Ed Babinski Responds to Randal Rauser on "Biblical Cosmology"

Randal Rauser highlighted my name and chapter in The Christian Delusion in several posts on his blog at TheChristianPost.com. I will respond here.

In his last most post dated June 28, 2010, The Burden of the Critic he stated, "I'll simply provide a concise summary and partial restatement of my epistemological position and the problems with Babinski's chapter. . . .At the very least, it is the job of the critic to provide a coherent epistemology which avoids infinite regress and which offers plausible grounds to believe that 'The Bible is God's word' could not be among those beliefs which fit into (a) or (b). Sadly, people responding in this blog, not to mention Ed Babinski, do not even have that evidential burden on their radar screen." [emphasis Rauser]

My reply appears below:

Hi Randall, all I said in my article on "The Cosmology of the Bible," and in fact the ONLY substantial disagreement you seem to have with my chapter in The Christian Delusion is my statement [that I am paraphrasing below]:

"IF [emphasis added] there are any words of God in the Bible they appear to be delineated as such by humans who wrote the Bible and by humans who read it, and humans are also the ones who interpret such words, and who choose to focus on the importance of some sentences and delegate others as being of less importance, and attempt to harmonize still others."

I might add that no interpretation can be proven to be inerrant nor even necessarily inspired, so even if some humans claim a book is inerrant or inspired there remain different interpretations of such a statement--and different interpretations concerning what divine information the Bible is allegedly conveying--with disagreements stretching from Genesis to Revelation.

Let me add here the words of a Christian:

"The most zealous defenders of the verbal inspiration of the Bible admit that there are parts of it of less importance than others.This is a great admission, because another is involved in it, namely that we ourselves must be judges of the comparative importance of these different parts." - Thomas Erskine (Scottish Evangelical and also universalist)

Secondly, you claim that the idea of an infinite regress defeats skepticism. And you add that you believe that "believing in the Bible" [however you happen to interpret such as statement] is rational. You leave out the fact that deism is equally rational. So are the beliefs of modern day denominations of Jews who disagree concerning the Christian interpretations of their holy books. So, alternatives remain. Even if "skepticism" was defeated questions remains concerning the alleged Hebrew-Christian anthropomorphic God and the alleged divine inspiration of certain books. I'm merely reminding readers that it's not simply a question of either/or with no possible middle views and questions.

Speaking of skepticism, when was the last time you read an article on the state of skepticism in philosophy today? One happens to have been published recently in the American Philosophical Quarterly (Volume 47, Number 3, July 2010), "Skeptics without Borders" by Kevin Meeker and Ted Poston. The point out that many philosophers today take a humbler stance concerning epistemological claims, and admit they are "chastened knowers" with "fallibilistic knowledge," and that epistemic questions remain no matter what one's viewpoint. They discuss ". . . the powerful quarantine problem, which has plagued the search for exalted epistemic states at least since the time of Hume. More specifically, we contend that the quarantine problem shows that we lack certain and luminous knowledge because such exalted epistemic states would be qualitatively different than other such epistemic states. As such, if we were able to achieve such exalted states, then there would be a precise boundary that demarcates them from the nonexalted states. Alas, we could find no such borders, either in the responses to Williamson or in his appeal to necessary truths that appear in a simple tautological guise. This result does not, of course, demonstrate that we lack fallibilistic knowledge; but it does show that we have no reason to give in to the lingering epistemic temptation to postulate a realm of unveiled truths. To the extent that we have knowledge, it is deeply fallibilistic."

As for infinite regress, I don't see any need to posit such a thing even for non-supernaturalists. It's enough for a non-supernaturalist to posit that a cosmos of cosmoses exists that has always existed and will always exist. (See brane theory, and also read about multiple-cosmos theory, there is even mounting evidence that many galaxies lying in one discrete region of our own cosmos is being pulled in one direction in unison, perhaps being pulled by another space-time bubble lying outside our own.)

Final questions:

1) Is there some sort of supernatural thing holding the cosmos of cosmoses together, determining its every change and movement? A God? A unifying force of some sort? Who knows? We haven't even gotten off the cradle planet yet. Scientists continue to debate field theory, we haven't spied the tiniest particles or strings of energy, we can't even see to the end of THIS space-time bubble of a cosmos. In fact most of the cosmos remains invisible to us if at the very beginning a faster-than-light-speed expansion took place as theorized. So our telescopes are not even able to detect MOST OF THE COSMOS.

2) How does a believer in cosmic purpose address the occurrence of several mass extinction events in the past? Was the Designer shaking his etch-i-sketch? Was it an admission of wasted time spent on perfecting/evolving beings that would simply be wiped out en masse before humans even arose? What about the history of upright hominids, hominds that had larger brains than modern apes, that also went extinct?

Australopithecus africanus
Australopithecus garhi
Australopithecus sediba New
Australopithecus aethiopicus
Australopithecus robustus
Australopithecus boisei

Homo habilis [tool makers]
Homo georgicus
Homo erectus
Homo ergaster
Homo antecessor
Homo heidelbergensis
Homo neanderthalensis
Homo floresiensis
[google: human evolution talk origins archive for a discussion of each fossil species]

Today there's only
Homo sapiens sapiens

Astronomers even mention that during the time of the Australopithecines a relatively nearby star went nova lighting up the night sky for our early ancestors. If a star lying much nearer had gone nova, it probably would have been the end of our ancestors. Such a star has in fact been discovered, lying nearer, but it isn't expected to go nova for a million or more years, though all types of other catastrophic events could also happen to our lifeboat bobbing in space. The earth's orbital path remains cris-crossed by hundreds of cataloged meteors. The cosmos is not safe, neither is the earth's shifting crust. Yellowstone could become a super volcano. Geologists are keeping close tabs on it. There is evidence it has blown in the past. Complex life forms remain restricted to few planets, and live on their surface. Five miles up or down from that shifting surface, we perish. Comparing the earth's unsafe unpredictable place in the modern cosmos with Genesis 1 is part of what was mentioned in my chapter, "The Cosmology of the Bible."

There are many questions in my opinion.

Edward T. Babinski