is lamented in books like Alan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind and Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason.

In your comments here, you again show that you think your version of religion grants you license to chop up reality in a way that allows you to imagine that you've supported your cause.

This is what I hear you saying.

I'm Brad Haggard, wannabe, not scholar. As a wannabe, I know so much that I can say things like the following.

Christian Scientists have a bad theological construct. I know this because I have the right theological construct.

I know there is a causal relationship between a person's faith and their humanitarian aid, but I also know that no causal relationship exists between atheism and atheists performing humanitarian aid. I know further that there exists no causal connection between a person's Christian faith and their using their positions as clergy to find victims to rape. I'm a wannabe, I know precisely how I've imagined causal connections to work.

Not being a scholar, I get to decide what is and is not science. Wannabes know these things. Large Hadron Collider? Invention, not science. Thousands of experiments leading up to light bulb? Science, definitely. Light bulb? Invention, not science.

Non-scholars get to remove the "Christian" certificate of authenticity from whomever they choose for whatever purpose. For example, I can deChristianize Charles Darwin, even though all evidence proves he was an active contributing Christian at the time he proposed the first evolutionary mechanism, that of natural selection.


All of humanity lives in one existence, Brad, in which no evidence exists for anything supernatural. Your supernaturalism is purely a consequence of how you choose to chop up the human experience. More than that, your traditions, including your traditional disdain for the intellectual, trains you to keep chopping it up that way. Your tradition moves you to mix, match and move contexts in order that you can feel you've deflected or refuted an argument or criticism.

Russ said...

You said,

If you kept on with this, we could ascribe 9/11 to a natrualistic worldview because the hijackers didn't simply pray or give alms or sacrifice a goat to get the desired results.

Why didn't they pray, give alms or sacrifice a goat? Simply put: they knew in their hearts their imaginary god would do nothing. Because imagined deities like the god of the Bible never do anything. They knew they could rely on naturalism to make things happen. Religious people act, in sometimes wonderful and sometimes horrible ways, and then play the mind game of saying that a god did it.

Damn, Brad, you've even gone so far as to say that I, when I act out of kindness, love, or generosity, that I'm just a human puppet answering prayers for your god.

You keep changing the story, shifting the context to paint the picture you envision. One moment a person has the free will to act in accordance with their own volitions. The next moment they are nothing but another of your god's puppets. Yet, if they did a good thing, they're your god's puppet. If the thing they did was not good, that's their own doing. It's like the five D's of religious thought: dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge.

So, Brad, you worship the one and only god in the universe, which is the same god as the 911 hijackers worshipped.(Roman Catholics in Malaysia now use Allah, not God.) Did your god answer their prayer? Was the 911 tragedy a prayer answered by your god? Quite obviously in the post hoc error sense, it was. They prayed for something. What they prayed for happened. That is an answered prayer, just like in your prayer book.

Right now, there are many Christians praying that President Obama gets assassinated(Christianity causal link?). Perhaps you're among them. If someone does kill the president, is that an answered prayer? Can we make your relished causal link? If an atheist had been wishing for Falwell's death before it happened, could we make the same causal connection? No. To do so would be the same post hoc error that fuels Christianity's answered-prayer superstition.

If you can't see the absurdity in these claims, then the semantics of the words "brainwashed" and "deluded" definitely apply. This is not an argument. This is a factual observation. Again, the only way you can make this work is by completely naturalistically applying supernatural memes to balkanize the reality we all inhabit into knowns, unknowns, misreads and misattributions that will align with what you wish to be true.

It's clear you are out of touch with the world. Within your box you make a world all girded up with imagined supernatural props. Outside your box those props don't work. You know this. How do we know that you know this? You never rely on prayer. You say you do, but you don't. You send people to Africa to make water wells. Why? Gods don't do anything, including answer prayers for water wells. You even have to pretend that complete strangers are unwitting actors in your play: you say I am an answer to a prayer. You even call it doing god's work. You decide what you think is good to do, then you do it, while saying your god made you do it. You know without a doubt that a god will never do the work, ever.

Concerning your missionary in Africa you say,

The work is in the natural world, and uses natural means, but is motivated, at least in the missionary's mind, by his Christian convictions. He would not be over there otherwise.

It's sad that he wouldn't be there otherwise. Lots of atheists aid their fellow man with no motivation beyond the love of mankind. Some in Africa. Too bad that basic human impulse has been socialized out of Christians. Do you seriously think acts of kindness or mercy or love or compassion can only be done under supernatural motivations? If so, you are woefully mistaken.

Russ said...

Brad,
I'll leave you to your pedantic approach to the cultural ubiquity of hospitals. You're going to chop it up to make it the way you want it anyway. Again, from inside the box, you will misread the world in black and white: good equals Christian origins; bad equals anything but. You really do us all an injustice.

You say,

And when have I defended Christian scientists? Let me be specific and clear: they have a bad theological construct, not based on the bible at all. This is a classic strawman.

If this is a strawman, then you are a liar when you use the word "Christian" in your defenses. If you only mean a specific Christianity you should make that very clear. If you're not defending everything under the Christian umbrella by using the word, then you should let us know what you are defending. Call it like it is. If you are only defending your induced purpose of the Bible, or the Brad Haggard theology, you should say that. When you use the word "Christian" to count numbers, you include it all. When you use the word "Christian" to decide which scientists are to be called Christian, you include it all. So, when you select the word "Christian," we can only assume you mean all those calling themselves Christian.

Realize that this would place an enormous burden on you to always have to be excruciatingly specific about which Christianity, which of the thousands of bodies of doctrine, you were defending. My guess is that like every other Christian in history, your theology is completely ad hoc and cannot even be coherently communicated. Maybe yours is one of the sophisticated ones, huh?

You will demand of critiques that they be specific about which group is the target of their ire, when it is the case that you wouldn't be able to be specific about the content of your own private, intimately understood, theology, much less be clear about which groups do or do not fall under your defense when you use the overinclusive word "Christian." Against most, however, the very meaninglessness of the word creates its own line of defense, doesn't it?

You said,

And once again, let me re-emphasize that most of the medical mission work in the 3rd world is motivated by Christian values. It is another one of those pesky public facts.

No. It's motivated by human compassion which a value common to all persons who are not insane or afflicted by supernatural memes. Should we assume that Roman Catholic pedophilia, rape and molestations are part of Christian values because they were either commited by, covered up, defended, or protected by every clergyman in the institution from the pope on down? Should we make that claim? We can see them coexisting. Note that Christian values helped neither the criminals or the victims. Under your defense of "Christian" you, too, are endorsing it. Chop it up.

You said,

5. I'm not making up the purpose of the Bible because it is an objective body of literature.

Objective. Really? Objective you say? As in I can read the words myself exactly as dictated by the deity and actually know what they mean? You mean that kind of objective? I don't need you or some other theology buff, professional or not, to explain for me. If that's actually the case why is the number of words in the Bible only a tiny fraction of the words that have been written to explain it? And, why do these explanations so often differ so significantly? Methinks you think that the word 'objective' brings with it some sense of respectability and that is why you chose it. Biblical scholars do not think it is objective. The Bible is not objective, the apologetics are not objective and Bible scholarship, in general, is not objective. You clip out what you like and pretend the rest isn't there.

Russ said...

You said,

And I don't just take the bible's authority on tradition, though it's longevity has something to say for its authority over, say, the Enuma Elish or The Republic or The Iliad. But I also get the bible's authority from its resonance to my life, correlation to contemporary life, depth of wisdom and thought, aesthetic considerations, results of its ideology, correlation to history, and because of my personal religious experience.

Let me get this straight: you think the Bible is literally true and that the Iliad is only slightly less true? The length of time an idea or writing has existed has nothing to do with it veracity. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court will be just as fictional in 10000 years as it is now, and it won't make any difference if every human alive is a willing member of the Global Connecticut Yankee Cult and claim to believe it literally. For thousands of years men thought the earth to be at the center of the universe, but as it turns out that millenia-old idea was wrong.

The Bible is as popular among today's religionists as it is for exactly one reason: the political power gained by Christian elite in the Roman Empire. Had Constantine not mistakenly been convinced that Christianity would unify the realm, you might be defending some other deity and be just as enamored with it. Christianity does not unite so much as it huddles small groups of people together to comfort themselves with their own self-defined righteousness.

Brad, you've admitted that you give the Bible authority based on your own subjective experience. Of course, you've also admitted that you tailor your own subjective experience to make the Bible seem authoritative. As a minister your life will almost certainly be like the total immersion experience I see in my clerical friends and family. You live out your own self-fulfilled prophecy reinforced by the constant repetition of infantile memes. "No Jesus, no peace; know Jesus, know peace" which is observably false. "Atheists are evil" which is observably false. "Through god all things are possible" which is observably false.(a church sign in Eaton Rapids, Michigan I once saw read: "Throw god all things are possible.") All these are observably false, but the secret remains hidden from believers by keeping their thinking inside the box.

You mentioned your personal religious experience, and I have to admit it can be a lot of fun. But, it's no different than the same internal neurological stimulus we all feel from time to time. How do I know? Personal experience, the same ones you've had, but I'm not so presumptuous as to think that some supernatural thing, the creator of the universe, gave all normal-functioning humans these feelings - awe, wonder, amazement, puzzlement and all the rest - only to keep their special significance a secret from all of mankind, except for some superstitious ignorant barbarians in the Middle East.

After mankind had struggled against their surroundings for tens of thousands of years, had disseminated to all parts of the globe but Antarctica, and had anthropomorphized into gods everything from turds to tigers, then this thing declares its existence from a Middle Eastern shrubbery. Yeah, well, OK then, I guess I can see why so many people think its absolutely true. What a crock!

Russ said...

You said,

The continued growth of Christianity across the globe is another confirmation for me of the authority of the message.

Think Uganda, and draw your causal link from Christianity to the mass murder of homosexuals. Roman Catholics deny access to condoms in Africa making sure millions of adults will die leaving the children of Africa in the hands of Catholics. In other places in Africa whole communities are destroying themselves in witchhunts. The authority of the message comes through loud and clear, Brad. I'm sure we can extrapolate to a fine rosy future for Christianity in the third world. It's too bad there's no actual god behind the memes to help the victims.

Brad Haggard said...

Shane,

1. I made a mistake and should have referred you two posts up instead of one. I hope you weren't too confused by that.

But the point of that post is not my action but rather my daughter's reaction from ignorance as the illustration.

2. You are correct. But if theodicy is a part of theology, then it's scope is not as wide as theology in general. Hence, one can talk about a restricted sphere for the study of theodicy.

3. The reason I commented was because I thought John's claim was silly. In the first reply to Scott I tried to give a probable explanation instead of just a possible one. Feel free to critique!

Brad Haggard said...

Infidel Avenger,

I LOVE it when atheists proof-text. It makes me feel like I'm with my fundy brothers.

Seriously, though, the verse you quote is illustrative of the entire argument of Judges (and Deuteronomistic history in general), namely, that the promises of the Sinai covenant weren't fully realized because of the obstinacy of the people and the leadership. It seems benign in the first chapter, but as the book (and the argument) progresses, the unity and the autonomy of the people disintegrates. The epilogue in 19-21 illustrates the depths to which the people had fallen. In the general Deuteronomistic theory, this reaches a climax (also dashing the nascent Zion theology) in the fall of Jerusalem in 586. It's really fascinating how the author(s) frame their argument throughout the book.

Brad Haggard said...

Russ,

I think memes are a valid concept, but it didn't want them to become buzz-words in our argument and start to lost specific content. Maybe that was an unnecessary fear.

I'll try to keep my comment short, because I too think we've already beat this subject to death together.

1. I hope you don't think I disdain scholarship, I try as much as I can to interact with mainstream scholarship and use public facts in my arguments. "Wannabe" is more of a coy attempt at humility as opposed to pounding the drums about my credentials.

2. Quick Hitters:
a) I'm pretty sure Darwin didn't die as a Christian
b) Atheists humanitarian organizations are motivated by Humanist concerns, ideologically speaking, and Christian one are motivated by theological concerns (such as the dignity of humanity being created in the imago dei)
c) I don't think I'd be doing as much schooling as I do if I had a disdain for the intellectual (though there is an unfortunate disdain in evangelicalism in general)
d) We're not talking about answered prayer, we're talking about ideological motivation for action. It is possible to link causally ideas to behavior, that it empirically verified (or at least a strong correlation)
e) I'm not praying for Obama's assassination.
f) The puppet implication is a little unfortunate because I still affirm your freedom in choosing to donate mittens for your own reasons (causal connection: your convictions cause you to donate mittens), but I can see how that would come across in a discussion of God's sovereignty.
g) I don't dispute there are secular humanitarian organizations, but I don't think you can dispute the fact that there are far more Christian humanitarian organizations. Thus, we can correlate Christian belief to higher levels of humanitarianism. This is standard in social sciences, and has been empirically confirmed.
h) my point about hospitals is a public fact of history. If you don't believe me, look it up.

3. I think in an earlier post to Brian (?) I defined "Christian" as someone who holds to the convergence of the ancient creeds, the Trinitarian orthodoxy of the Cappadocian fathers. They are public creeds and to fill up the post with them I think would be superfluous.

Brad Haggard said...

Dang it, hit the character limit AGAIN!

4. The Bible is an objective piece of literature just like the Constitution. The voluminous record of court cases and opinions on the Constitution don't in any way invalidate it's status as a real object of literature. The Bible certainly is not objective in that it is "un-biased" but it is certainly objective in that it is a set body of literature.

a) My point isn't that the Bible is older than the Iliad (probably not true for the final canonical form), but that it's authority is long-lived. The Constantine argument doesn't hold because the Bible was recognized in non-Western areas from the beginning, and more recently because of the African, South American, and Asian revivals (China is particularly amazing because of the government's dismissal of missionaries in the 50's).

I can't defend some of the atrocities in Africa. Some of them even arise from genuine (if mis-guided) theological concerns. But it certainly isn't the norm for global Christianity. Don't let the sensational overshadow the actual facts of the situation.

b) My subjective experience is one part of my matrix of biblical authority (along with traditional, historical, practical, and aesthetic concerns). I don't like pithy sayings that are devoid of any real reflection or content either, and I am also aware of the research into religious experiences. The research doesn't draw any sort of causal connection (the nature of neurological research, at least for now), and I would not be within my epistemic rights to reject my self-verified experience simply because you claim that I am mistaken. You have not experienced my experiences. But you can publicly attack the historical, practical, and aesthetic dimensions of my matrix, and if you are successful enough, it would break down the belief in spite of my subjective experience. I just haven't seen anyone effectively attack any of those areas.

Hope we can go a few more rounds again, Russ! Thanks for the interaction!

Russ said...

Brad,
Thanks

Chuck O'Connor said...

Brad you stated:

"I don't think I'd be doing as much schooling as I do if I had a disdain for the intellectual (though there is an unfortunate disdain in evangelicalism in general)"

Why do you think there is disdain for the intellectural in evangelicalism? What is your basis of observation? Do you have a theory for this disdain? How do you balance this observation with what seems like an honest interest in intellectual matters on your part while maintaining a meaningful connection to an evangelical community? Do you suffer disdain from your fellow believers? If so, what form does it take? How do you reconcile this disdain with your desire for truth?

Scott said...

Brad wrote: Scott, I've enjoyed these first couple interactions with you. I think you frame the issues cogently and genuinely challenge my thinking.

Thanks. Writing hasn't been one my strong points, and my comments here are, in part, an attempt to communicate more clearly, among other things.

So perhaps my task now in defending a theodicy (as opposed to just attacking John's argument) is to try to give some credible reasons.

I'm not sure if this is really the right direction, as John's argument seems to point to something beyond personal suffering, but knowlege about human beings in general that point to fatal scenarios.

Let's use your clarification regarding your daughter.

That your daughter becomes constipated when eating bananas is a fact. We can have knowledge of this fact without a subjective experience. This is in contrast to desiring something which we are denied or cannot have, which is a subjective experience.

We can say the same thing about the fact that some mushrooms are poisonous. We need not have a subjective experience to understand this fact. Yet it seems that at some point in the past, someone had to eat a poisonous mushroom to determine this is true, which caused their death. In fact, it's likely this has happened(and will continue to happen) several times as our ability to actually determine was was the cause, and to effectively disseminate this information, was, and still is to a degree, limited.

This is different than the knowledge of what it's like to die from eating a poisonous mushroom, which can currently only be known by actually dying after consuming one.

Again, the problem here is that, as far as classical theism is concerned, the very same death required to determine the fact that a particular mushroom is poisonous is also an event horizon which determines one's eternal disposition. Something just doesn't fit in regards to the way the entire system is designed.

So, if for the sake of argument, we assume that subjective suffering is necessary to obtain some knowledge, it would seem that not all facts necessarily fall into this group.

To her, I had no good reason to withhold the banana because she couldn't see the consequences I could. In the same way, when we accuse God of incompetence or indifference, we are speaking from a position of ignorance.

But is this ignorance necessary? Again, you might suggest it's necessary for a particular subjective experience, such as knowing what it's like to be denied something you want for an unknown reason. But it's not necessary your daughter to know that the consequence of eating a banana is her becoming constipated. These two things are not necessarily connected.

The only way we must absolutely need to know about death via the actual process of dying is through the subjective experience of dying. The knowledge that specific mushrooms are deadly can given without actually experiencing death and the eternal consequences it brings. Yet, this is the way things appear to be setup in our universe. Again, it appears that our definition of God is what's wrong.

Scott said...

Brad wrote: Buddha emphasized detachment from the world, not compassion.

Brad, how do you define compassion?

I'd suggest that the Buddha's message of detachment is really a different way of looking at our relationship with the world, other people and even ourselves. As such, compassion is expressed by fostering a way of seeing things that reduces suffering for everyone.

For example, many Christians say that we are really just stewards here on earth setup by God. We never actually "own" any because we can't keep it and that it was was never actually ours in the first place.

Given this world view, it would seem that our perception on owning anything is really just an a convenient way of looking at things out of utility and which can help keep a sense of order.

We can take this further regarding human beings and even our own sense of self. That I am a single person who has existed from birth (and will do so eternally) is really just a useful way of reconciling the person I was in the past, the person I am this moment and the person I will be tomorrow. While it's useful in a wide range of circumstances, we often mistake it for reality.

Detachment allows me to "give up" the person someone was in the past, which allows me to more fully experience the person they are today, and the person they will be tomorrow, etc.

Some forms of martial arts are excellent examples of how keeping a "looser" grip on your opponent can have a huge tactical advantage over attempting to overtly manipulate them in a very matter of fact sort of way. You can use their own inertia and advances to your own advantage, etc.

So, I'd suggest that, as beings that have evolved to create concepts out of reality, we must be mindful that these concepts are merely useful ways we can slice and dice reality to work, learn and even survive. The teaching of detachment tells us mistaking these concepts for reality is often the cause of suffering.

Shane said...

Brad,

Hmm. I tried to find your post to Scott expecting something of a good response. But it's just creationist theology. There never was a fall, or adam and eve. What's your position on evolution anyway?

I don't find the illustration about ignorance too convincing. It fails what I call the reverse engineering principle. That is if you can apply it to other false Gods and it works just as well it fails. Watch...

The Aztec Gods had very good reasons to demand sacrafices to the sun. We're just to ignorant to understand those reasons.

Hitler had very good reasons for killing the Jews. You see he was from the future and we can't fully understand his motives but trust me.

We can play games like that with just about anything Brad. Look man I used to be crazy as a kid. So take it from someone who's been there. This kind of twisted excutionist logic is the same kind used by mental patients. Go talk with a few and you'll see.

If theodicy assumes naturalism then it is self refuting. It may be less wide in scope but it still part of the same system of ideas. What justification is there for corrodoring theodicy off anyway?

Thanks for your response. I hope you're not insulted by the mental patient bit. I'm being serious about it and I mean no disrespect. Please check it out for yourself and you'll see what I mean.

Brad Haggard said...

Scott,

I don't think it's at all clear that humans had to die to learn that mushrooms are poisonous. Given our capacity for reason, we could deduce it from seeing the effects of mushrooms on other animals, there could be instinctual bents against mushrooms, or we could generalize it from other less-than-fatal experiences.

But orthodox Christian theology doesn't teach that an ancient who died in that way is automatically headed for eternal damnation. One option is evangelical universalism, and another is to take seriously the concept of responsibility in Romans 1, which shows that God takes into account actions and context in His judgments. I think it's very plausible to think that God would have mercy on the hypothetical "intrepid soul" who first decided to try a mushroom. John's argument, IMHO, reflects an anachronistic, modernistic, literalistic rendering of theology.

Re: compassion and Buddhism

I don't think they're talking about exactly the same thing, but I agree that there is an element of "tomato/tomatoe" between the teachings.

Buddha's emphasis on detachment I think mirrors quite nicely the concept of a Christian's "sojourning" in this life, and there is a lot that we can learn from Buddhist teachings. But the one thing I would say is that compassion is an extrapolation from Buddhist philosophy, and not a central tenet as in Christian ethics.

Shane,

If you don't accept the Fall, then theodicy is pretty irrelevant to you anyway. I never took a stand on evolution, but I did offer John three options for wedding the Fall with current evolutionary theory earlier. C.S. Lewis' reconstruction in "The Problem of Pain" is particularly helpful.

As for the reverse engineering, it is true in principle, but that is why I also tried to give arguments as to why God had plausible reasons for not giving us an innate understanding of microbial ecology in water. Also, your illustration breaks down because both the Aztec Gods and Hitler were contingent upon the cosmos, and as such, wouldn't be privy to the knowledge that God would have as the creator of the cosmos.

Re: naturalism and theodicy
Once again, theodicy doesn't assume naturalism, rather, it works to explain the natrual world in light of trinitarian orthodoxy. That's why theodicy doesn't really interact with counterfactual worlds where "humans could exist in a vacuum" (I've actually heard that one). It only attempts to give a coherent understanding of God in light of our cosmic experience.

Shane said...

Brad,

I don't accept any Fall, because I don't think it can be wed to evolution. But I'll see what Lewis has to say.

I missed your explaination about water, and I can't seem to find it amoung the posts. Does it also hinge on the "this world must be this world" logic?


Hitler or the Aztecs don't need to be all knowing in order for the illustration to work. They just need to be more knowledgable than us.

How do you get from trinitarian orthodoxy to theodicy doesn't interact with counterfactual worlds?

This is incoherent. Theodicy deals with possible worlds which puts it under the logic of possibilities which means it neccessarily interacts with worlds that do not actually exist but possibly exist.

So essentially you have a logic of possibilities which *does not* actually deal with what is possible.



Re: naturalism and theodicy
Once again, theodicy doesn't assume naturalism, rather, it works to explain the natrual world in light of trinitarian orthodoxy. That's why theodicy doesn't really interact with counterfactual worlds where "humans could exist in a vacuum" (I've actually heard that one). It only attempts to give a coherent understanding of God in light of our cosmic experience.

Scott said...

Brad wrote: I don't think it's at all clear that humans had to die to learn that mushrooms are poisonous. Given our capacity for reason, we could deduce it from seeing the effects of mushrooms on other animals, there could be instinctual bents against mushrooms, or we could generalize it from other less-than-fatal experiences.

Sure. If you take the specific case of poisonous mushrooms in isolation and use a the scientific method, modern medicine, etc., I can see how you could reach this conclusion. But, these are relatively new arrivals in time frame of human history. As such, dismissing this argument requires donning a sort of blinders to the reality of the situation. Poisonous mushrooms is just one example, which is simple and easy to understand in regards to biological cause and effect.

But orthodox Christian theology doesn't teach that an ancient who died in that way is automatically headed for eternal damnation.

What of John's more recent atheist fool post? If the Bible doesn't speak to "intellectual" atheism, then it would seem that orthodox Christian theology doesn't teach that I, as someone who thinks they have seen the "wires behind the board" of Christianity and region in general, is automatically headed for eternal damnation.

One option is evangelical universalism

Are you yourself a universalist? because I don't think a God who doesn't right every wrong isn't a very satisfying answer for most Christians.

another is to take seriously the concept of responsibility in Romans 1, which shows that God takes into account actions and context in His judgments

But what actions and contexts are to be excused? If a homosexual couple is monogamous and has a meaningful relationship which rivals many heterosexual couples, does this mean God takes this context into account in their favor? Or does this depth make even more a mockery of God's plan, which further merits eternal damnation? In other words, that God takes actions and context into account in his judgements doesn't seem to address this issue in detail.

I think it's very plausible to think that God would have mercy on the hypothetical "intrepid soul" who first decided to try a mushroom.

But is this because you have defined God as being "good" and you think this would something a good God would do? Or is there anything you can point to that would back this up?

I don't think they're talking about exactly the same thing, but I agree that there is an element of "tomato/tomatoe" between the teachings.

Buddhism doesn't claim to have come from an all knowing being. As such, this is not a problem for Buddhism.

But the one thing I would say is that compassion is an extrapolation from Buddhist philosophy, and not a central tenet as in Christian ethics.

You still haven't told me what you mean when you say "compassion". The definition of which would seem to have a significant impact on the subject at hand.