Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Parsons on what would convince him

Bob: For the record Keith Parsons does NOT say that no evidence would convince him. Quite the contrary, he gives what he thinks would have been a convincing scenario. See his scenario at 1:39. It's based on this passage by N. R. Hanson: 

'Next Tuesday morning, just after breakfast, all of us in this one world will be knocked to our knees by a percussive and ear-shattering thunderclap. Snow swirls, leaves drop from trees, the earth heaves and buckles, buildings topple and towers tumble. 

The sky is ablaze with an eerie silvery light, and just then, as all the people of this world look up, the heavens open, and the clouds pull apart, revealing an unbelievably radiant and immense Zeus-like figure towering over us like a hundred Everests. 

He frowns darkly as lighting plays over the features of his Michelangeloid face, and then he points down, at me, and explains for every man, woman and child to hear, "I've had quite enough of your too-clever logic chopping and word-watching in matters of theology. Be assured, Hanson, that I most certainly do exist!" '

Once, after reading a paper Keith wrote arguing against miracles way back in 1985, I asked Keith to assume that I were God, and wanted to know what kind of evidence he would find convincing. He answered by saying "If the galaxies in the Virgo cluster were to spell out the words "Turn or Burn, Parsons This Means You, I'd turn."

38 comments:

B. Prokop said...

Victor,

For the record, I did grant Parsons that, in my posting (in the thread below) at March 23, 2015 8:47 AM. I wrote:

Parsons does (quite insincerely) imagine a fantastical series of events that he might consider sufficient evidence. But immediately after Craig challenges him on this, Parsons does not deny that even then, he would conclude that either he's hallucinating, or that everything is a hallucination (he says this at 1:40:28).

Jezu, ufam tobie!

im-skeptical said...

We've been through this discussion ad nauseam. Christians insist that miracles happen, and even that they've personally witnessed supernatural events. Atheists insist that they don't happen, and have never been privileged to witness those events.

Atheists generally fall into two camps on this. They either say they will be convinced by the evidence (as both Parsons and I maintain), or they have already been convinced by the evidence and don't believe that there can ever be any observation of genuine supernatural phenomena (like PZ Myers). Please note that in both cases, evidence is central to what they believe.

In defense of Myers, I understand his viewpoint. The available evidence is, after all, overwhelming. So his being convinced is quite reasonable. But I still think we should allow for the (very small) possibility that we haven't seen all the evidence.

On the other hand, I believe that those Christians who insist that there are supernatural events are fooling themselves, and they certainly aren't making a convincing case. I know that there was no skeptic present with Bob when he heard his daughter's voice, who would attest that he heard it too. I know that there was no rational thinker present with cl when things were flying through the air in his living room.

No, these things only happen to people who believe. What are the odds that if supernatural events really do happen from time to time, they would never be witnessed by a reliable skeptical observer? What are the odds that they would never once be documented as real events? All we ever get to see are stories told by others. I don't buy it.

B. Prokop said...

"What are the odds that if supernatural events really do happen from time to time, they would never be witnessed by a reliable skeptical observer?"

I'd say close to 100%.

Jezu ufam tobie!

im-skeptical said...

It's funny how in the bible, miracles were both commonplace, and witnessed by non-believers. After all, they were the ones who needed to be convinced. Buy these days, they are rare, and always seen only by those who already believe. Why do you suppose that is?

Victor Reppert said...

Bob: I think I see the problem. You say that Parsons says it could be a hallucination, but IF that is a hallucination, then everything is a hallucination. But not everything can be a hallucination, (by definition, actually) so that couldn't be a hallucination.

Victor Reppert said...

I think skeptics do experience these things, but they think they dismiss them, since, on their view, they can't possibly be true.

Steve Lovell said...

I can't recall the reference just now, but somewhere Lewis said he had only ever met one person who claimed to have "seen" a ghost. They were an atheist and disbelieved their own experience.

I don't mean to imply that there approach was wrong, but merely to say that such things most certainly do happen to atheists.

Steve

B. Prokop said...

I've posted this quote before, but it's worth repeating here:

In my opinion miracles will never confound a naturalist. It is not miracles that bring a naturalist to faith. A true naturalist, if he is not a believer, will always find in himself the strength and ability not to believe in miracles. And if a miracle stands before him as an irrefutable fact, he will sooner doubt his own senses than admit the fact. And even if he does admit it, he will admit it as a fact of nature that was previously unknown to him. In the naturalist, faith is not born from miracles, but miracles from faith. Once the naturalist comes to believe, then precisely because of his naturalism, he must also allow for miracles.
(Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov)

Says it all.

Jezu ufam tobie!

im-skeptical said...

No, the real issue is that believers "witness" something that is perfectly natural, but insist on seeing it as some sort of miracle. They are closed to the idea that there is a good natural explanation for it (and there always is). Typically, it's their religious beliefs that prevent them from seeing the truth.

B. Prokop said...

Today is the 25th of March, one of the most significant dates in the entire calendar. In Medieval times, March 25th was regarded as the date the very world was created ex nihilo. March 25th is also, significantly, the first day of the New Creation, being the day the Word was made flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary (today being the Feast of the Annunciation). Somewhat less seriously, although still of some note, March 25th was the date the One Ring was cast into the fires of Mount Doom.

March 25th was also the date, six years ago today, that my wife succumbed to pancreatic cancer and passed on to a Better World. It was (and remains) the worst day of my life. And yet...

My loss was real, but it was far from total. In the final analysis, no one’s loss is ever really total. Yes, we can lose our property, our livelihood, our family and everyone we love. We can see the defeat of all that we cherish and hold dear. We can (and will) eventually lose our own life. But we can be assured that on that other side of death, there is Someone waiting to welcome us in, to console us beyond our imagining, to truly make all right once more (and forever). There has really been only one Person ever of whom it can be said that He lost everything. We read in Paul that Christ “was in the form of God” (Philippians 2:6), but that rather than clinging to His status, He “emptied himself” and willingly embraced poverty, pain, suffering and death itself. Just ask yourself this – when God dies, who is there on the other side to welcome Him? This is a great mystery beyond our comprehension. It is so simple to recite the Creed, and to say the words that the Son is submissive to the Father unto death, but it is impossible (in this life, at least) to understand the greater part of what such words really mean. And when we realize that we are probing into the very nature of God Himself, that suffering and loss are fundamental to the very source of existence itself, then we see that the experience of loss is baked into the DNA of the universe. It is an essential part, not only of the way things are, but of the way they are supposed to be.


Jesus said to [me], "Your [wife] will rise again." [And I ] said to him, "I know that [she] will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to [me], " I am the Resurrection (and the life); whoever believes in me, though they may die, yet shall they live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" [And I answered], "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."

Signing off for the remainder of today. I shall spend what is left of this day in prayer and contemplation (as well as in tending to my 2-year old granddaughter).

Jezu ufam tobie! Jesus, I trust in you!

Ilíon said...

paraphrasing Parsons (and most so-called atheists): "If God really, really, really impresses me with some sort of God-of-the-Gaps display, with some event for which I can't even begin to imagine an explanation in terms mechanically necessary cause-and-effect ... *then* I'll believe."

St.Paul: "Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom."

Apparently, *everyone* is a Jew, these days.

Of course, "demons believe ... and tremble" -- because the object isn't merely to believe that God is God, but to love God (and to love that God is God).

cl said...

This whole attitude of "I won't believe until you fulfill the most fantastical evidential scenario I can conceive of" ... it's really so boring, childish and immature.

cl said...

Christians insist that miracles happen, and even that they've personally witnessed supernatural events. Atheists insist that they don't happen, and have never been privileged to witness those events.

Uh, no. Not even close. How about:

"non-materialists like cl insist non-materialist events happen, witness said events, and record the data as evidence to the best of their ability. materialists like i'm skeptical refuse to tackle the evidence, slander cl as a liar, then go on the very next day pretending like nothing ever happened."

That's better.

Do your job, im-skeptical. Quit faking.

im-skeptical said...

"This whole attitude of "I won't believe until you fulfill the most fantastical evidential scenario I can conceive of" ... it's really so boring, childish and immature."

What's the problem? Is it too hard for God to do something that is unmistakeably supernatural? Is it unreasonable to expect evidence that can't be mistaken before you believe something? Or perhaps we should settle for hearing a voice that sounds like our daughter, and then proclaim our belief in miracles? Do you really expect a skeptic to say "That's all the evidence I need", when it might be (and probably is) just a voice that sounds like his daughter?

B. Prokop said...

Skep, you never cease to amaze me. You wrote, "perhaps we should settle for hearing a voice that sounds like our daughter, and then proclaim our belief in miracles?" Did you not even bother reading my postings? It appears that you haven't. (That is the most charitable explanation. The one less so is that you did, but totally failed to understand what you were reading.)

Here is what I wrote: "How do you explain my story? ... Now remember, not only am I not claiming that it was any kind of "miracle", I positively deny that it was anything of the sort." (emphasis added) How much clearer can I make it?

So how in the world do you get from the most emphatic denial possible that I was talking about miracles to "perhaps we should settle for hearing a voice that sounds like our daughter, and then proclaim our belief in miracles"? This is just more proof that you, far from being the least bit "skeptical", are blindly adhering to your unexamined, unproven assumption that the miraculous is impossible, without the least hint of actually examining the evidence. You go so far in dismissing the idea without a hearing, that you even reject (to your viewpoint) dangerous evidence of a non-miraculous non-material reality.

I repeat (in the vain hope that you will this time read and understand): My story had nothing whatsoever to do with miracles. It was brought forward as evidence that reality is composed of more than simply material objects (i.e., materialism is false). If you find that so threatening that you must egregiously distort what others are saying lest a ray of light penetrate your self-imposed imprisonment in a box, then you need to seriously ask yourself why your beliefs are so fragile and in need of such protection.

Jezu, ufam tobie!

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

I know you didn't call that a miracle. But the problem is that you use your own private definition for words like 'faith' and 'miracle'. I use the commonly understood definition that most people would expect if they are trying to communicate. OED defines 'miracle' as: "A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency".

The definition seems to fit, even if you don't like the way I use the term. Please stop giving me shit about it. You can use the word for whatever purpose you like, but to the extent that you differ from the commonly understood definition, you fail to communicate.

Billy Squibs said...

It's funny how in the bible, miracles were both commonplace, and witnessed by non-believers. After all, they were the ones who needed to be convinced. Buy these days, they are rare, and always seen only by those who already believe. Why do you suppose that is?

I would suggest that you are being sloppy in your assertions.

Firstly, how do you know that miracles in biblical times where common place? The Bible is a set of documents written over a period of about 1500 years> these documents, or at least the historical components of them, compress events spanning generations into a few pages.

Secondly, how do you know that miracles (or claims) are rare today? Craig Keener would disagree.

Thirdly, how do you know miracles are always witnessed by those who already believe? Part of the reason Christianity has made such massive gains in places like China and throughout Africa is because non-Christians are attributing certain events to divine actions. Again, Keener's work would relevant in challenging your assertion.

Ilíon said...

"This whole attitude of "I won't believe until you fulfill the most fantastical evidential scenario I can conceive of" ... it's really so boring, childish and immature."

Indeed, it is. But, in their defense, most so-called atheists are "boring, childish and immature".

Ilíon said...

"Thirdly, how do you know miracles are always witnessed by those who already believe? Part of the reason Christianity has made such massive gains in places like China and throughout Africa is because non-Christians are attributing certain events to divine actions. Again, Keener's work would relevant in challenging your assertion."

There is a phenomenon occurring in the Moslem world -- most people (perhaps not B.Prokop) would consider it at least akin to the miraculous -- wherein Moslems who know nothing about Christ or Christianity, or at "best" know only the typical Islamic distortions (*), experience visions of Christ in which he specifically and individually calls them to follow him.

(*) For example, that we are polytheists.

Ilíon said...

"Thirdly, how do you know miracles are always witnessed by those who already believe? Part of the reason Christianity has made such massive gains in places like China and throughout Africa is because non-Christians are attributing certain events to divine actions. Again, Keener's work would relevant in challenging your assertion."

There is a phenomenon occurring in the Moslem world -- most people (perhaps not B.Prokop) would consider it at least akin to the miraculous -- wherein Moslems who know nothing about Christ or Christianity, or at "best" know only the typical Islamic distortions (*), experience visions of Christ in which he specifically and individually calls them to follow him.

(*) For example, that we are polytheists.

B. Prokop said...

"most people (perhaps not B.Prokop) would consider it at least akin to the miraculous"

I would consider a bona fide vision of Christ to be a miracle, as it would (presumably) shed light on the Incarnation/Resurrection.

I happen to be in the middle of reading the diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska (I'm now on page 254 out of 711 - I'm proceeding far more slowly than my usual pace) - one of the most rewarding books I've read in many years. She saw visions of Our Lord constantly. (I chuckled at one passage where Faustina casually wrote that Jesus had appeared to her that day "in the usual way".) Now what is truly a miracle, far more unexplainable than her visions themselves, is how the Church hierarchy and the Vatican commissions looking into the matter* were eventually convinced of the veracity of Faustina's story. Since its publication in 1987, more than 100 million (!) people have read the diary, which has already been translated from the original Polish into several languages.

* "Im-skeptical" would do well to learn about these things, as he would learn what true skepticism looks like. You won't find a tougher, more skeptical audience anywhere than in a Vatican commission looking into a miraculous claim. Case in point: Medjugorje, which despite its gigantic following, the Church has unwaveringly (for 34 years now) refused to acknowledge any validity whatsoever to the apparitions. They're being skeptical. (Full Disclosure: I think they're fakes.)

Jesu, ufam tobie!

Ilíon said...

""Im-skeptical" would do well to learn about these things, as he would learn what true skepticism looks like. You won't find a tougher, more skeptical audience anywhere than in a Vatican commission looking into a miraculous claim."

I suspect that "Im-skeptical's" head would assplode if he ever learns that The Scientific Method (tm) originates with the methodologies developed by the RRC to investigate and evaluate miraculous claims.

B. Prokop said...

I can hear the "Boom" even now.

im-skeptical said...

"Im-skeptical" would do well to learn about these things, as he would learn what true skepticism looks like. You won't find a tougher, more skeptical audience anywhere than in a Vatican commission looking into a miraculous claim.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !

Bob also has his own private definition of 'skepticism': believing whatever the Catholic church tell you. When they needed a couple of 'miracles' in order to canonize John Paul, they didn't have much trouble congering them up. They even attributed miraculous acts to the man after he was dead. Tell me more about how 'skeptical' these guys are.

im-skeptical said...

"how do you know that miracles in biblical times where common place?"

- I have read the New testament.

"how do you know that miracles (or claims) are rare today?"

- As I pointed out, 'miracles' are only reported by blinkered people. When is the last time you heard about a genuine miracle reported in the news, or reported by reliable, verified sources? Doesn't happen too often, does it?

"how do you know miracles are always witnessed by those who already believe?"

- By 'believers' I don't mean Christians, necessarily. I mean anyone who believes in any kind of supernatural phenomena. Those are the people I called 'blinkered' above. And those are the only ones who report these "miracles".

So, Billy Squibs, if you think I'm being sloppy in my assertions, go ahead and show that I'm wrong. I'm waiting.

B. Prokop said...

"They even attributed miraculous acts to the man after he was dead." (emphasis added)

Of course they did! Have you never heard of the "Communion of Saints"? It's right there in the Creed (Credo in sanctorum communionem). There is no mystery to our being in communion with the "Great Cloud of Witnesses" who have preceded us into the Church Triumphant. What would be more astonishing is the idea that such communion would not exist.

But no-o-o-o... The materialist must at all costs, even to the jettisoning of reason itself, deny the existence of anything beyond the observable universe. He must jam his fists into his ears, lest he listen and understand. He must seal his eyes tightly shut (using duct tape if necessary), lest he see and perceive. He must above all seal his brain tight, lest any threatening information penetrate into the neat little box within which he has shut himself.

It is passing strange. Time and again, Skep coughs up some little gem like the one cited above (erroneously believing he has scored some sort of "point"), seemingly oblivious to the fact that he is merely echoing what we ourselves confidently proclaim. Yes, Skep, the Saints are fully capable of praying alongside us, adding their plea to ours, and such intercession can at times result in a miracle. Thank you for accurately expressing what the Church does in fact believe.

And such actions on the part of the deceased do not even need to involve the miraculous. Dante Alighieri, eight months after his death in 1321, revealed to Piero Giardino of Ravenna the hidden location of the final 13 Cantos of his Paradiso. Closer to the present (if you prefer a story less than almost 700 years old), the composer Gustav Mahler completed his 10th Symphony more than 50 years after his death in 1911. Such things do occur now and then, and no "miracle" is required. Simply a recognition that "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Jezu, ufam tobie!

im-skeptical said...

Like I said, Bob, these things are only reported by the blinkered. I choose to believe what the evidence indicates.

B. Prokop said...

"I choose to believe what the evidence indicates."

Really? So you are seriously telling me that you personally have examined dispassionately and with no prior assumptions the evidence brought before the Vatican commission concerning the miracles claimed to be attributable to the intercession of St. John Paul II?

Or did you merely hear that such examination had been done by the commission, and you rejected it out of hand without ever bothering to even find out what the evidence was? Because, of course, miracles are... well, they're just impossible!

Be honest now - which was it?

Jezu, ufam tobie!

im-skeptical said...

You have evidence of a miracle? Show it.

If your evidence is someone was cured of an illness after praying to John Paul, I say: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !

B. Prokop said...

Thought so. So Skep insists that he goes only by the evidence, and then complains that there isn't any good evidence for miracles, but when given the opportunity to actually examine some evidence, he doesn't even glance at it, because his so-called "skeptical" mind is already made up! He seems to confuse repeating "ha" for an actual argument. Pathetic.

As for "If your evidence is someone was cured of an illness after praying to John Paul [II]", that's not the evidence, that's the conclusion. You do understand the difference between the two concepts, right?

Jezu, ufam tobie!

im-skeptical said...

I said "You have evidence of a miracle? Show it." So show me the evidence, and I'll give it all the consideration that it deserves.

Ilíon said...

B.Prokop (to I-pretend) "Be honest now - which was it?"

I-pretend has a great career awaiting him in the theatre ... as a projectionist.

Apparently, B.Prokop is trying his hand at Vaudeville.

B. Prokop said...

"Apparently, B.Prokop is trying his hand at Vaudeville."

Well, I do have a striped shirt and a cane. No straw hat, unfortunately.

im-skeptical said...

So where's your evidence, Bob? Or at least you can describe what "evidence" was examined by this tough, skeptical commission of the church.

Nothing ...

Well that makes sense, because all this commission really does is collect glowing testimony in favor of a prospective "saint", while ignoring any and all information that they don't find favorable. As for actual evidence of miracles, I'm still waiting to hear of any actual evidence. The fact that someone prayed to John Paul and was subsequently cured tells us more about her doctors than about the posthumous "miracles" of John Paul.

B. Prokop said...

"while ignoring any and all information that they don't find favorable"

I'll play your game (two can play it, after all), and demand that you produce such information. You claim they are ignoring it, so it must exist. Where is it? Let's see it, along with the proof that it was "ignored". Otherwise, you are once again making baseless accusations (as you did with the slander that the Early Church somehow altered the Scriptures).

Jezu, ufam tobie!

im-skeptical said...

Bob, I quoted it (in the other thread) from the article that Victor linked. Unlike you, I don't have to make this stuff up. Now pony up with your evidence, or forever be seen for what you really are.

cl said...

I apologize, Vic, for dragging things thread-to-thread, but here's some ultra idiotic, tip-of-the-gnu-iceberg bullshit that Skep wrote a week ago about people who claim to experience "miracles" :

"…I mean anyone who believes in any kind of supernatural phenomena. Those are the people I called 'blinkered' above. And those are the only ones who report these "miracles". So, Billy Squibs, if you think I'm being sloppy in my assertions, go ahead and show that I'm wrong. I'm waiting."

Alright, everybody … let's call this kook out, right here right now, for being what he is: an intellectual kook and a bigot. Why such harsh words? Because the fool is *obviously* irrevocably undeniably demonstrably incorrect, as usual.

http://atheisttocatholic.com/

Right, only the "blinkered" experience miracles. And Skep taunts people to prove him wrong. Full kook.

Skep Challenge, to infinity and beyond!

im-skeptical said...

"Right, only the "blinkered" experience miracles. And Skep taunts people to prove him wrong. Full kook."

If you read what is says at that link, you will see that it agrees completely with my thesis. This is a theist who claims some kind of miracle occurred. Idiot.