Home » apologetics, atheism, Bible Reliability, Blog, Creationism, evolution, General, scientism, Secular Humanism » Epistemological Confusion about revelation and Revelation

Epistemological Confusion about revelation and Revelation

When a Christian apologist invokes ‘revelation’ it is often understood by atheists and skeptics to refer to the “writings of the flawed goat herders of a bygone era that have been shown by modern science to be outdated, outmoded, and absolutely in error.  Certainly not the stuff we can think of as ‘divine revelation.'”  This is the reaction even before the apologist has time to define precisely what he means by ‘revelation.’   Of course, I am not really knocking the skeptic here, for the typical Christian (and even apologist!) likewise makes a leap:  “the writings of men who have been inspired by the Holy Spirit that have been assembled into the Old and New Testaments, which we call the Bible.”

That is not what I mean when I use the word revelation in the context of discussions about theism.  Note the distinction that I am making between the lower and uppercase ‘R.’  ‘Divine Revelation’ is short hand for the Bible and both sides of the debate regard it as such, though obviously the regard of each is colored by their esteem for it.  For the skeptic, the notion that the Bible is Divine Revelation is absurd, because they have the belief that anything so described should exceed and surpass the style and content of what Man would write.  And in some ways, I would agree with that, only I would urge that in a context where the very nature of the Scriptures are under discussion, we should reserve the phrase ‘Divine Revelation’ for that material explicitly dealing with the direct Words of God.

For example, the book of Ruth does not contain any material where it is recorded, “And God said,…”  By contrast, Isaiah reports in a number of places that what he has recorded is God’s actual words and declarations.  See for example Is. 3:16 or Is. 8:11.   Ruth is a description of certain events by a human writer but nowhere does the human writer insist that they are narrating an account given to them verbatim by God.  So, you could call this, strictly speaking, human revelation.

The fact that Christians have come to view this bit of human revelation as special and unique by virtue of the belief that it was inspired (that is, breathed into by God) allows them to legitimately view any such document so treated by God as ‘Divine Revelation’ paints over and conflates some very important epistemological facts.

To give one example, skeptics are known to go on and on and on about the wild success of modern science in unraveling the secrets of the universe.  Common examples I’ve heard are “the microwave oven!” and “it put a man on the moon!”  Others include things like the splitting of the atom and vaccines.  So you see, the skeptic says that their way of approaching the world relies on evidence and experiment- none of that vacuous stuff about so-called revelation by God!  However, in point of fact the skeptic very much relies on revelation.  Most Christian apologists… or perhaps I should just speak for myself…  I merely ask that the skeptic employs the same methods of evaluating the revelation contained in the Scriptures that they do in evaluating the revelation they already rely on.

I am surprised at how many atheists appear to be unaware of the fact that their worldview is driven as much by revelation as the Christian.

After all, how many atheists today actually set foot on the moon personally?  Were they present at the splitting of the atom?  Did they personally watch Hiroshima become engulfed in a mushroom cloud?  Did they carry out the studies showing the efficacy of vaccines.  They say that small pox has been eradicated but every day that goes by there are fewer and fewer people alive who witnessed the disease personally.  For most people, the fact that there was every such a disease is known only because previous humans laid down a record of events for the present humans to take note of.  How many people were present to watch Alain Aspect carry out his famous experiment evidently ‘proving’ that non-locality is a fact of reality?   More to the point, how many people have actually re-created the experiment themselves in order to confirm it?  How many people have personally established via their own observation and experimentation that the stars in the sky exhibit red shift, one of the key evidences for the Big Bang?   Even things they’ve seen with their ‘own eyes’ such as images from the Hubble telescope have been run through computer modeling that have added colors according to assumptions made by the astronomers.

In short, every person on this planet relies extensively on revelation for virtually every part of what they think they know.  Even a scientist who performs one experiment and so witnesses an effect personally relies on the great mass of other scientists to carry out other experiments.  The results of these experiments will have to be taken at the word of those other scientists.   They do not have the time, energy, and resources to personally verify every assertion that is made presently and has been made in the past.  Indeed, none of us do.  That is why each of us have to rely on revelation.  If our knowledge were limited to our own direct experiences that knowledge pool would be quite shallow!

Does this reality mean that everything we know about the world is suspect, just because it is revelation?  Not at all!  Intentionally or unintentionally every one of us have erected filters and tests that we apply to the revelatory material that comes before our attention.    Unfortunately, skeptics are among the worst in being wholly unaware of this fact.  We know they are oblivious to this because if they grasped its significance, they would not smugly deride the revelation they find in the Scriptures- which comes to them in the same manner that they receive most accounts of past events.  (Eg, Tacitus).

It is just a simple fact that we all rely on revelation.  It is therefore critical that we think carefully about how we evaluate the revelation that comes before us.   Much of the sorting of revelation is done automatically and without reflection.  This works in many respects but can lead to problems.  This is obvious the minute we raise the point.

So, we return to the Christian scriptures.  It is actually a point in their favor that so much of it is comes to us by human authors.   That means that we can test their revelation according to the same standards and methodologies we test all revelations, past and present.  By contrast, if the whole of the revelation were Divine Revelation it would be much more difficult.  (I discuss this more here and here).

But having arrived at this conclusion, we surface a handful of other epistemological points of significance.  For example, we note that the nature of revelation is such that one entity communicates to another entity information that the latter entity is unable to verify.  Strictly speaking, the information can only be corroborated.  (eg, if someone comes to you and tells you that they observed by experiment water boiling at 212 degrees you are still taking them at their word about what they witnessed, but you have good reason to believe them if you perform the same experiment and get the same results).   But we will always discover that we cannot corroborate everything in the same way.  Moreover, some entities will always be in a better position to speak to a matter than someone else.

This is obvious, right?  A nuclear physicist is in a better position to speak to the results of atom smashing than I am.  In fact, I will never be able to personally recreate the experiment and I will have a lot of learning to do if I wish to interpret it.  Or, I will always be at the mercy of someone actually present for an event if I wasn’t there, even if I ‘saw it on television.’

So now we return to the importance of actual Divine Revelation.  That is, it is just a simple fact that God (if there is a God as Christians understand him) will be in a better position to speak to certain realities than we are.  (Indeed, I think you could safely say that God is in a better position to speak to ALL realities than we are!).  When I say, “some things can only be known by revelation” I do not mean that one can only get them by studying the Bible.  I mean that only God is in a position to speak authoritatively to them at all.  For example, he and he alone knows what his true nature is in detail.  We may be able to deduce certain things about him (like Aristotle was able to deduce his existence philosophically) but in the same way that we may deduce that a person exists but not know what his favorite ice cream flavor is… unless he tells us.

Now, testing the revelation of fellow humans is one thing.  Testing the Revelation of God himself has its own difficulties, no?  However, it is enough to understand we absolutely rely on revelation whether we like it or not, and then proceed to ponder how we would test both human and Divine Revelation.

Share

43 Responses to Epistemological Confusion about revelation and Revelation

  1. The logical flaw here comes in the penultimate paragraph.

    In order to make your argument about the functional equivalence of people’s secular knowledge about secular scientific discoveries with Christian revelation, you are required to assume, not to demonstrate, the existence of the Christian God.

    Certainly, if God exists, He is uniquely in a position to “speak to all realities”, but it is logically possible for there to be no God, or for the God in question to be Allah, or for Him to be a God with whom we are entirely unfamiliar. The people in possession of the correct revelation may in fact be living on certain parts of a planet in another galaxy entirely, and somewhere on that planet, people may be busy penning anxious apologetics that also assume the existence of their conception of God as a given.

    Back here on Earth, we do largely rely on other people’s knowledge in order to live our lives. However, a microwave oven can be demonstrated to bake a potato reliably and well, time after time, irrespective of the user’s understanding of the principles of electromagnetics or the state of their soul. Prayer, on the other hand, cannot be empirically demonstrated to work reliably and well, which forces religious people into a logical retreat, arguing essentially that this kind of microwave will work more or less well if you approach it in the proper spirit, at the correct times of day, on particular days of the year; or that, if it doesn’t bake your potato for you, it’s you that must be at fault, because the microwave is infallible and it is impious to question it.

    In practice, both pro-science and pro-faith people expect a microwave to work reliably, but it is entirely understandable if pro-science people are somewhat skeptical that prayer is as effective as an ordinary microwave oven. This reveals that the type of received information each is relying on is fundamentally different in quality.

    People believe a microwave will work reliably because its efficacy has been demonstrated in easily observable ways thousands of times to the average microwave user, and also because the principles on which it works are publicly available and open to anybody to try to falsify. Religious revelation wraps how its microwave works in an impenetrable mystery, continually advances strategies to render the concept of God incapable of disproof, and declares that as human beings we are not placed correctly to question the microwave oven’s quality, even if our own eyes are suggesting that it’s not baking our potatoes.

    By all means, then, let us submit divine revelation and scientific knowledge to the same kind of empirical tests, starting off without assuming either the existence or non-existence of God.

  2. Hi Alex,

    Thanks for the comment, but I think you’re well off the mark. First of all, let us begin with your last sentence: “starting off without assuming either the existence or non-existence of God.” I actually believe just that and have called for it many times on this blog. I haven’t met an atheist ready to actually do it, though. If you’re that atheist, you’re the first. Stratonician atheism seems to be the order of the day. As an apologist, I am completely ready to start from a position of neutrality.

    This fact marks your core assertion as false: “with Christian revelation, you are required to assume, not to demonstrate, the existence of the Christian God.”

    This is false. It certainly is not my position. There are a brand of Christians called ‘presuppositionalists’ who might agree with that but I am not a pre-supper. I am an evidentialist, which means that I am perfectly happy to engage in a demonstration that the Christian God exists.

    However, I note this very important fact: if we are starting from a position of neutrality than it is imperative that we have reasonable expectations. Just what kind of data could we hope to discover, for example? We are not going to find ’empirical’ evidence for a being that Christians contend transcends and is simultaneously immanent in all of creation. But that’s not really the point, either. You are out of place to say that we should submit scientific knowledge to the ‘same kind of empirical tests.’ In point of fact, we do NOT subject revelatory claims by anyone- a scientist, your doctor, your wife, your car mechanic, your librarian- to ’empirical tests.’ But that isn’t to say we don’t subject them to tests. We do. Usually without thinking.

    I merely insist that we be aware of that and then extend to God’s putative revelation the same courtesy when we test it that we do all other forms of revelation.

    The other point of importance that you missed in that second to last paragraph was the fact that God will have to reveal the interesting parts of his nature to us if we are to know them at all. (You focused on the putative God’s privileged position to speak authoritatively, but that was just a set up to the bit about the difference between discerning God’s existence and discerning anything about him). In short, the rational conclusion is that if there is just cause to raise the hypothesis that there exists a God as Christians understand him, we will HAVE to seek out an examine alleged claims of ‘Divine Revelation.’

    Again, its like the difference between determining if a person exists versus what their favorite ice cream flavor is. Once we have reason to believe the person exists at all, in real life- here on earth- we know that to get any really interesting information about him we’ll actually have to talk to him. That is, he’ll have to reveal that information to us. It’s nonsensical to inflict an ’empirical test’ on him. After all, even if you observe him time and time again eating vanilla, it doesn’t follow that vanilla ice cream is actually his favorite ice cream. There may be other reasons why he is eating that ice cream flavor. The only way to really know- and the knowledge has uncertainties built into it, but that doesn’t stop us from relying on it- is to ask him, or otherwise look for his revealing of his position.

    The long and short of it is that you are on exactly the wrong track regarding assumptions of God and Christianity. That may be some other apologist; it isn’t this one.

  3. Hi Anthony,

    We do in fact submit “revelatory” claims by scientists to empirical tests, on a continual basis. If a microwave oven did not work repeatedly and to a high degree of reliability when tested, it would legitimately throw into doubt the scientific understanding of how microwave radiation works to agitate molecules. The fact that it does work reliably is an empirical test.

    As far as evidence for God’s operation in the world goes, I am very happy to submit it to the same kind of empirical testing. If a large-scale, double-blinded experiment shows that similarly situated patients whose recovery is prayed for by Christians recover better than patients who are not prayed for, or who are prayed for by Muslims, then that would provide excellent empirical evidence for the efficacy of prayer to the Christian God. I am not aware of such a study finding such a thing, though I think that such studies have been attempted with little success. People undergo chemotherapy rather than homeopathy to cure their cancer because well-constructed studies show that it works; the quality of evidence for chemotherapy is high and scientifically based, whereas the quality of evidence for homeopathy is poor and is anecdotal in nature. I am sorry to say that so far, the quality of the evidence I have seen for the proof of the Christian God is much more analogous to the proofs advanced for the efficacy of homeopathy in treating cancer than for the efficacy of chemotherapy.

    I do not believe in discounting evidence simply because it is religious in nature. For example, the Bible is an exceedingly important source of information on the history of the ancient Near East, and the fact that it provides that information in the service of an overall narrative relating to God’s plans for a specific subset of humankind does not mean that we cannot use it to learn more about history.

    You argue that we cannot find evidence for a being that simultaneously transcends and is immanent in all of creation. I offer one way via the prayer experiment, but in any case, this is part of the strategies of religion to immunize itself against disproof; it doesn’t necessarily accurately describe the nature of God.

    When monotheism began (with Akhenaten), people looking for proof of God’s existence would point to the Sun and declare it a God. That’s no longer possible to argue, because of science. The Christian church taught for centuries that God resided above the clouds, in Plato’s “empyrean sphere”. That’s no longer possible either, because of astronomy. So Christians, faced with the fact that we haven’t found God by looking in the expected places, are reduced to the notion of an invisible, immanent, omnipresent God whose nature precludes disproof. It’s a convenient argument, but it’s not very impressive to someone who is not already assuming God’s existence.

    You argue that you’re not assuming God’s existence, but just like the author of this post, you still structure a whole part of your response starting with “Once we have reason to believe the person exists at all…”. As it happens, I do believe that God exists, but I accept that I have no logical reason whatsoever to believe that he does. It is simpler and more logically economical to not believe that he exists, but it is comforting and helpful to me to believe that he does, and I’m more than my coldly rational parts.

  4. I think you are committing a categorical error here. You say “we know.” I thought I addressed the ‘conflated we’ fallacy, but I don’t see it in my post.

    ‘We’ as a human community have performed some empirical tests here and there- even on microwaves- but we, meaning you and I individually, have not. I know that my microwave works, and has on a consistent basis, but as far as the the ‘how’ it works, I take on the word of others. Are you telling me that you have actually carried out controlled experiments of your own in order to corroborate the mechanism?

    Let’s say that you have. Have you done the same with the internal combustion engine? What about the microprocessor? And so on and so forth. No person has the time to individually verify these things. The ‘conflated we’ fallacy treats all of humanity as a single person, as though the fact that because some one or few persons out there have performed an empirical test, you can chalk this up to your own credit.

    In point of fact, you yourself have not performed these empirical tests at all, and instead rely on others to provide you with the technology and make sure it works. They have provided you with explanations that you find plausible but I am 100% confident that you haven’t taken each and every one of them to a lab to test them out yourself.

    I do not fault you for this. This is obviously pragmatically impossible. We- you and I individually- will have to take a great deal on revelation as a fact of life.

    “As far as evidence for God’s operation in the world goes, I am very happy to submit it to the same kind of empirical testing.”

    This is what I meant about expectations. You do not call for ’empirical’ testing of most of what you receive by revelation. Do you submit your wife to a double-blind, large scale experiment? No, you don’t, because that would not be a reasonable expectation. Nonetheless, you have managed (I hope and assume) to come to a place of trust in her words and actions.

    “If a large-scale, double-blinded experiment shows that similarly situated patients whose recovery is prayed for by Christians recover better than patients who are not prayed for, or who are prayed for by Muslims,”

    C. S. Lewis explained precisely why such a test would be invalid. Christians could never in good conscience only pray for the recovery of some people and not another set. Moreover, this treats prayer as though it were one of the fundamental forces like the weak electromagnetic force, or gravity. Christians do not believe prayer is a magical force that can be harnessed and directed and manipulated. Christians believe that prayer is, at bottom, a conversation or communication with/to a personal being. It isn’t an interaction with a vending machine.

    As I said, expectations are critical, and this particular one is completely off kilter.

    “You argue that we cannot find evidence for a being that simultaneously transcends and is immanent in all of creation.”

    This is very important, Alex. I did NOT say we cannot find evidence for a being that is simultaneously transcendent and immanent. I said that to expect EMPIRICAL evidence is unreasonable. Not that I am necessarily excluding the discovery of such evidence, though I am quick to note it would have to be an inference. By the definition of God as Christians understand him, you could never hope to stumble upon him under a rock or turn up his residence on the far side of the moon.

    It doesn’t mean that evidence is impossible or unavailable. It just means that evidence will have to be of a different sort and evaluated in a different way. It also means that when we use the word ‘evidence’ we cannot secretly mean ’empirical’ or as another atheist did on my blog, ‘physical.’ He then quickly moved on to add, the evidence has to be ‘legitimate,’ which obviously begs the question as to what constitutes ‘legitimate’ but we already knew: he meant physical, tangible, ’empirical’ evidence.

    But revelation would also be a form of evidence. That is the point of this post. It is a form of evidence that we rely on all the time. “Vanilla is my favorite flavor of ice cream” is evidence supporting the hypothesis “Vanilla is Anthony’s favorite flavor of ice cream.” But it is more than that… my revelation is definitive and superior to an ’empirical’ test… provided that you have concluded I am an honest and trustworthy person. Now THAT might be something we could verify or test empirically to some degree, and that’s ok. But let’s be clear about what’s going on throughout the process.

    “The Christian church taught for centuries that God resided above the clouds,”

    Source?

    I do hope you provide empirical evidence for this claim. 😉

    “You argue that you’re not assuming God’s existence, but just like the author of this post,”

    Are you sure it is so wise to lump me in with the writings of some other author? 😉

    “It is simpler and more logically economical to not believe that he exists, but it is comforting and helpful to me to believe that he does, and I’m more than my coldly rational parts.”

    You are more than your ‘coldly rational parts’ but of course just because YOU have no logical reason to believe that God exists it doesn’t follow that the same is true for others.

  5. Sorry, I didn’t realize you also authored the post.

    I am not contending that I have studied how a microwave works. However, I have observed that it does work, which is by itself substantial evidence that whatever theory it was constructed on is a sound one. The failure of prayer to work in any observable or measurable way is also evidence that it is based on an unsound theory.

    You argue that “Christians could never in good conscience only pray for the recovery of some people and not another set”, but in a double-blinded experiment, each Christian participant would be randomly assigned a set of people to pray for, and would not know anything about the personal beliefs of the people for whom they were praying. To contend that Christians could not ethically participate in such an experiment is a cop-out. In church, the number of people prayed for is generally finite rather than infinite, but no-one faults churches for not covering every sentient being in every single service. So it is with this.

    Your analogy with your personal taste for ice-cream, as divorced from your actual behavior, is a useful one. We live in a world where, by anything that can be observed or tested, there is no evidence whatsoever for God’s existence. We are, in effect, continually observing you rejecting a proffered ice-cream. You can maintain all you like that in your heart of hearts, you deeply crave vanilla ice cream, and that you have secret and unobserved reasons for rejecting it that you choose at this time not to share. If we are your friends, then we might possibly trust your word on that. Likewise, someone who is a Muslim’s friend or a Satanist’s friend may trust their word that they like pistachio ice cream while rejecting it, or ice-cream compounded of goat’s blood while rejecting it. But unfortunately for you, your word on something, the Muslim’s word, or the Satanist’s word, do not constitute evidence that outweighs what we actually observe you doing. Your argument comes down to, “You should trust me”, and I respond, “Why should I believe that you are right and that these other, equally sincere people are wrong?”

    The advantage of science is that it goes beyond anecdote. Scientific theories are not simply collective myths in which everyone chooses to believe. They are based on testable predictions, on experiment, on things that everybody is at least theoretically capable of observing and understanding.

    Your particular collective myth, which is also to some extent mine, is based in part on rejecting the naturalism inherent in scientific reasoning. If one is to decide to go beyond what can be falsified by human observation and reasoning, one must have some compelling reason for doing so. You clearly do; you talk airily of “other kinds of evidence” that you expect even non-Christians to find compelling; so what is this evidence?

    For the reference on the notion that God resided above the clouds, I suggest that you Google “empyrean”.

  6. “I am not contending that I have studied how a microwave works. However, I have observed that it does work, which is by itself substantial evidence that whatever theory it was constructed on is a sound one.”

    So a guy tells you little invisible dragons heat things up inside it, and according to you just because it always works, that’s enough to support the explanation?

    “The failure of prayer to work in any observable or measurable way is also evidence that it is based on an unsound theory.”

    *snort* I love this assumption that prayer always fails. From my personal experience I once prayed for rain during a long dry spell, and we recieved it later that afternoon. So should I take this observed example of prayer working, as sufficient evidence? Is that suddenly enough to prove God exists, since I’m sure many people have observed prayer “working”.

    All we see here is that you (conciously) reduce the validity of evidence to empirical. But as SJ has said in real life you personally don’t go around putting absolutely everything you encounter to scientific scrutiny. Mostly because a great many things CAN’T be put to scientific scrutiny. Yet, you’re willing to accept many things as true on the word of others should that word be trusted (or if it conforms to your presupposed beliefs).

    All SJ is saying is that you match your outlook with the way you actually behave in the real world.

    “Scientific theories are not simply collective myths in which everyone chooses to believe.”

    Heh. I guess that depends on what theories you’re talking about. Got any empiracle/demonstratable evidence for the multiverse? Or are you just blindly taking the word of some guy in a lab coat that it’s true?

  7. “Sorry, I didn’t realize you also authored the post.”

    Are you quite sure I did? Do you have empirical evidence of this? Did you perform a double-blind experiment, perhaps? 😉 And yet I suppose you are as confident in the proposition that I am the author of the post as you are in that your microwave will work the next time. But maybe I’m wrong.

    “The failure of prayer to work in any observable or measurable way is also evidence that it is based on an unsound theory.”

    You’re just repeating the stuff I already pointed out was flawed. No Christian submits prayer as a ‘force.’

    “but in a double-blinded experiment, each Christian participant would be randomly assigned a set of people to pray for, and would not know anything about the personal beliefs of the people for whom they were praying.”

    Actually, your only hope for carrying out such an experiment and hope for it to be meaningful is for you to carry it out so that they do not even know they are participating. You are also assuming that the magical force called ‘prayer’ works by virtue of the prayer knowing something about the prayee. How did you come to this assumption? Your notion of ‘prayer’ sounds more like new age or voodoo to me. If a Christian knowingly entered into an experiment like this, he would know that there is a group of people that he is not praying for, and could not in good conscience exclude them in his prayers, for if what he believes is correct, and he accepts the premise that ‘prayer works’, he would be wishing harm on that other group of persons. He would also know that it is not absolutely necessary that he prays for someone by name or even knows them in order for God to hear and possibly act. See below.

    Moreover, your experiment has this other problem: you’d have to carry it out so that God doesn’t know you’re watching, too. 😉 But he is not Zeus, that you can sneak up on him, so this is a problem for your test.

    “no-one faults churches for not covering every sentient being in every single service. So it is with this.”

    Exactly, so the Christian would know that he need not name or know these other people in the ‘control’ group in order to pray for them, and therefore could not ethically NOT pray for them.

    “We live in a world where, by anything that can be observed or tested, there is no evidence whatsoever for God’s existence.”

    I reject this completely. I think it is quite the opposite. The difference is that my expectations are reasonable.

    “But unfortunately for you, your word on something, the Muslim’s word, or the Satanist’s word, do not constitute evidence that outweighs what we actually observe you doing.”

    Quite the contrary, it is the opposite- providing certain conditions exist. You even begin to admit it: “If we are your friends, then we might possibly trust your word on that.”

    And why might friends trust my word when my behavior seems contrary to my word? One presumes that you are my friend and consider me trustworthy because you have long witnessed that I am truthful and that my behavior is rational and consistent with my nature as you understand it. I personally don’t befriend people who are untrustworthy, manipulative, lying jerks. Maybe that’s just me. The point is, having established that someone is trustworthy generally, the revelation then trumps the behavior.

    For example, someone might say that his favorite ice cream is vanilla but he never eats it. He is generally trustworthy. His behavior is in apparent contradiction. If you really understood what I’m getting at with revelation, you would see the next logical step- and it isn’t to catalog his behavior and sneak around trying to perform a double-blind test. In real life you’d just make the next logical step and ask him about it.

    If he is the friend you think he is, I suspect he might have a perfectly reasonable answer for it- like for example vanilla makes him feel nauseous, so even though he likes it, he can’t eat it. Note that here again, one is forced back to the realities of revelation. I have never heard of a medical test for nauseousness. This is self-reported, and must be so, by its very nature.

    The problem with your approach is that you have contradictory and inconsistent standards. For the question of God you have one set of standards. In real life you have another set of standards. For God you insist on ‘scientific’ ’empirical’ ‘non-anecdotal’ ‘demonstrations.’ But most of what you think you know has not arrive to you at all through such means.

    “They are based on testable predictions, on experiment, on things that everybody is at least theoretically capable of observing and understanding.”

    But you have not yourself carried out all the experiments yourself. You receive word of them and they are anecdotal to you. You have committed the ‘conflated we’ fallacy again. You say, “if one is to go beyond what can be falsified by human observation and reasoning” but you should capitalize the H, ‘Human’ observation. You are once again trying to lump your own experience of reality in with everyone else’s experience of reality.

    I don’t myself make arguments from personal experiences, but you must surely know that there are humans within Humanity who believe they have had direct experiences with God. “Humanity”‘s observation and reasoning does not therefore falsify so-called religious experience. Indeed, “Humanity”‘s observation and reasoning is chock full of humans embracing religion for a whole variety of reasons. Indeed, as a case in point, we could submit you, who asserts he believes in God but has no good reason to do so; it just comforts you to believe in one.

    Science is carried out by humans and the results are shared with humans. The results that are shared are done by revelation. You and I would be fools not to carefully evaluate the results given to us even by scientists- as if merely by virtue of the fact that they claim to be doing science that they do not therefore have agendas, biases, and things of that sort.

    They may have performed an experiment but it is not the experiment that is transmitted but their account of it. Some other scientist may have repeated the experiment, but once again, it is the account that is transmitted. It is an immaterial principle of epistemology that says “if more than one apparently credible source says something, it is worth paying attention to.” The principle is not a physical force, whereby it is 100% foolproof. Scientists have lied before, and in great numbers. It doesn’t make the principle flawed, it just means it can’t be the only principle employed. But at any rate, in most cases, you and I are left with the accounts of the experiments to sort out- not the experiments themselves.

    The scientists in turn must do the same thing, so that “We” “humanity” is constantly relying on the accounts of other humans for what they are “learning” in the course of their experience of reality.

    I note, however, that you are prepared to jettison the experiences of reality that other humans have that don’t match your own. You merely have decided to favor one set of accounts over another, without taking notice of the really important thing one does when evaluating accounts- determining how trustworthy the folks are generally, in order to ascertain how much weight to assign their more specific claims.

    “is based in part on rejecting the naturalism inherent in scientific reasoning.”

    I thought you were arguing for a position of neutrality? This does not sound neutral at all. You insist that my view presumes theism and then turn around and elevate a position that presumes atheism but say: “By all means, then, let us submit divine revelation and scientific knowledge to the same kind of empirical tests, starting off without assuming either the existence or non-existence of God.”

    Well. Perhaps you can explain to me how we submit both divine revelation AND scientific knowledge to the same ’empirical’ tests while at the same time maintaining that “naturalism [is] inherent in scientific reasoning.” Obviously, if this latter statement of yours is true, then no ‘scientific evidence’ for the existence of God is possible, because the nature of the reasoning excludes it a priori! No wonder you haven’t found any evidence for God! 😉

    “For the reference on the notion that God resided above the clouds, I suggest that you Google “empyrean”.”

    I didn’t ask for information documenting the claim that God resided above the clouds. You said that CHRISTIANS believed this. That is what you need to document. Feel free to do so.

  8. The “empyrean” sphere or heaven where God resides appears to have been familiar to both St. Augustine and St. Aquinas; it is thoroughly explored in Dante’s Divine Comedy; are you going to argue that these three were not Christians? Their belief, in terms of what people knew at the time, was perfectly reasonable. Heaven was physically above the Earth, and nobody living had flown, so there was no way to test it. Now it has been tested, and Heaven is not there, so Christians have retreated to placing Heaven somewhere nebulously Other where mere human astronomy cannot detect it. In just the same way, Jesus’s and Christians’ belief that much ill-health was caused by demons has receded in the face of science’s discovery of observable causes for many human diseases.

    “having established that someone is trustworthy generally, the revelation then trumps the behavior.”

    I have met otherwise entirely trustworthy people who hold a variety of beliefs about whether God exists and what his nature is. It must therefore be the case that people’s assertions about the realm of the supernatural bear little or no relationship to the truthfulness of their comments in general.

    You claim to have a relationship of trust with God. Wonderful: I am glad for you. I don’t “jettison” it; instead, I place it in context with the other anecdotal evidence I have. But as Thomas Paine ably points out, what to you is revelation cannot be revelation to me, but only hearsay. I can only weigh it equally with the testimony of my other friends who claim to have experienced the Divine in other ways, or who claim not to have experienced it at all. What is it that would lead me to treat your experience as the true one, and theirs as being false?

    Indeed we do examine the results of scientific experiments at second hand, and it is relatively few people who have the training to evaluate the quality of the claims scientists make. My wife is, as it happens, a well-published social scientist, and I have closely observed the peer-review process at work. On the whole, most scientific work is of good quality, meaning that their work can be replicated or built upon by others. Sometimes it is not: the scientists who proposed “cold fusion” found that others could not replicate their experiments or build machines that took advantage of cold fusion power; their work was therefore of poor quality. Or so I hear, and can reasonably assume to be true on the basis of the utter absence of cold fusion-powered machines in the world around us.

    You argue that prayer is not “100% foolproof”, even though, as Lewis points out, Jesus very specifically and definitely advises Christians to pray for the recovery of the sick, and Jesus himself believed prayer to be effective in healing. If it is effective in healing, then that ought to be testable, because we can observe whether somebody is sick or well, whether their tumors are larger or smaller, and so on. It should be possible to design an experiment that would settle the matter. The fact that you think it immoral to test it only suggests to me that you fear that the result of such an experiment would be to show the ineffectiveness of prayer to heal the sick, and that you’re comfortable with the many thousands of deaths that occur annually because people trust to non-scientific methods of healing.

    You are right to identify that I am placing the onus of demonstrating the existence of a supernatural realm on you, rather than the other way around. I do not think that is unfair. If the supernatural realm has any influence on the natural realm, that influence should be observable and testable through well-designed experiments. If it doesn’t have any influence, then the supernatural realm either does not exist or does not matter.

    My cousin Susan is dying of cancer right now. She fell under the influence of quacks who suggested that chemotherapy doesn’t really work but that vitamin B shots would. We are desperately hoping that she will live, and I am praying to my illogical God to do whatever He can to save her life (hey, it might work! the matter is not yet proven). But the fact remains that she would have had a better chance of survival if she had trusted in scientifically proven medicine rather than the word of the quacks she trusted. As a cancer survivor myself, I feel deeply about this. When I fell sick, I read academic articles about my cancer, and did my best to evaluate for myself what the best course of treatment would be. Science offers us that possibility; religion offers us only an empty trust in a being who may or may not exist and who, if he exists, may capriciously intervene to assist us. Or not. It’s his call.

  9. “If the supernatural realm has any influence on the natural realm, that influence should be observable and testable through well-designed experiments. If it doesn’t have any influence, then the supernatural realm either does not exist or does not matter.”

    Ever hear of the Placebo Effect? That’s one prominent example of the natural realm being effected by the non-physical realm.

    “But the fact remains that she would have had a better chance of survival if she had trusted in scientifically proven medicine rather than the word of the quacks she trusted.”

    This is contradicting since I’m sure you have not actually personally examined the “proven medicine”, and are just taking the word of others as much as she took the word of the “quacks” which mya have had “scientifically proven” results to back up their claim.

    It’s clear your views are clouded by bad personal experience. But you’re still missing the point SJ is making. You can get away with the scientific method to examine things like physical illness by the very nature of the thing being “physical”. For God as Christianity has described him, it’s simply not so.

    Your appeal to prominent Christians and simple literary pieces is just a cop-out to SJ’s challange that you show CHRISTIANITY ever held God being in the physical sky and such. The fact is you can not. No one has ever said Dante’s work is to be taken as Christian canon. And it’s the fact that you attempt to do so that shows you really aren’t arguing against the Christian position at all, but just your strawman version of it.

  10. I have read the scientific literature, and have found plenty of evidence that radiation and chemotherapy are efficacious against cancer, and none that vitamin shots are efficacious.

    This is my whole point: even if in neither case one is personally conducting the experiment, in only one case does the evidence appear to be soundly based on systematically collected and observed results. The “revelatory” belief that chemo is effective against cancer is simply not the same as the “revelatory” belief that vitamin shots, or prayer, or throwing salt over your shoulder, is effective against cancer, and it’s futile for you to pretend that it is. I would very much hope that, if you happen to be diagnosed with cancer, you will base your decisions about your treatment on what has been reliably demonstrated to be effective.

    First you asked me whether “CHRISTIANS” had held that God resided above the sky. I gave three examples of prominent Christians. Now you are shifting your ground to argue that only Christians whose writings are “Christian canon” count. Outside the Bible, it would be hard to find two more influential writers in Christian history than St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. If you mean the Bible only, then say so; let me know your criteria with respect to this, and it will be easy to meet them. My only criterion for you is that you do not gratuitously restrict “CHRISTIANS” to people living after scientific discoveries had made it plain that heaven, wherever it is, is not “above the sky.” Last, if you think that The Divine Comedy is a “simple literary piece”, then I can only think that you have never read it.

    If you define your God consistently as being non-physical, then why is it that Jesus believes the power of God to be capable of real, physical healing? The God of the Bible makes physical appearances, talks about his face and his “back parts”, and has real physical effects on the physical world. If the God you believe in is an entirely dematerialized God separate from and not influencing the physical world, then indeed it is not possible to conduct experiments like the prayer experiment that will attest to God’s existence, but it will not be the biblical God you’re believing in. Last, of course, there is nothing non-physical about the placebo effect. Our brains, our neurons, and the signals between our neurons are all physical objects, and physically feeling better after taking a sugar pill is a physical effect. Medicines are considered effective only if they are systematically more effective than a sugar pill, not if they have any effect at all.

  11. @End Bringer,

    Sorry to have conflated your points with Anthony’s, and to have missed your earlier post.

    Microwave radiation has been observed to exist. Invisible dragons have not been observed to exist, and by definition cannot be observed.

    When I talk about empirical evidence, I am not talking about individual and unsystematic observations gathered in an uncontrolled environment. It is of course the case that sometimes after people pray for a sick person, the person gets well, but to argue from that that prayer works is a well-known logical fallacy (“post hoc ergo propter hoc”, or “after this, therefore because of this”). What would actually show whether praying for a sick person works better than not praying for a sick person is an experiment of the kind I outline.

    The multiverse is an example of a very new conjecture that would, if true, explain certain anomalies that have been observed in previous scientific experiments. No experiment has yet been devised that would show whether the multiverse exists. When one is devised and is performed, we will see whether the experimental evidence backs it up or not. If it does, it will become a scientific theory as opposed to a conjecture. “String theory” is similarly at present a conjecture rather than a scientific theory proper, because the power required to run an experiment that would provide evidence for it is so enormous that it is economically infeasible to test it at present. So, at present, while I find the notion of a multiverse intriguing, I cannot term it “true” or “demonstrated” in any way.

  12. “Microwave radiation has been observed to exist. Invisible dragons have not been observed to exist, and by definition cannot be observed.”

    You missed the point. You’ve likely never personally studied microwave radiation, and so can’t say you’ve personally observed it and scrutinized it. And your earlier comment explicitly indicated all a microwave need do is ‘work’ for you to accept a given explanation as true.

    Clearly you weren’t being entirely candid. You won’t accept a given explanation unless it conforms to your naturalistic beliefs. However that begs the question, when it comes to the existance of things that are, by definition, non-physical. Basicly you’re demanding that the only tool of investigation is our eyes, and if we look for something invisible (like gravity), we must dismiss it as not existing because we can’t see it.

    This is nonsensical.

    “What would actually show whether praying for a sick person works better than not praying for a sick person is an experiment of the kind I outline.”

    Such an experiment can never work in principle for the reasons SJ has outlined. Again, prayer has never been treated as some kind of “magic” or force like gravity. Though, given how many people die even after “scientificly proven” medicine was used, one could probably dismiss the entire medical practice under the same reasoning.

    “The multiverse is an example of a very new conjecture that would, if true, explain certain anomalies that have been observed in previous scientific experiments.”

    That’s your personal view on the matter, and I’m glad. Many people, including scientists, have a different say and hold that it’s just as “proven” as chemotherapy. That’s why if you’re being honest you can admit that the “science theories” is not without it’s own myths people choose to believe and keep that in mind when discussing other’s beliefs.

  13. “Again, prayer has never been treated as some kind of ‘magic’ or force like gravity.”

    I commend you if you do not hold that view. If only the average believer in the street thought the same.

  14. “Ba[sic]ly you’re demanding that the only tool of investigation is our eyes, and if we look for something invisible (like gravity), we must dismiss it as not existing because we can’t see it.”

    Haha, I really don’t think that’s what Alex is saying at all.

  15. I include in “observation” things that can be measured and quantified with instruments. So, microwave radiation can be measured and quantified with instruments; the chi-force in traditional Chinese medicine cannot be measured or quantified with instruments; therefore, though both are invisible to the naked eye, microwaves have been observed and the chi-force has not. That’s not so hard, is it?

    Yes, some people die after chemotherapy. Some people die after treating their cancer with vitamins. But the whole point of science is that, through systematic analysis, it is possible to determine that significantly fewer people die after using chemotherapy than die after using vitamins.

    Therapies for cancer are NOT simply a matter of all-equally-valid personal taste, and if someone chooses a therapy that has been shown time and time again to have no significant effect on average over a therapy that has been shown time and time again to work, then they are either dumb or deluded.

    I will entertain any conjecture whatsoever, and I do my best to keep an open mind; but once a conjecture has been backed up by experimental evidence, it acquires truth content relative to its opposite. The proposition that chemotherapy does not on average improve outcomes for cancer patients has been adequately discredited, and there is no need to give equal time to it.

    The reasons Anthony advanced for why the prayer experiment would not work are ludicrous. There is nothing in Christian thought that would preclude Christians from praying for every patient they are told about, simply on the ground that other people exist who are being prayed for by members of other religions or who are not being prayed for. That is always the case when one prays. When you pray for your cousin to recover, or for the casualties of the earthquake in Haiti or any other thing, it is not considered immoral to not add in all the other people in the world who have had anything happen to them. Any specific petitionary prayer is inherently exclusive in nature, and no Church forbids specific petitionary prayers. Anthony is simply trying to find a reason not to conduct an experiment that might show that prayer doesn’t work.

    Fortunately, however, I have found out that we need not speak entirely hypothetically, because the American Heart Journal published in 2006 the results of a randomized trial of the effect of intercessory prayer on outcomes for cardiac patients: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002870305006496.

    No improved outcomes were found for patients who were prayed for or who thought they were prayed for; in fact, those certain of being prayed for had a higher rate of complications than those who were uncertain about whether they would be prayed for.

    A natural interpretation one can draw from this is that people like to think that God is more likely to heal someone that they are praying for, and that that thought is consoling to them in a time of trouble; but that it doesn’t actually, on average, make a blind bit of difference to the patient’s recovery; in fact, it’s possible that the confidence people repose in prayer to heal them may, all other things being equal, make them less willing to consider more scientific methods of treatment.

    On the multiverse, I would appreciate you giving me a link to any article by ANY scientist working on multiverse conjectures who regards the notion of a multiverse as having been experimentally demonstrated.

  16. How interesting. I mention an actual, randomized experiment showing that intercessory prayer has no effect on cancer patients, and suddenly the thread goes silent.

    See, here’s the difference between you and me. I actually cared what science had to say on the subject of whether prayer worked, and was curious enough to risk being proved wrong (the researchers could have found an effect from prayer). You, on the other hand, couldn’t give two hoots about what science says unless it happens to serve your agenda of demonstrating that Christianity is the one true faith. That shows pretty clearly that the kind of “revelation” you rely on is not the same as the kind that I and people like me rely on.

    I stand with the endlessly curious people, and whatever your own disposition, you stand with the people who limit their curiosity.

    Your faith’s continued existence depends on people being willing to not look too closely at it, and particularly to not test the parts of it that can be tested. You want to give Christianity the patina of something that is at a minimum equally valid as naturalistic scientific reasoning, without submitting your faith to the kind of scrutiny that scientists proposing a new theory would be required to undergo. It will not work. I wish that it would – it would make my own Christianity much easier – but Christianity does not have the necessary logical coherence to stand that scrutiny.

  17. “See, here’s the difference between you and me. I actually cared what science had to say on the subject of whether prayer worked, and was curious enough to risk being proved wrong (the researchers could have found an effect from prayer).”

    Or rather, we have a life beyond the internet, and don’t feel like waisting time on a guy who can’t grasp the flaw in the concept of trying to detect invisible things through his eyes.

    “That shows pretty clearly that the kind of “revelation” you rely on is not the same as the kind that I and people like me rely on.”

    Seeing how you’ve conceded that pretty much 95% of the ‘scientific’ information you believe in you recieved through word-of-mouth than your own experience, it actually pretty clearly shows the point of the blog post.

    “Your faith’s continued existence depends on people being willing to not look too closely at it, and particularly to not test the parts of it that can be tested.”

    Or rather not test it with ways that CAN’T test it, even in principle. Again, all your ranting shows is a guy who can’t grasp the concept that investigating truths aren’t limited to the scientific method, and who’s behaviour in life pretty much contradicts your spoken objections, as I’m sure you except figure’s like Napolean or Alexander the Great and the events that surround them despite the fact there’s no randomized experiment to test THEIR existence.

  18. “I include in “observation” things that can be measured and quantified with instruments.”

    You obviously miss the point. You’re calling for us to “observe” something by using a method that CAN’T observe the thing in question by it’s very nature. That’s essentially no different than trying to “observe” microwave radiation and saying the only method we can use is our naked eye. It’s nonsensical.

    “Yes, some people die after chemotherapy. Some people die after treating their cancer with vitamins. But the whole point of science is that, through systematic analysis, it is possible to determine that significantly fewer people die after using chemotherapy than die after using vitamins.”

    So? Your argument basicly implies if something doesn’t work 100% of the time, it basicly proves it doesn’t work/exist. Otherwise, pointing to the people who remain sick even when prayer is used, is useless to dismiss prayer.

    “Therapies for cancer are NOT simply a matter of all-equally-valid personal taste…”

    True, which is why it’s OK to use science as a method of testing. However, prayer is NOT an unintelligent naturalistic force that will have the same result every time it’s used. And as such your calls for scientific observation on the matter is meaningless.

    “Fortunately, however, I have found out that we need not speak entirely hypothetically, because the American Heart Journal published in 2006 the results of a randomized trial of the effect of intercessory prayer on outcomes for cardiac patients:”

    Which was and is an entirely useless endeavor. What? You think when a test is shown to be useless and ineffectual in theory that if someone does it in actuality, it becomes legitimate?

    Again, given how prayer is NOT an unintelligent naturalistic force, it’s more akin to trying to test if I’ll eat chocolate icecream every single time I’m offered it. Obviously the results are going to vary given I’m NOT an unintelligent naturalistic force and have a choice in the matter.

    This notion that ‘prayer’ is a majic pill to cure all the world’s ills is simply a strawman of your own creation.

    “On the multiverse, I would appreciate you giving me a link to any article by ANY scientist working on multiverse conjectures who regards the notion of a multiverse as having been experimentally demonstrated.”

    You’ve followed Stephen Hawking, right? I don’t claim ANY scientist believes the multiveres has been “experimentally demonstrated”, per se. I claim that many regard it as “proven” none the less, simply because it helps a few current scientific theories (and helps avoid evidence for God’s existence).

  19. As ever, End Bringer, you are arguing from a faulty and over-narrow understanding of the “scientific method”. You simply don’t understand that the scientific method does not require ocular, direct, personal observation.

    The scientific method is nothing more than the principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses that can be falsified through that testing. What do archeologists do, if not science?

    Turning to the “prayer experiment”, you’re arguing that the experiment could not have measured prayer having an effect on the patients, and that “prayer is NOT an unintelligent naturalistic force that will have the same result every time it’s used.” Again, your definitions are at fault. Prayer doesn’t have to work 100% of the time for it to be measurable; it only has to work to a small extent some of the time or on some of the patients and not others, such that for the size of the group tested, the effect is significant relative to the patient outcomes for the control group. But that is statistics, and you have already in prior conversations shown that you do not understand how statistics works either.

    Based on this study’s failure to find a result, I am perfectly entitled to claim that intercessory prayer for the recovery of sick people does not work. You can claim, if you wish, that there are special reasons why your God chose not to intervene to answer the prayers of the people praying for the cardiac patients in the experiment, but your argument will then not be based on any evidence at all. If you wish to claim for your religion that it has evidence for it that is comparable to the evidence for scientific findings, then you must limit yourself to propositions for which there is measurable evidence.

    “I don’t claim ANY scientist believes the multiveres has been “experimentally demonstrated”, per se. I claim that many regard it as “proven” none the less, simply because it helps a few current scientific theories (and helps avoid evidence for God’s existence).”

    This is BS, End Bringer. Quote a scientist for me, then, who believes that the multiverse conjecture has been “proven”. You won’t be able to do that either. Yes, as a conjecture, it would hypothetically solve some problems thrown up by current scientific theories. That’s what a conjecture is for. But no scientist, not Hawking nor any other scientist, will argue that something has been “proven” when nobody has yet devised a way to test whether it is true.

  20. “As ever, End Bringer, you are arguing from a faulty and over-narrow understanding of the “scientific method”. You simply don’t understand that the scientific method does not require ocular, direct, personal observation.”

    No, it actually does. Or are you contending absolutely no one personally conducts and observes an experiment and it’s results?

    “What do archeologists do, if not science?”

    Archeology. Obviously. Which isn’t the “sceintific method” at all. The “scientific method” is: Observe, Hypothesis, Experimentation, Repeat. Obviously there’s no way to repeat past events like the American Revolution, let alone experiment on it.

    Seems “over-narrow understanding” is simply a paraphrase for “correct understanding.”

    “Again, your definitions are at fault.”

    Yeah, it’s a real problem for your misconcetptions when the actual nature of the thing is explained, isn’t it?

    “Prayer doesn’t have to work 100% of the time for it to be measurable; it only has to work to a small extent some of the time or on some of the patients and not others, such that for the size of the group tested, the effect is significant relative to the patient outcomes for the control group.”

    Which is ultimately faulty as has been explained: no one with any amount of genuine piety would pray for one group and not for the other. Also, you seem to contradict your earlier dismissal of examples where prayer DID work. So which is it?

    “Based on this study’s failure to find a result, I am perfectly entitled to claim that intercessory prayer for the recovery of sick people does not work.”

    You can claim logic doesn’t exsist because you can’t physically detect it. As I said before – such efforts ar akin to looking for something invisible with your eyes. Or trying to measure something’s weight with a ruler. Or trying to detect sounds by smelling them with your nose. When you use a method that can’t detect the thing in question in principle, it’s going to be doomed to failure from the start.

    “If you wish to claim for your religion that it has evidence for it that is comparable to the evidence for scientific findings, then you must limit yourself to propositions for which there is measurable evidence.”

    With the exception of ID, I don’t think anyone’s made that claim. What this blog has pointed out is that what you supposedly “know” has been transmitted in the same way the Bible transmits it’s knowledge – through someone else telling you.

    “That’s what a conjecture is for.”

    And this is the sort of nonsense I see a lot when talking about other so-called “scientific” proof in support of atheism, ie evolution. “It’s just a theory.” is the mantra I’ve often heard. If you think no one takes such things (including the multiverse) as “proven”
    fact then you’ve been living in a cave.

  21. It’s a real problem when somebody purports to discuss what is and is not the scientific method, based on a private definition that does not match common dictionary definitions. Your private definition of the scientific method has no purpose or validity other than to be convenient for your argument, and I am not obligated to respect it. If you want to convince others, you must be willing to at least use definitions common between the people discussing.

    Here’s an example to illustrate this. It would be rather frustrating for you if you wanted to discuss whether Brazil was a good country to visit, and I insisted on only talking about whether the province of Tocantins in Brazil was good to visit, while simultaneously declaring that Tocantins was the only province in Brazil. That is what you are doing in this discussion about the scientific method.

    I did not previously present examples where prayer worked. I presented the hypothetical case where recovery happened after people prayed, and pointed out that to think that the one caused the other is a logical fallacy. Presumably the person also recovered after the sun rose and after he spoke to his wife that morning, but that doesn’t mean that sunrise or that conversation caused his recovery, capisce? You can only reliably find out what causes what and conclusively rule out other explanations by using the scientific method.

    Your continued insistence that it is somehow un-Christian to specify who you are praying for runs contrary to Christian practice in every Christian service. How does praying for the specified people the study’s authors let you know about differ from, say, a pastor’s invitation to his congregation to pray for the victims of Hurricane Katrina?

    You decided not to respond to my challenge to find a quote from a scientist who says that the multiverse conjecture has been proven, so let’s consider your allegation retracted. In actual fact, scientists are by their profession very conscious of what has been proven and what has not. Why not try being similarly conscious yourself?

  22. “It’s a real problem when somebody purports to discuss what is and is not the scientific method, based on a private definition that does not match common dictionary definitions.”

    You mean dictionary’s that have changed the “meaning” over the recent years as many “scientificly proven” matters can’t follow the simple method of experimentation and repeatability (like the multiverse)?

    I’d have to wonder what dictionary you are using as I’ve quite accurately described the scientific method as noted here:

    http://teacher.nsrl.rochester.edu/phy_labs/AppendixE/AppendixE.html

    “If you want to convince others, you must be willing to at least use definitions common between the people discussing.”

    Highly hypocritical coming from a guy who doesn’t seem to grasp the meaning of such terms as “prayer” and “Chrsitiantiy” and forms his arguments accordingly.

    “I did not previously present examples where prayer worked. I presented the hypothetical case where recovery happened after people prayed, and pointed out that to think that the one caused the other is a logical fallacy.”

    And yet you demand that if an experiment took place, such a result would happen if true. That’s highly contridicting. It seems if such an experiment wouldn’t matter if you’d just dismiss it as you do now.

    “Your continued insistence that it is somehow un-Christian to specify who you are praying for runs contrary to Christian practice in every Christian service.”

    So? If you want to discuss the validity of “prayer” as the Bible describes the practice and lays out how Christians are to follow, pointing to people who aren’t following the practice as it’s instructed is irrelevant. You might as well give examples where people pray to win the lottery.

    “How does praying for the specified people the study’s authors let you know about differ from, say, a pastor’s invitation to his congregation to pray for the victims of Hurricane Katrina?”

    Pretty much because the Bible calls for faithful Christian followers to pray for all people in all situations all the time. Yeah, there are some times where specific people or events come to the forefront of people’s attention, but it’s contradicting to the nature of Christianity to specifcly NOT pray for someone, which would be necesssary in the experiment you’re calling for.

    It’s simply not going to work. To say nothing of the fact you still miss the point that “prayer” has never been described as a magic lamp to grant any wish given.

    “You decided not to respond to my challenge to find a quote from a scientist who says that the multiverse conjecture has been proven, so let’s consider your allegation retracted.”

    You’ve decided to dismiss the works of a very prominant scientist who DOES support the multiverse as true, so I’ll consider you just running away from the fact that the scientific community is not wholely the bastion of rationality you seem to believe it is.

  23. We’re not talking about whether Stephen Hawking considers the multiverse conjecture/hypothesis to be one reasonable possible explanation of discrepancies in current theories – it seems clear that he does, but that’s exactly what a conjecture is supposed to be. What I’m looking for, and what you asserted that “scientists” believe, is him saying that he considers the multiverse conjecture to have been “proven.”

    For the definition of the scientific method, I used Merriam-Webster; but even in the link you provide, it is clear that they do not limit the scientific method to what can be observed with the eye rather than with instruments. If they were indeed using “observation” to mean with the eye only, then phrases in your link such as “the observation of a new particle” would be obviously nonsensical. It simply didn’t occur to the writers that anybody would be dumb enough to take their use of the word “observation” in that way, but hey, clearly somebody is.

    What they do insist on, though (and again, I’m using your link), is that we come to know what we know through systematic experimentation, which is precisely what the scientists who designed the “prayer experiment” were trying to do. The difference between relying on the results of this experiment and not relying on the results of anecdote is precisely that the experiment is systematic and identifies and rules out potential sources of error, whereas an anecdote cannot.

    It is also worth observing that this is not the only experiment that has been done: a variety of studies of intercessory prayer performed over the course of more than a century have failed to find any effect. This is simply the latest, largest and best-constructed.

    Here is a theologian’s letter when the experiment was first proposed, which echoes some of your concerns. http://www.davidmyers.org/davidmyers/assets/prayer-letter.pdf. He contends, quite fairly, that the way some Christians view prayer makes it inherently unsusceptible to scientific testing. Ultimately, however, his concerns and yours that “we should not put God to the test” simply go to prove my broader point that Christianity is at heart anti-scientific and anti-rational. Rather than rejecting the efficacy of prayer, the response of Christian thinkers like him and you is to reject the validity of science in terms of knowing what we know. He pursues what Karl Popper calls an “immunization strategy” to ensure that his beliefs can never be falsified. I don’t blame him for it, but let’s be clear about what he and you are doing.

    You are, of course, free to claim that, while nothing testable has shown that prayer has any significant effect, you prefer to continue to believe in something unobservable and untestable that nonetheless permeates the whole structure of how we should live our lives. I like to call this the “Invisible Pink Dragon” theory, and you’re welcome to it, but don’t pretend that it has an equal amount of evidence going for it than the absence of an invisible pink dragon.

    You should drop your illusions about the nature of your belief. I know that I believe in God in the teeth of every scientific instinct I have; I don’t twist things to try and make my belief equally valid and universally applicable as carefully demonstrated science.

  24. “What I’m looking for, and what you asserted that “scientists” believe, is him saying that he considers the multiverse conjecture to have been “proven.””

    When you present “conjecture” as if it’s true, and argue accordingly there’s not as much room for ambiguity as you’d like Alex.

    “For the definition of the scientific method, I used Merriam-Webster; but even in the link you provide, it is clear that they do not limit the scientific method to what can be observed with the eye rather than with instruments.”

    I’ve explained it 3 different times that “limited to the eye” is just an example of your demand that we be limited to the scientific method. As the eye can’t detect the invisible, neither can the scientific method detect God or the effects of “prayer”.

    I’ll use another example just to see if you are actually reading (hopefully you’ll comprehend): It’s equivalent to trying to detect sounds with your nose. Obviously it won’t happen by the very nature of sound and how the nose functions. Comprende?

    Now if you somehow discern from this that I’m saying the scientifc method can only be observed by the nose, I will simply conclude that you probably DO get the point and are just dodging.

    “The difference between relying on the results of this experiment and not relying on the results of anecdote is precisely that the experiment is systematic and identifies and rules out potential sources of error, whereas an anecdote cannot.”

    You can systematicly try to smell different instruments playing. It’s not going to matter.

    “It is also worth observing that this is not the only experiment that has been done: a variety of studies of intercessory prayer performed over the course of more than a century have failed to find any effect. This is simply the latest, largest and best-constructed.”

    Repeating something that will always fail from the start, just shows a lack of comprehension. Again, I point out you can try to use the nose to detect sounds from a song a thousand and one times. It’s going to fail everytime from the beginning.

    “Ultimately, however, his concerns and yours that “we should not put God to the test” simply go to prove my broader point that Christianity is at heart anti-scientific and anti-rational.”

    No, it goes to prove that atheists are (at heart) largely ignorant (intentionally or not) about the nature of what is trying to be detected and constantly demand a flawed and rigged system of investigation. I’m perfectly happy to “put God to the test [of detection]”. I simply demand the test be fair and have an actual chance to work. Scientific experiments don’t qualify.

    “Rather than rejecting the efficacy of prayer, the response of Christian thinkers like him and you is to reject the validity of science in terms of knowing what we know. He pursues what Karl Popper calls an “immunization strategy” to ensure that his beliefs can never be falsified. I don’t blame him for it, but let’s be clear about what he and you are doing.”

    hehehehe. Karl Popper, like you, misunderstands what is actually being argued. It’s not the rejection of the validity of science in knowing what we know. It’s rejection to this atheistic idea that science is the ONLY valid way in knowing what we know and can detect all things. It isn’t and it can’t. Sure I can concede it may be “unfalsifiable”, but sadly for you there are many things that can’t be falsified yet are none the less true. Do you have a way of falsifying the validity of “logic”?

    “I like to call this the “Invisible Pink Dragon” theory, and you’re welcome to it, but don’t pretend that it has an equal amount of evidence going for it than the absence of an invisible pink dragon.”

    I call this the “hypocriscy theory”. In that you in all likely hood accept past events and historic figures as true despite them not being observable or testable today. And yet the evidence for the Bible (specificly Christ) is equal or greater than any other historical matter you can likely name.

    “You should drop your illusions about the nature of your belief. I know that I believe in God in the teeth of every scientific instinct I have; I don’t twist things to try and make my belief equally valid and universally applicable as carefully demonstrated science.”

    You should educate yourself better about the natures of the things you are arguing about.

  25. End Bringer,

    You do nothing but cherry pick and throw insults because you are retarded. I bet you heard that a lot till you dropped out of school.

    You are a pathetic result of google. You really don’t know anything…..just google a piece here, a piece there. The result is you look stupid. Karl popper….doubtful you ever read him….

    I bet when Alex reads that reply. He says to himself:
    Why am I trying to communicate with this moron. You just twist truth like a little dog running around a tree with a short rope.

    Look I can throw insults just like you!!!!!!!

  26. “You do nothing but cherry pick and throw insults because you are retarded.”

    The hypocriscy here is so thick.

    “Look I can throw insults just like you!!!!!!!”

    Actually no, I like to think I do it with more finesse and polite condescension than the grade school showing you give. 😉

  27. Hey, something we can agree on. The evidence for Jesus’s existence is excellent.

    The evidence for his divinity? Well, not so much. Such a thing cannot be proved using a narrative, no matter how deeply the narrator believed in the notion of his divinity. If it were proven by the narrator’s depth of belief, then the Koran would indubitably prove that Mohammed was the Prophet of God.

    On whether Stephen Hawking thinks that the multiverse conjecture is “proven”, your description of his argument shows that I am correct. He conjectures that it might be true because it resolves certain problems with existing theories, and constructs a hypothesis of what would happen if it happened to be true. This, like Einstein’s beam of light, is called a “thought experiment.” It does not suggest that Hawking considers the conjecture to have been proven.

    I simply demand the test be fair and have an actual chance to work. Scientific experiments don’t qualify. […] It’s not the rejection of the validity of science in knowing what we know. It’s rejection to this atheistic idea that science is the ONLY valid way in knowing what we know and can detect all things. It isn’t and it can’t. Sure I can concede it may be “unfalsifiable”, but sadly for you there are many things that can’t be falsified yet are none the less true.”

    And there, your honor, my case rests. I don’t think I could have formulated on your behalf a clearer statement demonstrating that Christianity is fundamentally anti-rational. Poor Anthony, hoping that apologists can use the tools of science to advance the case for Christianity. End Bringer has just shown very clearly how futile that effort is.

  28. “The evidence for Jesus’s existence is excellent.”

    Not really.

  29. “Hey, something we can agree on. The evidence for Jesus’s existence is excellent.

    The evidence for his divinity? Well, not so much. Such a thing cannot be proved using a narrative, no matter how deeply the narrator believed in the notion of his divinity. If it were proven by the narrator’s depth of belief, then the Koran would indubitably prove that Mohammed was the Prophet of God.”

    *snort* This is what I mean by ‘hypocrisy’ given that the better part of the evidence for Christ’s existence goes hand-in-hand with evidence for his divinity (which is why people like Timmy dismiss his existence as a whole). And it’s again a sign of a lack of knoweldge between the events described around Christ as opposed to the events described surrounding Mohammed.

    Would you agree that an event where thousands witness someone taking food out of a single basket and having enough to feed everyone is catagorically different and more credible than a single guy claiming to have witnessed an angel?

    Even then, I’m perfectly happy to concede Mohammed may have indeed saw an ‘angel’ or such if the evidence stands up to consistant standards one uses to know if the Fall of the Bastille was true. Difference being I’m not closed minded in dismissing the supernatural as impossible out of hand, while demanding we use a mthod of investigation that can never detect it.

    “He conjectures that it might be true because it resolves certain problems with existing theories, and constructs a hypothesis of what would happen if it happened to be true. This, like Einstein’s beam of light, is called a “thought experiment.” It does not suggest that Hawking considers the conjecture to have been proven.”

    His subsequent books like Why God Did Not Create the Universe and multiple speeches advocating the belief begs to differ.

    “And there, your honor, my case rests. I don’t think I could have formulated on your behalf a clearer statement demonstrating that Christianity is fundamentally anti-rational. Poor Anthony, hoping that apologists can use the tools of science to advance the case for Christianity. End Bringer has just shown very clearly how futile that effort is.”

    And there we see you giving up. Anthony’s argument about atheistic attitudes that apologetics and reasoned arguments can’t answer is proven. I merely point out science is not the only means of investigation and by it’s very nature can’t answer the issue of God’s existance or the effectiveness of prayer, and you simply turn to dismissal and mockery (your argument on this point has been little more than assertion anyway). JR will be so angry in having complained about SJ’s “generalization” being false so vehemently.

    It also proves my statement about atheists demanding science being the only way to know things even though we go every day knowing things without using the scientific method on them. Tell me Alex, how many scientific experiments did you perform to know that science is the only way (or apparently the only rational way) to know things? Seems like that knowledge can’t hold up to it’s own standard, doesn’t it? 😉

  30. Would you agree that an event where thousands witness someone taking food out of a single basket and having enough to feed everyone is catagorically different and more credible than a single guy claiming to have witnessed an angel?

    Not really. In fact, Christ’s alleged miracle becomes less credible, since the event was supposedly witnessed by thousands, but still only mentioned by a couple of Christian writers. Much like the zombies mentioned by Matthew.

    Also, would you agree that an event where thousands witness someone [splitting the moon in half] is catagorically different and more credible than a single [woman] claiming to have witnessed an angel [telling her god had just knocked her up]?

  31. “Not really. In fact, Christ’s alleged miracle becomes less credible, since the event was supposedly witnessed by thousands, but still only mentioned by a couple of Christian writers. Much like the zombies mentioned by Matthew.”

    *snort* Considering Christ’s public appearances were to the common masses, it’s a little naive to expect most of them to be literate at the time, or professional historians. And yet, the number of people who converted to Christianity after Christ’s death and resurrection took off at a pretty high rate in the areas where his “alleged miracles” occured. Think that may have had something to do with them actually witnessing the events in question, maybe?

  32. “And yet, the number of people who converted to Christianity after Christ’s death and resurrection took off at a pretty high rate in the areas where his “alleged miracles” occured.” Source? Made up? Thought so.

  33. I thought you might say something like that. I don’t know a lot about middle eastern literacy rates at that time, but yes, I think it likely that most people who partook of the never-ending fish-and-bread-a-thon didn’t know how to read or write. But there must have been at least a few of them, and a miraculous event of that size would surely have made its way to the ears of at least a few contemporary, secular historians.

    And what about the earthquake and zombies mentioned in Matthew? That must have been pretty newsworthy!

    Did you have a response to the last paragraph of my previous post…?

  34. tony and endbringer
    I have one question – this one is so easy even endbringer should be able to answer clearly.

    Do you accept the Bible as the word of God and 100% true – in its entirety?

    Just man up and state your position.
    Yes or no.

    C’mon boys. Suck it up. You can do it.

    It’s not a question you can Google. The answer already resides in your heart and in your mind.
    Even as you read this, no matter your reaction to me or my asking, you have an answer.

    I’ll take you at your word. It is an answer you can give without providing any evidence.

    Say it.

    Write one word or the other: either yes or no.

    So, what say you:
    Do you accept the Bible as the word of God and 100% true – in its entirety?

    Yes or no.

  35. Tell me Alex, how many scientific experiments did you perform to know that science is the only way (or apparently the only rational way) to know things?

    The proof’s in the pudding, EB. And everyone loves pudding.

  36. “I thought you might say something like that. I don’t know a lot about middle eastern literacy rates at that time, but yes, I think it likely that most people who partook of the never-ending fish-and-bread-a-thon didn’t know how to read or write. But there must have been at least a few of them, and a miraculous event of that size would surely have made its way to the ears of at least a few contemporary, secular historians.”

    Uh, no. Israel was a conquered providence of the Roman Empire at the time. Not too many “contemporary secular historians” would be immediately interested in some Jewish Rabbi from a back-water nation. Heck, it lends credence to Christ having a big impact that people like Tacitus noted him at all.

    And if they did, it’s doubtful they would have remained “contemporary secular historians” and you’d likely dismiss such accounts as being biased, instead of people witnessing events as true and converting because of them.

    “And what about the earthquake and zombies mentioned in Matthew? That must have been pretty newsworthy!”

    Which was why it’s noted in the Gospels. Like I said, Israel wasn’t exactly up-scale as compared to other areas of the world at the time. And there wasn’t exactly TV or the internet to spread news instantaneously either. Those who would write about such events had to have an immediate interest in Christ at the time – and you simply dismiss it as biased!

    “Did you have a response to the last paragraph of my previous post…?”

    As it was largely just facitious mockery, I ignored it. But to answer – yes. ANY event where thousands have witnessed in public is more credible than single events witnessed by an individual (though that doesn’t dismiss the individual’s account as untrue a priori). As such if I looked up at the sky and found the two halfs far apart in their locations, I’d accept such an account. Because we already accept such accounts for other historical matters. It’s only when we get to events that don’t conform to your beliefs that you suddenly demand higher standards of evidence.

  37. “The proof’s in the pudding, EB. And everyone loves pudding.”

    Not when that pudding stains one’s world view, apparently. 😉

  38. Um, no, it wasn’t facetious mockery at all. It was highlighting the inconsistency of your position with respect to Islam. Thousands must have witnessed Mohammad splitting the moon in two, but we have only Mary’s word that the angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced that she had the Son in the oven.

    Not too many “contemporary secular historians” would be immediately interested in some Jewish Rabbi from a back-water nation.

    Not even someone who could walk on water, raise people from the dead, cure the blind and leprous, and infect porcine unfortunates with demonic troublemakers? That seems like a stretch.

  39. “Um, no, it wasn’t facetious mockery at all. It was highlighting the inconsistency of your position with respect to Islam. Thousands must have witnessed Mohammad splitting the moon in two, but we have only Mary’s word that the angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced that she had the Son in the oven.”

    Except it’s not inconsistant at all. I hold the Quran’s accounts to the exact same standards and am just as willing to believe it’s accounts if they hold up. And I didn’t deny that there are some instances where supernatural events in the Bible are bottle-necked to one person having witnessed it. I said accounts where thousands witness such events are inherently more credible than events witnessed by an individual. And that most accounts of Christ’s miracles are in the latter catagory.

    “Not even someone who could walk on water, raise people from the dead, cure the blind and leprous, and infect porcine unfortunates with demonic troublemakers? That seems like a stretch.”

    Depends. In ancient Roman society, belief in the supernatural wasn’t as dismissed out of hand as it is today. As such, people who didn’t have a particular interest in Jewish culture could shrug it off as true and move on with their lives as they accepted many supernatural accounts of gods and such. And again, most of those accounts wouldn’t have reached most areas of the world till years later. You have to face the fact news didn’t travel all that fast in those days, especially when most witnessess were lower-class people who counldn’t even afford to travel.

  40. After doing some research I came to note a few flaws in your comparison to Christ’s feeding of thousands to Mohammed’s splitting of the moon – authenticity.

    The writings of the Gospels into canonical form were written in the area between 70-170 years after Christ’s death depending. The Hadith, which is where the account is written, was written in the area between 250-300 years later. Before being written down permanently both respective accounts would be passed largely orally, but as one can note there wouldn’t be as much time for embellishment for the New Testament as there is for the Hadith.

    Interesting to note the Quran itself seems to deny Muhammed performed miracles – Sura 17:90-93, Suras 2:118-119, 6:37 and 124, 13:7, and 17:59.

    So I don’t think I have much to worry about as far as inconsistancy goes. Because I’m STILL more than willing to keep an open-mind to the Quran’s accounts of miracles. But I’m more than confident that when put to the same standard of scrutiny as the Bible, it’s not going to be the Quran that comes out ahead.

  41. Here’s the million dollar question:

    Do you, Tony and Endbringer, accept the Bible as the word of God and 100% true – in its entirety?

    I have never met a Christian who was unwilling to answer that question. Never.
    So, I repost the question to you.

    Can you seriously call yourselves Christians without answering that question?
    Spare me the sarcasm, the insults and the cherry picking and make a stand for your God, right here, right now.
    Or do you deny your God?

    How about you Stathei – do you?
    Tim? How’s that conversion going … I feel a disturbance in the atheist force…

  42. Okay Tony,
    I’ll answer it in your words:

    We believe that the Scriptures consist of the Old and New Testaments and that they are inspired and they are in their original autographs without error.

    We believe that the Scriptures are best understood in light of the three ecumenical creeds- the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.

    We believe that the church fathers’ can be helpful in understanding our faith, but we believe that the

    Scriptures themselves are the highest and last authority for Christians on matters of faith and action, and are the primary way that God chooses to reveal himself to us today.

    We believe that salvation is through Christ alone, by grace, through faith.

    And of course, the Trinity. But if you’ve subscribed to the three ecumenical creeds, saying you believe in the Trinity is just being a bit redundant.

    So, by Tony’s own admission he accepts the bible on faith.

    The definition of faith from end bringers favorite dictionary:

    : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust

    So by Tony’s own admission he accepts Christ without any proof; thus, Blind faith.

    Why does Tony pretend to have “evidence”. Why does he pretend to “debate”.

    Tiny little ads.
    http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/lapre.html

    “wise man. . . proportions his belief to the evidence,” David Hume

    You by your own admission, have none

    I will leave you with your blind faith Tony.

    It’s really about those tiny little ads.

  43. My god is the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and he can not be denied! Have you not been touched by His Noodly Appendage?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*