Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Josh McDowell and a certain atheist meme

Here is a version of that meme, from Dawkins:


Well, science is not religion and it doesn't just come down to faith. Although it has many of religion's virtues, it has none of its vices. Science is based upon verifiable evidence. Religious faith not only lacks evidence, its independence from evidence is its pride and joy, shouted from the rooftops. Why else would Christians wax critical of doubting Thomas? The other apostles are held up to us as exemplars of virtue because faith was enough for them. Doubting Thomas, on the other hand, required evidence. Perhaps he should be the patron saint of scientists.

It seems to me that the existence of a book like Evidence that Demands a Verdict refutes this version of the meme. Christians do claim that they have evidence, the don't typically shout from the rooftops that they don't have any and it shouldn't matter. That doesn't mean that they might not have misunderstood the idea of evidence, or that there isn't a lot of popular fideism out there. Discussions here between Dawkins defenders and others have often involved the claim that Christians think they have evidence when they really don't, that to have evidence you have to have thus and so, and McDowell and those like him don't have that. But Dawkins isn't even saying that. This is either ignorance on a massive scale of what Christians have been saying, or intellectual dishonesty.  Or since it's coming from and Oxford professor, both.

Here is Lewis on Doubting Thomas:

The saying "Blessed are those that have not seen and have believed" has nothing to do with our original assent to the Christian propositions.  It was not addressed to a philosopher enquiring whether God exists.  It was addressed to a man who already believed that, who already had long acquaintance with a particular Person, and evidence that that Person could do very odd things, and who then refused to believe one odd thing more, often predicted by that Person and vouched for by all his closest friends.  It is a rebuke not to skepticism in the philosophic sense but to the psychological quality of being "suspicious."  It says in effect, "You should have known me better."  There are cases between man and man where we should all, in our different way, bless those who have not seen and have believed.  Our relationship to those who trusted us only after we were proved innocent in court cannot be the same as our relation to those who trusted us all through."

32 comments:

B. Prokop said...

My own take on the words "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" is that this is John's characteristically unique expression of the Great Commission ("Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.") Just as John has his own take on virtually every other important event in Christ's Earthly Life, so too here. Basically, what this passage means is that the eyewitness authority of the Apostles is first affirmed ("You believed because you have seen."), and then Christ tells them to go and spread this knowledge to "those who have not seen" so that they might also believe.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Dave Duffy said...

"then Christ tells them to go and spread this knowledge"

Bob,

I don't know all your current circumstances. You have written about the loss of your beloved wife. You also write with insight about our faith.

Have you ever considered becoming a priest in the Lord's church?

B. Prokop said...

Dave,

I considered it back in the mid 1970s, but enlisted in the Army instead. At the time, I thought I was just giving myself space to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life, but it turned out I had "accidentally" discovered my true vocation, ultimately working for the Defense Department for 34 years. I ended up as the guy in charge of the Integrated Broadcast Service, our country's worldwide near real time threat warning network! (I know, the thought astounds me too.)

Nowadays, I'm pretty much a full-time grandparent, helping to raise a new generation of Catholics. (Egads, what would Dawkins say? "Child abuse!")

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Dawkins is nothing if not one of the world's great communicators. And his passage effectively communicates this typical exchange:

Christian: We believe because of the evidence!
Skeptic: What is that evidence?
Christian: Well, it's not really good evidence -- actually, it's all just stories.
Skeptic: So why do you believe?
Christian: Because we have faith!
Skeptic: What do you mean by faith then?
Christian: Faith is the thing that the best among us have!
Skeptic: What does that have to do with having good evidence?
Christian: I was told there would be no further questions.


B. Prokop said...

Cal, you need to learn the true meaning of faith. See here.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

I see, Bob. So, faith is "believing with one's heart," then?

Is believing with one's heart the same as having good evidence?

B. Prokop said...

Faith is how you act upon your belief, not how you arrive at it. So your question really has no answer. There are no grounds for either equivalency or non-equivalency between "believing with one's heart" and "having good evidence".

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Bob: "Faith is how you act upon your belief, not how you arrive at it. "

How does that relate to your objecting to what I wrote above?

Your definition of faith seems like another non sequitur to Victor's point -- that Christians really do mean they have evidence.

IlĂ­on said...

B.Prokop: "Faith is how you act upon your belief, not how you arrive at it."

Indeed. And a major part of that is to continue in the belief -- to remain faithful to the rational intellectual commitment that you have made -- in the face of irrelevant pressures or difficulties.

If one has arrived at some belief rationally, then it is a violation of reason – it is a *sin* -- to abandon or deny the belief for irrational “reasons”.


Doubting Thomas’ refusal to believe his fellow disciples when they told him that Jesus was alive, that they has seen and talked to him, was sin-against-reason, and on multiple levels … going all the way down into childish pique (to wit: “No fair! You all got to see him and I didn’t! So I’m not going to believe he’s alive unless I get to see him too! So there!”).

B. Prokop said...

"Christians really do mean they have evidence."

Yes, we really do mean it.

Cal Metzger said...

Ilion: "Doubting Thomas’ refusal to believe his fellow disciples when they told him that Jesus was alive, that they has seen and talked to him, was sin-against-reason..."

Is it a sin for a child to not believe in a parent's stories about Santa Claus?

Asking for a friend.

B. Prokop said...

"How does that relate to your objecting to what I wrote above?"

Because these two lines

Skeptic: So why do you believe?
Christian: Because we have faith!


imply that faith is a means of acquiring knowledge, whereas faith does not come into play until after one comes to believe something. Specifically, your hypothetical Christian ought to be saying, "Because we believe, we have faith!" and not the other way around (as you have written it).

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Me, originally:

Christian: We believe because of the evidence!
Skeptic: What is that evidence?
Christian: Well, it's not really good evidence -- actually, it's all just stories.
Skeptic: So why do you believe?
Christian: Because we have faith!
Skeptic: What do you mean by faith then?
Christian: Faith is the thing that the best among us have!
Skeptic: What does that have to do with having good evidence?
Christian: I was told there would be no further questions.

Then,

Bob (objecting): "Cal, you need to learn the true meaning of faith. See here."
Me: "I see, Bob. So, faith is "believing with one's heart," then? Is believing with one's heart the same as having good evidence?"
Bob: "Bob: "Faith is how you act upon your belief, not how you arrive at it. "
Me:: "How does that relate to your objecting to what I wrote above?... Christians really do mean they have evidence"?
Bob: "Yes, we really do mean it."

And round and round we go, just as I described.


B. Prokop said...

Cal, you're the only one going round in circles here. I know exactly what I am talking about. Christians have faith because they believe. They do not believe because they have faith. Can't you see the difference?

Cal Metzger said...

Bob: "Christians have faith because they believe. They do not believe because they have faith. Can't you see the difference?"

Bob, you're all playing with word soup on this topic. I can see that much.

Religious believers don't have good evidence. Religious believers say they have good evidence. Can't you see the difference?

B. Prokop said...

So you see no difference between the following two sentences?

1. I'm not hungry because I just ate.

2. I just ate because I wasn't hungry.

If you think they're the same, then it's no wonder no one can get through to you!

It's basic cause and effect. Belief is a prerequisite for faith. Faith is not a prerequisite for belief.

Catholics (I do not speak for anyone else) have good evidence for their beliefs. Because we do, we say we do. And I think Ilion put it best up above: "A major part of [faith] is to continue in the belief -- to remain faithful to the rational intellectual commitment that you have made -- in the face of irrelevant pressures or difficulties." Couldn't have said it better myself.

Jezu ufam tobie!

oozzielionel said...

"Religious believers don't have good evidence. Religious believers say they have good evidence. Can't you see the difference?"

"Good" evidence is convincing evidence. There is no "bad" evidence. There may be "insufficient" evidence. For some, evidence of a wrong kind is not only insufficient, they may even determine that it does not count as evidence. However, perhaps they should more honestly say that they have judged the evidence insufficient. The Bible is, in fact, evidence of a particular kind. Many have judged it be be very good evidence, others denounce it as poor evidence. The difference in judgment between good evidence and bad evidence does not seem to lie in the evidence, but in the evaluation. All evidence is good. It is the evaluation of the evidence that is good or bad.

Cal Metzger said...

Well, I'm speaking somewhat colloquially here, but by "good evidence" I mean at least evidence that can be examined -- objectively, reliably, and verifiably. I agree that the evidence needs to be evaluated after that, but not everything amounts to evidence as it pertains to a reasonable evaluation.

B. Prokop said...

Oozzie,

I was a professional intelligence analyst for more than 30 years, and know well how to distinguish between certainty, high probability, possibility, unlikelihood, and flat out "it ain't so". I am also a professional historian with a number of published works on (mostly) Soviet military history (all but one of them, unfortunately, still classified - and now that I have left the government, they are inaccessible to me, despite being their author), and am intimately familiar with the methodologies of assessing the accuracy of source material, as well as the processes by which "stories" come about over time.

I know how myth develops, and can smell it from a mile away. As a hobby, I have spent the better part of my life (on an amateur basis) studying the Arthurian mythos, and the stark differences between how that story developed and the recording of the events of Christ's life are unbridgeably wide. There is not a single point of commonality.

The New Testament, based on textual critical analysis alone, is far and away the most reliably true-to-fact document of the ancient world, and can hold its own against anything produced in our own time. The more I study it (and I read it every day), the more convincing it gets, not less. (Not that long ago, I suddenly realized how the Visitation in Luke explains Joseph's ignorance in the first chapter of Matthew. I just love how one Gospel authenticates another.) If I am fortunate to live another 10 years, I will likely have discovered many, many more reasons to have confidence in its veracity.

Jezu ufam tobie!

oozzielionel said...

"but not everything amounts to evidence as it pertains to a reasonable evaluation"
Can you explain this more? Surely, fact that are irrelevant do not "amount" or count as evidence. Evidence should at least be relevant facts. It would seem that all relevant facts should "amount" or count as evidence.

Cal Metzger said...

Ooz: "Can you explain this more? Surely, fact that are irrelevant do not "amount" or count as evidence. Evidence should at least be relevant facts. It would seem that all relevant facts should "amount" or count as evidence."

Yes, facts need to be relevant.

But evidence can cut more than one way, and in some ways it kind of "owes allegiance" to the best explanation.

E.g., if I tell you that I have been abducted by aliens (when in fact I have not), there are at least two competing explanations for you to consider: 1) I have been abducted by aliens, or b) I am lying/mistaken, etc.

The problem is in counting (as some people seem to suggest) that my story about aliens should be considered in favor of alien abduction, when it should be considered further evidence that people lie, are mistaken, etc.

Does that help?

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "I was a professional intelligence analyst for more than 30 years, and know well how to distinguish between certainty, high probability, possibility, unlikelihood, and flat out "it ain't so"....The New Testament, based on textual critical analysis alone, is far and away the most reliably true-to-fact document of the ancient world, and can hold its own against anything produced in our own time."

LOL. An argument from authority is even less persuasive when the supposed authority is the one tooting his horn.

I asked for you to do more than SAY you have good evidence, and you seem to back down from even that and now you're just going for... what? That you're really super-important, but don't try and verify most of that, because it's classified!

Victor Reppert said...

But Cal, lots of Christian scholars whose works are NOT classified say exactly the same thing Bob does. Here is an oldie but a goodie that I have never seen anyone come close to refuting.

http://www.analogiascriptura.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/NT-Documents_Are-they-Reliable-by-F.F.-Bruce.pdf

But what is more, what Dawkins is claiming is that independence from evidence is something Christians proudly affirm. Some do, they are called fideists. But fideism is not, and never has been, mainstream Christianity, and has been condemned as heresy by the Catholic Church. Dawkins is LYING when he suggests otherwise. I don't use that word lightly, but I am using it now because it is warranted.

This isn't a claim about the legitimacy of the evidence, this is a claim about what Christians are saying.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "But Cal, lots of Christian scholars whose works are NOT classified say exactly the same thing Bob does. Here is an oldie but a goodie that I have never seen anyone come close to refuting."

Refute what, exactly? Do you mean refute that the documents of the old Testament are ancient documents? No one refutes that.

Do you mean that the accounts of the New Testament regarding supernatural events should be taken at face value? I will do a spit take if you think that the link you provided, or any link for that matter, is going to overcome that hurdle.

VR: "But what is more, what Dawkins is claiming is that independence from evidence is something Christians proudly affirm. Some do, they are called fideists."

Okay, so what' the problem then?

VR: "But fideism is not, and never has been, mainstream Christianity, and has been condemned as heresy by the Catholic Church."

You don't have the authority to pronounce this. Christianity is way, way too fractured now, and historically, to configure itself to your attestations regarding what believers believe, and why they say the believe it.

Do you think that because you call yourself a Christian you have special insight into the minds of other Christians that Dawkins and others don'? I would suggest that Dawkins et al, not being religious, may have an intellectual distance that allows them insight to which believers are often blind. At least I see no reason to allow your assertion that you speak for Christianity.

VR: "Dawkins is LYING when he suggests otherwise. I don't use that word lightly, but I am using it now because it is warranted."

And you are lying when you say that you know why other Christians believe what they say they believe. Why don't you get off your high horse and deal with the real problem -- the fact that all Christians can do is keep on saying to themselves that they have good evidence, and yet (like all other religious claims) when asked to provide this good evidence all they can do is wave their hands and try to divert the discussion.

Truly, I think that you and Bob et al. here are no better than what Dawkins describes (and perhaps worse). You want to insist that you have good evidence (and not just stories), and when you are called to support your claims you hem and haw and insist that, just like all the other religions, your stories are just more special.

Dawkins accounting of religious claims is actually more flattering than what I see here. At least Dawkins grants that religious believers like the fideists are honest in their pronouncements --that they believe for reasons other than evidence. You want to call Dawkins a liar, but all you are really doing is pointing out that he is being polite -- he doesn't want to say what is obvious to the rest of us, that too often believers want to lay claim to the dignity of evidence without admitting that all they have are stories.



Victor Reppert said...

When you get beyond generalizations and hand-waving, the "stories" are extraordinarily difficult to explain away. There is a huge amount of plain factual content in the New Testament. If the supernatural part didn't happen, how did it get embedded in with so many facts?

B. Prokop said...

Victor,

It's not just the "facts". What is truly astonishing is the throwaway, casual correspondences between various books in the NT. One of my favorites is the example of Rufus. Mark mentions him (Mark 15:21) as the son of Simon, who was pressed into service by the Romans to carry Christ's Cross. No other evangelist mentions him. In fact, he appears only one other time in the entire NT (Romans 16:13) where Paul greets him. Note: Rufus is in Rome. Now we get to the First Letter of Peter, where St. Peter passes on (in 1 Peter 5:1) the greetings of Mark from Rome. So. Mark was in Rome, where Rufus also was. So Mark gets that his information about Simon straight from the horse's mouth, as it were, and includes it in his Gospel. No other Evangelist has this special information, so they do not include this detail.

And this is only one of countless similar casual correspondences. To say that this was all somehow contrived is beyond belief. It would be easier to believe that NASA faked the moon landings than to believe that the NT writers were not giving us the "Gospel Truth".

Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

Oh, and by the way, if Cal genuinely wishes to examine my qualifications as an historian, all he needs to do is provide me his e-mail address, and I will cheerfully provide him with a free e-copy of my one unclassified work, GOALPOST, The Battle for Port Lyautey, 1942. He can then judge my credentials for himself.

The offer goes for anyone else interested.

Joe Hinman said...

Christians like evidence. Christians want evidence. That doesn't mean they are always good at understanding, or that they always know what is good evidence and what is not. But like evidence.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "When you get beyond generalizations and hand-waving, the "stories" are extraordinarily difficult to explain away. There is a huge amount of plain factual content in the New Testament. If the supernatural part didn't happen, how did it get embedded in with so many facts?"

Telling stories embedded with facts is about as common as, well, stories.

Writing a book embedded with facts and fantastical stories that people come to believe is about as uncommon as Islam, Mormonism, Scientology, etc.

At least it appears now that you're admitting that all you have are those stories. And now you're "evidence" is that those stories, like all the other religious stories that you don't believe in -- your stories are somehow so special they become (magically!) true.

As if.

Also, how is my pointing out the obvious fact that all Christians have for their evidence is stories -- how is that "hand waving" on my part? As I understand hand waving it's a way of diverting or distracting from an earlier topic. I don't see myself doing that here.

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "It would be easier to believe that NASA faked the moon landings than to believe that the NT writers were not giving us the "Gospel Truth" "

Prokop: "Oh, and by the way, if Cal genuinely wishes to examine my qualifications as an historian, all he needs to do is provide me his e-mail address, and I will cheerfully provide him with a free e-copy of my one unclassified work, GOALPOST, The Battle for Port Lyautey, 1942. He can then judge my credentials for himself."

Bob, I think all anyone needs to know about your historical acumen is revealed in the first paragraph.

B. Prokop said...

"Bob, I think all anyone needs to know about your historical acumen is revealed in the first paragraph."

I actually agree with you there (although for undoubtedly totally different reasons)!

Merry Christmas Eve to all, and Jezu ufam tobie!

Joe Hinman said...

why is this cal guy so afraid of stories? He's paranoid of stories and thinks tautologies are proof.