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Deists are atheists!!! – the strange claim of Jonathan Meddings

July 16, 2013

This last week has seen an interesting exchange of ideas stimulated by a recent opinion piece John Dickson wrote on the ABC Religion and Ethics page concerning the ‘atheist joke’. Jonathan Meddings at the Young Australian Skeptics responded and then I wrote a further response. Jonathan has added to the conversation with his reaction to my piece which helpfully clarifies a number of his points.

The most stunning claim that Meddings makes in his piece (which I think explains much of the confusion) is to assert that deists are in fact atheists!!! I confess I had to re-read the statement several times to ensure what I was reading was actually correct. Meddings states that…

Deism is not a form of theism. Then he says it again, ‘I didn’t imply that deists are atheists. I stated it outright. Deists are, by definition, atheists regarding all the gods of religion.’

This is very strange for deism IS a form of theism. The dictionary definitions he uses demonstrates this. The Oxford English Dictionary says that deism is, “belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe.”

Who or what is this ‘supreme being’. Surely it is some kind of ‘god’? Who or what else could it be? In fact the very word ‘deism’ comes from deus, the Latin term for god.

The key difference, as I stated, and which Meddings seems to agree, is that deists don’t believe in a personal or knowable god.  Indeed the entry on “Deism” in The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. 2011 describes Deism as: a rationalistic, critical approach to theism with an emphasis on natural theology. The Deists attempted to reduce religion to what they regarded as its most foundational, rationally justifiable elements.” This is exactly what I described in my original post. Further, the Encyclopedia Britannica states that ‘historically, a distinction between theism and Deism has never had wide currency in European thought.’

Deism is a form of theism in that it believes in the existence of a supreme being. And it seems that Meddings agrees in the most puzzling and contradictory statement of his post, “Deists are not theists. Theists simply share the belief with deists that there exists a creator of the universe.” I’ll re-state my point – deism is a form of theism in that it believes in the existence of a supreme being.

The crucial distinction between theism and deism is not the ‘existence’ of this supreme being but ‘knowledge’ of this supreme being. Both deism and theism claim the existence of this supreme being – and hence both deism and theism stand opposed to ‘absolute’ atheism because (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) atheism is: disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. Absolute atheism rejects the existence of this supreme being and this is why the original atheist ‘joke/argument’ doesn’t work. Any theistic framework, be the ‘god’ knowable or unknowable, implies a certain metaphysical structure of the universe which is fundamentally different from atheism. i.e. both deism and theism claim that the universe was created by an ‘unmoved mover’, atheism does not. Both deism and theism accept the result of natural theology, atheism does not. This is why Meddings is wrong to claim that deists not being “absolute atheists” is ‘close enough.’ They are not close enough – there is a massive, supreme being in the way, and this is why you can’t get to atheism by subtraction.

Finally, Meddings’ closing comments regarding revelation are misleading. He claims the joke is designed to make the listener realise that “that belief in their god is based upon an argument for revelation, making them no different to any other theist believing in any other god.” This is not true, for implicit in Meddings’ assertion is that all arguments of revelation of all gods are all equal and that they all have no value. Unfortunately he misses and dismisses the revelatory claims of Christianity without any examination. Contrary to Meddings’ claims history has shown there is a way to resolve the conflicting claims of religion. It is through the one who comes and claims to be ‘the way the truth and the life’ and lives an extraordinary life, death and resurrection consistent with this claim.

It is true it is wise to be humble, but it is better to acknowledge and follow truth when it is presented.

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From → New atheism, News

17 Comments
  1. Paul M. permalink

    I was with you for a moment there, Rob.
    Not agreeing, mind you, but I was keeping up with the internal logic of what you were saying.

    But then this at the end:
    history has shown there is a way to resolve the conflicting claims of religion. It is through the one who comes and claims to be ‘the way the truth and the life’ and lives an extraordinary life, death and resurrection consistent with this claim.

    …And thus the logic collapses in on itself once again. The unfalsifiable and unassailable assertion that I have the one true truth.

    You know my position on the resurrection, Rob. Show us the video evidence, or it didn’t happen.

    • Paul,

      Thanks for your comments and I appreciate you accepting my internal logic. 😉

      I completely understand how you reject that claim, but I did want to put it in there to demonstrate very briefly why I believe what I do. In terms of the resurrection, have a look at this presentation I delivered earlier in the year. It’s fairly comprehensive, but would love your thoughts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7E2zMq8IRC4

      Thanks for the interaction!

      Rob

  2. Paul M. permalink

    Thanks for the link, Rob. This is certainly edifying in terms of understanding what Christian scholars believe and what their evidence is.
    However, I assume you realise that none of this has any impact on the views of a sceptic? It provides some grist for the mill when preaching to the less-informed converted, but there is no additional basic argument that makes the assertion any more compelling.

    Here’s a superficial response to some of the points:

    You say that science, mathematics and philosophy can’t tell us about whether or not the resurrection happened. They’re the wrong tools.
    That’s correct, but each of these tools can give us some insight into the rationality and likelihood of miracles. And another tool, history, can complement these by showing examples of extraordinary claims that turned out to be unsubstantiated hype.
    In fact, while there are plenty of extraordinary claims that have not been investigated fully and objectively, every single one that has been, ever, in the history of civilisation, has been shown to be not a miracle, not supernatural.

    Unfortunately the investigative journalism approach, at least in this instance, doesn’t provide us with anything else that could be considered as proof. It’s not even objective.
    Using the gospels of the bible as evidence for other truths in the bible is begging-the-question. “It must be true, because it’s in the bible, and the bible says that everything in the bible is true.”

    The New Testament letters are the same thing. Everything supporting the bible’s claims was prepared by folks with a vested interest in the cause.
    It wouldn’t make sense for any of the early bible writers to include – in the bible itself – any contradictory claims.
    Conveniently, there is no Book of Trevor, in which the claims of the resurrection were debunked by Trev, who discovered Steve behind the tomb dressing himself up in drab robes and sheep’s blood, preparing a diabolical little party trick on those already convinced by the divinity of the living JC.

    You cite other examples, including WWII journalism and historical accounts of Augustus, and the fact that we don’t reject these historical details. I assume you realise that again there is no convincing argument here.
    Historical accounts of Augustus winning, say two dozen battles against the odds, is remarkable. But it doesn’t require any special leap of faith to accept. Further evidence and discovery might reveal he only won a dozen of those, and was actually defeated most of the time. This might require a major re-think of aspects of Roman history. But it wouldn’t affect our current world views at all. And if there were claims based on written accounts that somehow Augustus won his battles on his own while riding a winged horse, modern historians wouldn’t be likely to take them seriously.

    On the “six historical facts”, no fundamental truths there either.
    Eyewitness accounts again amount to hearsay.
    The other points about the rise of Christianity and changes in the behaviour of the personalities involved are not evidence of the resurrection of course. Arguably the modern rise of Mormonism (14 million, according to Wikipedia) is far more abrupt and astonishing than the rise of Christianity from the 1st C. AD. And this is a movement, (in modern times, with all our education, experience, enlightenment and scepticism) based on the visions of a man who was apparently told to translate the divine golden plates he dug up somewhere. Conveniently, the physical golden plates were taken away again by one of his angelic visions before anyone – other than his closest disciples of course – had the chance to give them a really good going over.

    You conclude that the sceptical view “betrays philosophical pre-suppositions”, rather than relying on actual evidence. And with this, again, there seems to be a complete dismissal, and even reversal, of the concept of the burden of proof.
    That’s a more polite way of saying that you’ve got things arse-about.

    • Paul,

      Again I apologise for not getting back to you sooner. But here we are – a new week and new opportunities to discuss.

      I’m glad you admit that science and maths can’t tell us whether the resurrection happened. Yet, I’m concerned with your definition and discussion of ‘proof’. Also, I don’t think I said that “It must be true, because it’s in the bible, and the bible says that everything in the bible is true.” I outlined 6 historical facts which need to be explained – some of which are recorded in the Bible. I think that the Bible’s explanation, best explains these facts. Further, we can’t reject the Bible outright as an historical source. It must be admitted into a discussion into the resurrection because it is a document which emerged in history and that fact must also be explained.

      I take the argument from bias, but the key question is, not ‘were they biased’ (because they obviously were), but ‘what caused them to be biased?’. Otherwise this argument becomes pointless and there is no point in reading anything because everyone is biased – e.g. don’t read the God Delusion because Dawkins is biased!!

      I admit it would be interesting to see the Book of Trevor!! Yet, it’s non-existence is perhaps reason to think that perhaps the biblical narrative has some truth?

      When considering the resurrection, and any historical question the important thing to ask is, ‘what is the inference to the best explanation?’ You can’t ‘prove’ it happened (and you can’t prove it didn’t) as it is not mathematics or science. The key test is: then what best explains the facts??

      You have outlined some weaknesses in my theory (I disagree, but there isn’t time to go into that in detail now – FYI – the rise of Mormonism is actually comparable with the rise of early Christianity – see the work of Rodney Stark). But aside from pointing out weaknesses, can you reconstruct a plausible alternative? ie. can you better explain the 6 facts I outlined?

      Would love your input again.

      Rob

  3. Paul M. permalink

    Hi Rob,
    I had started preparing a more comprehensive response on the philosophical impasse of Christianity and atheism, which we have now reached in this discussion. But it was way too long for the comments section here, so instead I’ll just make some shorter clarifications of the arguments I was trying to make earlier.

    When I used that quote – “It must be true, because it’s in the bible, and the bible says that everything in the bible is true…” – I wasn’t trying to ascribe that quote to you, or even suggest that it was directly paraphrasing something that you said. I was simply trying to highlight the logical fallacy of using the Bible itself as historical evidence of any miracle, including the resurrection.
    It is possible that there are various ‘unbiased’ historians that will attest to some of the historical events recorded in the Bible. However, Christians – including Christian scholars and historians – are the only people that will say the Bible is a factual historical record on the divine miracles of Christ. Again: You may find independent historical reports of folks saying that the resurrection occurred. There may be a dozen of these reports, or even an account that there were 500 or even 10,000 eyewitnesses. But this is not “evidence”! It is not a record of facts. It is hearsay.

    It is a testament to the success and power of early Christians and the compelling aspects of their ideas and ideals that Christianity continues to endure so strongly now. You can point to the lack of any “Book of Trevor” to support the claim of the resurrection. But Bible sceptics look at this differently. If any such hypothetical counter-claims ever existed, it is obvious that they would have been found and destroyed, perhaps very early in Christian history. It is just another reflection of the adage that history is always written by the victors.

    As to any alternative explanation, I don’t have any. But then, I’m not making any claims that require defending. This is the point about burden of proof: Bible sceptics do not have any case to answer, because we do not need to explain a lack of a claim.
    When I try to rationalise to myself your so-called “six historical facts”, I do so in the context of the entire history of Christianity, and in fact all human superstition prior to it. The various chapters of the Bible have been hand-transcribed, hand-copied and even re-written countless times over the past 2000 years, and until the relatively recent invention of the printing press, this was done entirely and exclusively by those dedicated to the faith. This fact alone exposes it to the sceptic and renders it a work obviously prepared by vested interests.

    The consequences of all the “changes” reported that coincide with the early rise of Christianity are not special, and that is why I cited the rise of Mormonism as a comparison, which you seem to agree with. In a period of less than 200 years, a 14-million-strong worldwide movement has arisen from an origin of a single prophet with an extraordinary claim of direct divinity. Joseph Smith also started with a small core group of eyewitnesses to the divine golden plates (the Mormon miracle) and, conveniently, no remaining falsifiable evidence for them. Furthermore, the high priests of Mormonism have also re-written history, changing their rules as they progress in the face of outside scrutiny. The origin of the Church of LDS is also a matter of historical record, as are the changed beliefs and lives of the earliest Mormons.
    I assume you agree with me that the founder of Mormonism was either deeply deluded, or (more likely) an audacious and highly charismatic con man. (Presumably you would be Mormon today rather than a ‘garden variety’ Christian if you bought into any of their insanity.) The point is that human history is replete with examples of ideologies and movements that have appeared, grown and expanded with the dogmatic fervor of their followers, who all view their ideologies with perfect internal consistency. They all have their own historic accounts that demonstrate their intrinsic truths.

    To the non-believers, although Christianity may be more successful than many (or indeed all) of these, it is fundamentally no different in its nature to any of them. If the Bible is true about the resurrection, this should be a fact that is obvious and undeniable to all of humanity, and not just the privileged few that have been born into Christianity or converted by their peers, and have then been gifted with some kind of special ability to look beyond their scepticism.

    • Paul,

      Thanks for your comments. I have a few things to say in response (as I’m sure you expected ;-))

      There is a lot to say, but I’ll just hone in on your comments about alternative explanations. I think you miss my point about providing an alternative explanation. I’m not saying that I’m trying to prove the resurrection, I’m saying that there are 6 historical faces that require explanation. I think the best explanation is a resurrection – you reject that – yet you fail to provide an alternative hypothesis. Hence, using the scientific method, surely in that absence of a better hypothesis, we need to accept the one that best explains the facts? Would that be fair? You can’t duck the issue of burden of proof. Skeptics DO have a case to answer if a reasonable case has been set forward which explains the facts. Skeptics MUST provide a better alternative explanation.

      You could change the argument to be the same as a climate change skpetic – i.e. ‘a climate change skeptic has no case to answer because there is no need to explain a lack of a claim’.

      Thoughts?

      Also, you need to be careful in distinguishing the sociological growth of an organisation with the origin of the beliefs of an organisation. I don’t think any of my arguments said that Christianity was true because it grew so fast. Yet you do need to explain where the original beliefs of the Christian faith came from, which were different to the prevailing culture.

      Rob

  4. [NB: New wordpress identity created, because I might write more extensively on similar topics on a separate channel. Maybe. – Paul M.]
    Rob, I missed this response somehow, so the timing might be a little on the late side. Here goes, anyway. The conversation point is now about alternative explanations and burdens of proof, etc.

    To summarise your position, your claim is that there are six historical “facts” that support the claim of a divine resurrection, and that the occurence of the resurrection is the best possible explanation for the combination of these facts. You also refer to the burden of proof, and challenge sceptics that they must provide an alternative explanation to cover off the “six historical facts”.

    With respect, Rob, I don’t think you fully appreciate the concept of burden of proof as it applies to extraordinary claims.
    When proposing an extraordinary claim – and I think we would both agree that re-animation of a 3-days-dead corpse is an extraordinary claim – the burden of proof is upon the claimant, and not the sceptic.

    Occam’s Razor applies. We assume a more rational explanation is more likely (in fact, obvious), ahead of one assuming a supernatural intervention.
    The number of alternative, more likely and more natural explanations to the resurrection claim is uncountable. To put it in the bluntest possible terms, the original witnesses were either deceived, were the victims of ‘groupthink’ or some other mob behaviour, or they just made it up. Just because a historian records that “500 witnesses” saw a re-animated Jesus walking around with holes in his hands doesn’t make it true. Maybe those people were confused. Maybe there weren’t really that many. Maybe he lied because it was a great story to tell.

    I don’t know, and I don’t care. I am not obliged to elucidate any alternative theory.
    There is no burden of proof required to disprove an outrageous claim.

    “…You could change the argument to be the same as a climate change skpetic – i.e. ‘a climate change skeptic has no case to answer because there is no need to explain a lack of a claim’. …”
    This is correct, unless these people are also climate scientists making a specific claim supported by observations. In burden-of-proof terms, amateur climate change sceptics indeed have no case to answer.

    However, the big difference between climate change and the resurrection, is that there is independent, reproducible scientific data demonstrating that climate change is real. The claims of climate change are based on falsifiable research data. The claims of the resurrection are hearsay.

    “…I don’t think any of my arguments said that Christianity was true because it grew so fast. Yet you do need to explain where the original beliefs of the Christian faith came from, which were different to the prevailing culture.”
    Again, no. To repeat, I was using the history of Mormonism to illustrate a point, about it how rapidly it has taken hold of a certain section of society in the US in a space of less than 200 years. It has some similarities to Christianity in this respect, because it was also against the mainstream prevailing culture in the US.
    If you think I need to provide an explanation as to where the original Christian beliefs came from and how it could arise against such an antagonistic cultural backdrop, I simply point to Mormonism as another example. Christianity is not “special” in this regard. You don’t need to resort to divine miracles as an explanation for the emergence of a popular movement.

    • Paul – thanks for your comments again.

      I agree it’s an extraordinary claim. Yet unfortunately your conclusion actually reeks of ‘blind faith’, i.e. I can’t explain it any way, but I don’t believe it. It seems, unless a plausible alternative can be demonstrated, surely the resurrection best accounts for all the evidence – inference to the best explanation – regardless of how extraordinary the claim is? Otherwise you have assumed your conclusion and no amount of evidence will ever convince you.

      Unfortunately you can’t just claim that ‘I don’t care’ for that is a real cop out and you strike me as a more intelligent and thoughtful person than that (btw – I really have enjoyed our conversations on this blog – you’re a lot more reasonable and thoughtful and humble than other atheists I’ve engaged with). Unfortunately you are obliged to elucidate an alternative theory if you wish to criticise the Christian faith. As I said, I have outlined rational reasons to believe the Christian message – they must be demonstrated as false and a better explanation must be developed. As I said before, that is the scientific method.

      BTW – where are you based, I’m in Melbourne. It might be easier to chat over a coffee. But no pressure to do so.

  5. Thanks again for the reply, Rob. To answer your last point first, I’m Sydney-based and these days I just don’t get any opportunity for inter-state travel. That makes a casual get-together unlikely, unfortunately. However, if the circumstances were to all fall into place, I would certainly welcome such an invitation – thanks.

    As to the argument at hand, I think we have to acknowledge that the theist-sceptic impasse has well and truly been reached! We’re now just re-iterating the same arguments. I realise I can’t really offer you any further point that is going to be ‘satisfying’ for either one of us.

    I can try and ‘step out’ of the argument and give a (obviously biased) view of the impasse. It doesn’t address the argument at all, but it might be helpful for understanding our various perspectives.
    I see ‘thoughtful’ Christians, make (what they see as) compelling arguments for stories in the bible and the case for the obvious existence of God, and even express a mild form of confusion as to why there are people who deny these truths. A common position of the thoughtful Christian seems to run like something this:
    The existence of God is undeniable, because the universe, the earth and everything on it, and the utter extraordinariness of humanity could not possibly be as it is otherwise. Our complete reality cannot physically, logically, philosophically, be accounted for without the existence and intervention of a divine and all-powerful creator.
    Given this logical certainty, we would expect some indications – some evidence – of God’s intervention within the history of humanity. There are lots of cultures that have their own mythologies around gods and divinity, but it is the Christian god that is most logically the one that is “true”, for a number of important reasons. The teachings of Christ make complete sense with what we know about human behaviour and the need for universal human benevolence, peace and love. The crucifixion and resurrection are consistent with a God that wants this for his children: A thorough demonstration of the lengths he had to go to prove this to us. And there is documented history that shows us that this is all true.

    ‘Thoughtful’ sceptics understand this about thoughtful Christians. We understand the intellectual commitment to these ‘truths’. To highlight the impasse, I will try to give some insight from the other side – that of a sceptic, trained over the course of decades in the scientific method. (My vocation is no longer in the sciences, but I do have a career background scientific research).

    The “spirit” of scientific enquiry is to uncover as many true things about our world and ourselves as possible. For this description I use the words “true” and “truth” in the objective sense. Eg., there is no subjective truth about creation or reality. (I hear of crystal healers and other fringe believers talking about their “truth” being different to ours, but this is garbage. Truth is not subjective. It is that-which-is-real, and any other subjective definitions are using the word wrongly.)

    For those of us most thoroughly trained in the scientific method (I realise this might sound elitist and pompous), we will instinctively question and challenge claims about our world that sound implausible. That includes the sciences (eg., that water has a memory), history and contemporary news (eg., JFK was killed by a lone gunman), and anything based in the supernatural. The last one is important, because if supernatural interventions occur in the modern world, modern science would have been able to observe them. Not necessarily explain – but observe: ie., put a ring around this set of observations and conclude ‘this is something working outside our reality’.
    It is significant that modern science has all but demonstrated that supernatural events just do not occur. There are no such things as ghosts, clairvoyants, magic crystals, mind readers, or anyone with an immeasurable ‘gift’. All of these things are made up, either deliberately, or naively. These things are all emergent properties of the collective human mind, which is capable of astonishingly powerful abstract thought.
    What is true can be found in a naturalist view of humanity and the entire universe. And that includes the fantastical, superstitious imaginings of people, probably ever since our ancestors first stood upright (and maybe even earlier).

    I realise this is not likely to ‘move you’, but I’ll try to repeat a (partly hypothetical) example about extraordinary claims and the burden of proof.
    One summer evening, strange objects are observed in the sky over the Nevada desert. In fact, hundreds of people report seeing these objects. Many take photographs, some video, and in the following weeks, all these people are interviewed by trained psychologists. To a person, these witnesses are all convinced these are alien spacecraft. Their accounts are all remarkably similar. A few are even bizarre – some report that they have been kidnapped, probed, and returned to their families hours later.
    What do we make of this? Personally, I would love the story to be true – that these really were visiting aliens. But this is so fantastical an explanation, we need to rule out any other possibility to accept it. ‘Visiting aliens’ (or some other divine or miraculous explanation) must be the explanation of last resort.
    Gullible people who weren’t there will be convinced and will add it to their own list of ‘evidence’ to support their existing belief in visiting aliens.
    A practical person could say, this is all very strange; I don’t know if these really were aliens, but the stories are remarkable, and consistent. We have to leave it unexplained…
    A sceptic will likely say, there a million ways to rationalise this without resorting to a “visiting aliens” story. Your eyewitness accounts are not proof. They are weak evidence of ‘something’, but they are not evidence of anything specific. I don’t believe the claim until you show me some aliens.
    Note that the sceptic is not intellectually obliged to outline a specific rational explanation for the alien claims, because they are not proposing any specific alternative theory. I am not required to provide a supported explanation (for example, meteorites, an elaborate hoax by well-resourced uni students, a secret airforce experiment, mass hallucination, mass fabrication/conspiracy…), because I am not trying to claim any of these things. I simply don’t accept it was real aliens. A mass conspiracy on the part of those few hundred people, while implausible, is about a gazillion times more plausible than visiting aliens (based on what we know about the scientific likelihood of visiting aliens).

    The burden of proof for any claim that deviates from our naturalist understanding of anything always lies with the claimant. The ‘miraculous’ explanation must be the explanation of last resort, not the first. This is one of the basic tenets of scientific enquiry.
    I understand that you find this hard to accept, but this is the truth of scientific method. There is no other process we can accept if we are committed to finding truth.

    As I said at the start, this is a summary of the impasse as I see it. I feel that I do have some sense of what you believe, and why you do. I hope this can give some insight into why I think the way that I do.

    • Paul,

      Wow! What a thoughtful and reasonable comment. I agree with a large amount of what you write. I think you generally describe the truth of the Christian faith quite well. And I agree that there is an impasse.

      Yet (to partially reiterate something) I do think you need to step back from you practical a priori rejection of the supernatural. For example, you said, ‘if supernatural interventions occur in the modern world, modern science would have been able to observe them.’ and ‘It is significant that modern science has all but demonstrated that supernatural events just do not occur.’ I don’t think this is true. I don’t think science has demonstrated this. For example I used to be skeptical about the belief in ghosts, but then I went to Port Arthur and heard many weird stories which were otherwise unexplainable. Hence I shifted my view on ghosts to think that ‘something’ happened. I wasn’t so quick to say that ‘supernatural events just do not occur’, because there was evidence to suggest that something did. I think your illustration about UFO’s is not quite accurate – I think the practical person would say

      ‘this is all very strange; I don’t know if these really were aliens, but the stories are remarkable, and consistent. We have to leave it unexplained…’ No – I think a reasonable response is:

      ‘this is all very strange; I don’t know if these really were aliens, but the stories are remarkable, and consistent. Perhaps there really are aliens…’

      Further (to reiterate another point – and try to step into my shoes again now) – I think if you do reject claims to the supernatural – you **must** provide an alternative explanation. Your illustration of the UFO sightings is an excellent example. In the absence of a competing hypothesis, the hypothesis that explains the data best, must at least be considered rather than rejected

      Furthermore modern science can’t adjudicate on the miracles of Jesus nor resurrection – these are historical claims.

      With the resurrection, I think an actual physical resurrection is the last resort because any alternative fails to better explain all the data.

      I am grateful for the time and effort you’ve spent in summarising this and generally I agree with a lot of what you’ve said, and I am grateful you’ve argued quite well for my position. Hopefully I’ve identified a couple of areas where whilst we might not agree, at least we can reflect further on why we believe what we do (and don’t).

      Thanks again,
      Rob

    • Tim faraos permalink

      You say that we need scientific evidence of supernatural occurances, yet when this evidence is presented, you say: i can’t believe it because i wasn’t there!!! So you just keep putting yourself into checkmate… A black sheep, will always be white for a lyar. He just won’t admit to himself that it is black! For example: There is overwhelming scientific evidence that the human being lives on, after death. This is from respected scientists who have been studying patients who came back to life, after being dead for minutes, hours and even days! One lady died on the operating table, and her soul or spirit floated out of her body, through the roof of the hospital, into the sky. She remembered looking at the city from above it. And she remembered looking down to the hospital roof and seeing a red shoe…. When the doctors brought her back to life, she told them what happened. The doctor told her, ‘impossible, your mind was just hallucinating from lack of oxygen’. When she insisted, the doctor called the janitor to go on the roof and look for a red shoe. A few minutes later, he came back holding a red shoe!! You can read about similar NDE’S (near death experiences) on the internet and in books by respected scientists like, “life after life” by dr. Moody. Even if 0.1% of testimonies were true, that would be proof enough of life after death… But you, being a true scientifically minded sceptic, might say, ‘i don’t believe it because i wasn’t there, and also because it never happened to me.’ What a self centered egoistic answer that would be. It’s like holding your hand in front of your eyes and shouting to everyone,’i can’t see, help me!’. Contact me: timfaraos@gmail.com

  6. Afterthought: A few more points about the scientific approach that I might have not made clear above.

    I used the example of alien spacecraft sightings because I assumed it might be one you could relate to yourself in the role of the sceptic. I could also have used the other example of Mormonism. But rather than just assume, perhaps it is better if I test my assumptions and ask you outright: What is your critical opinion of Joseph Smith and his claim of the infamous golden plates? Do you believe the evidence for this, or are you a sceptic?

    On the subject of alternative explanations for any claim, the way this works in any scientific endeavour is straightforward and it is a daily occurrence. I could practically guarantee that this is going on right now at a scientific conference somewhere in the world:
    A researcher makes and reports their observations from some set of experiments. They will wrap up their presentation with a conclusion: These data demonstrate that under x conditions, y can cause z.
    A learned peer in the audience will ask during the Q and A, “have you considered factors u, v and w in your experiments?”.
    The actual answer is not relevant to you and me in this hypothetical, but the answer will reflect on how seriously this particular research community will treat the presenter’s study results. (ie., if the answer is strong and forthright and convincing to the community, they might be likely to accept the hypothesis offered. If not, the presentation, and the researcher themselves, are not likely to be given any weight within that community.)

    Note that the peer who asked the question is not the one who is required to explain the significance of factors u, v, and w! The burden is still on the presenting researcher, to show that these things are not significant. That is how scientific discourse works.

    In the case of the resurrection, I say it is more likely that people made up the story, either intentionally or naively. Later historians, with a vested interest in the success of Christianity, trimmed all contra-accounts and enhanced the ‘plausibility’ of events with their story telling.
    I can’t prove this is true. It is incumbent on ‘you’ (I mean Christian scholars), to demonstrate that these are not likely factors, if you want me to accept the resurrection claim. So far, this has not been demonstrated to my satisfaction. Nor has it been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the majority of scientifically-trained people in the western world (although I speak only for myself on the topic, of course).

    • Thanks for your clarification on the Mormon question for I feel that here you don’t quite understand me.

      What is your critical opinion of Joseph Smith and his claim of the infamous golden plates? Do you believe the evidence for this, or are you a sceptic?

      I don’t believe the evidence for Smith’s Golden plates is convincing. There are problems with the plates for if they were gold, then they appear to be too heavy and they disappeared. There were no other verified translations (though the book of Mormon claims otherwise – we have no other sources). It’s unclear exactly what was being translated and why he would translate into 16th Century English is strange.

      Further his ‘revelations’ are not the result of historical analysis – but appear consistent with his personal creativity. Also, there is no archaeological evidence concerning the nations that inhabited the America’s that the book of Mormon describes.

      Yet, we do need to re-construct an alternative series of events and it appears that Smith created a book of fiction. He may have had some spiritual experience and he might have crafted some magical ‘book’, but it appears the most reasonable explanation is that Smith created the story of Mormon.

      Also, I do think that the scientific method is a little more dynamic than how you characterise it. The reviewing scientist must have reasons for asking why factors u, v and w are relevant. Obviously they consider that an alternative thesis may be better than the one presented. Further, if the researcher has explained factors u, v and w – this will have implications.

      Now I think we’re getting somewhere with your revised version of events concerning the resurrection. Thanks for providing me with an attempted reconstruction and for me to consider points u, v and w. I agree it is now incumbent on me to demonstrate that these are unlikely. I won’t do that here – I’ll incorporate this into another post I’m brewing up. Yet, if I do demonstrate that this is unlikely, I would suggest that it is on the sceptic to either revise their theory or accept the thesis? Would that be fair?

      Look forward to more engagement.

      Rob

  7. Shaykh Kabir Malik permalink

    Being a Deist I would like to say that bu definition alone us Deists are atheists. Deist’s god is nothing like a theists and during the modern reformation of it Deism was separated from theism and atheism altogether.

    The Deistic god is not supernatural, no more so than then the Big Bang being supernatural. Deists believe god is only reducible to reason and logic and all of the scientific analysis used today to learn of our natural existence is equivalent to learning about god.
    The Deistic god is no more of an ‘it’ then evolution or the cosmic expansion of the universe.

    Deism is NOT Theism int he slightest. The very fact that the 2 are mutually opposed is evident so I recommend some brushing up.

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