Friday, October 29, 2010

A further reply to Arizona Atheist

Thank you for your response. First of all, while I think the OTF, used as a heuristic, can help us try to escape our biases, I have serious doubts, based on my training in epistemology, that real, genuine, freedom from bias is really possible. In the real world, we have to chip away at our biases, as opposed to performing some miraculous operation that will eliminate them entirely. As Steven Jay Gould once said, "We don't know what our biases are, because if we did, we'd eliminate them." Interesting enough, in the Christian Delusion Loftus emphasizes all the sources of bias that we fall prey to, which suggests to me that we aren't going to achieve intellectual liberation with one simple test, or just by "being careful." Intellectual sainthood is about as rare as moral sainthood, as I see it. And, I really don't believe in the existence of "neutral ground."

Second, there may have been passages in the site which I referenced which indicate a Christian bias. Unfortunately, the link to the page is now broken, so I couldn't check the passages to see if, in full context, your reading of them was correct.

But, even if they fell into question-begging at certain points doesn't mean that the central argument of the site begs the question. The site, as I saw it, was primarily concerned with comparing the manuscript evidence, the documentary evidence, and the archaeological evidence for the Bible and the Qur'an. Suppose they had stuck to just those comparisons. It looks to me as if those comparisons can be made, and that, in fact, the Bible does come out better if you compare on those grounds. I don't expect any investigator to be perfectly unbiased, but this site did set of a format which, if they stuck to the format, would show a legitimate difference between the Bible and the Qur'an. Thus, so far as I can see, evidence does exist that gives us better reason to believe that the Bible is revelatory than to believe that believe that the Qur'an is. So at least some of their content falls into neither category that Loftus mentioned: either assuming methodological naturalism on the one hand, or assuming the truth of the Bible on the other. And my claim is that it looks perfectly possible to find reasons to believe in Christianity that one cannot find for Islam.


Walter said...

"Thus, so far as I can see, evidence does exist that gives us better reason to believe that the Bible is revelatory than to believe that the Qur'an is."

I am still not sure how the historical accuracy of Paul's travels as narrated in Acts, means the bible has a better chance of being an actual revelation from God than the Qur'an? What about the Bhagavad Gita , Avesta, or the Urantia? Where do they stand as divine revelations? Is historical accuracy in their respective narratives the main criteria for determining whether or not they are TRUE revelations from a higher power?

S.D. Parker said...

Seems to me historical accuracy can only hold any water if the particular text requires it. Of course, there is a legitimate debate to be had about whether this expectation itself is not spurious. As Walter points out, if the Bhagavad Gita were true, it is true without the need for historical support (not, mind you, in the sense that it has the potential for having historical support that we presently don't have access to; rather, it is the kind of legend where historical support and attestation are simply extraneous to its truth value).

That said, I do think attempts by more skeptical parties to play down, or even just play down the potential for, attestation that latter portions of the Christian Bible (and latter portions of the Tanakh) have per archeological and inscriptional evidence is silly. Contrary to other religious texts that are philosophically oriented or take place in the realm of the gods, a central claim of Christianity is that a certain man who was also God physically dwelt among us.

This, at face value, certainly seems to suggest a close relationship is intended between history and the claims being made. For I have never understood the attempts of very "liberal" Christian camps that seek to throw out the historical dimension of the Christian religion in favor of affirming the truth of Christianity's overarching principles, when one of those overarching principles is the historical dimension...

Victor Reppert said...

In this particular instance, we are comparing two possible revelations that occurred at a particular time and place. As such, I think that in comparing the two, the historical basis of each revelation is certainly of interest.

I think the archaeological evidence, along with other types of evidence, shows that the New Testament has at the very least a significant historical core. I believe that the writers are at least close enough to the events themselves to have interviewed eyewitnesses, and in the case of later Acts, I think it reasonably clear that Luke is an eyewitness.

Arizona Atheist said...

Hi Mr. Reppert,

I've responded to your latest post, again as an update at the original.


Arizona Atheist said...

Hi Mr. Reppert,

Just wanted to drop you a line and let you know my reply has been posted.

Take care.

Arizona Atheist said...

Mr. Reppert,

I've finally gotten around to that website you claim is an example of the OTF. I've replied here: