SEB Mailbag: Try taking on the Catholics for a change redux.

I didn’t mention it previously, but I did dash off a reply to Mr. William Michael’s email which I posted earlier. Here’s what I said:

William,

That’s some impressively tortured logic you’ve got going there. Doesn’t tend to lend well to your claim that you can answer any argument I might be able to put forth. Atheism is simply the lack of theistic belief. It has no bearing on politics, marriage, or holidays. How you figure those three things imply an “end to human life higher than survival” is beyond me. I bow to your superior, if somewhat spurious, logic.

I do appreciate the email, though. It’s sure to amuse the folks who drop by my blog. Thanks for sending it along!

Les

I figured that would be enough to piss him off and he’d wander back into whatever dark recess he had scurried out from as most of the Catholics I’ve gotten email from tend to do. Usually it’s the Evangelicals that are persistent, but it appears Mr. Michael is of sterner stuff as he replied back:

Les,

As I expected, you suggest that my logic is flawed, but provide no reason for your criticism other than your opinion.  That kind of dumb response is what I meant when I said you should leave the little pond of idiots and put up some real reasons for your views—-which you obviously think are important enough to post on a website.  Your too acustomed to picking on the little girls, like Georgie Porgie…”when the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away.”

Having opinions without demonstrable reasons is called “prejudice” and suggests a lack of proof rather than any real thought.  Every fool has an opinion.  Rhetorically, if you had reasons you were ready to stand behind you’d be able to let them speak for you, rather than suggesting that the support of your blog viewers is proof.  If numbers of supporters is proof, then I think Catholicism would win on a worldwide contest.  Knowing you don’t think that, what are your reasons?

Here are some questions I bet you will struggle to answer in a positive way. 

  1. What is the purpose of human life?  You obviously cannot have an opinion about what a government should do before you can state what the purpose of life even is.  I would love to read your answer to a question like this.  Again, not you picking on other people’s answers, but something of your own for consideration.
  2. What makes a day or event greater than any other?  After all, to set a holiday as a day of rest from other activities, or to recognize one event over another, implies that one is more significant than the other.  What exactly is this system of ranking events in the mind of an atheist?  Also, if holidays are intended to be celebrated in common, what would be the link that bound these groups together?  Or would there be as many holidays as individuals?
  3. What is the starting principle from which you define human rights?  I’d like to understand how an atheist concludes that humans have any “rights”.  The idea of a human right assumes that (a) there is a law higher than that of the individual and (b) that right is evident to humans in general, not in particular.  What exactly do you believe those rights are and what is your justification for them?

Again, refutations are a dime a dozen, demonstrations are the proof of reason and truth.  State your ideas positively, and we’ll know whether you really have anything to say.  Maybe you can post your answers to my questions on your blog and let people offer criticism of them.  After all, you’re a free thinker and no prejudiced or narrow-minded individual, right?

Bill Michael

***

William Michael, Director
Classical Liberal Arts Academy
Phone: (704)764-8641
E-Mail: mail@classicalliberalarts.com

I’ve not replied yet as I thought I’d take some time and consider my answers, but I will get to it eventually. I thought you folks would be interested in seeing his latest missive, though, so here you go.

269 thoughts on “SEB Mailbag: Try taking on the Catholics for a change redux.

  1. Les,

    I think many of these True Believers[tm] tend to not realize just how many times we’ve gone through these arguments.  They don’t know how jaded we are with the whole “Let’s debate a Believer!” schtick.  We can try to answer all of these fine questions, but I think we all know the person asking isn’t actually interested in those answers—they are simply looking for an opening to spew their own brand of mythological non-sense. After all, don’t we already know, verbatim, how the conversation will go?
    I say skip the email dialogue and just call the guy.  I bet he sounds a whole lot less pompous in person.  Oh, but definitely record the conversation for us, we’re interested in our hero’s struggle.
    Good luck,
      – Matt

  2. Les,

    Nicely put. Very concise and clear.

    It’s funny how these dogmatic people (not just Christians, but people of every flavor) have some expectation that others must justify their positions. In politics, yes. But everyday people like you and I cannot go through life explaining to everyone who comes along why we hold our beliefs. We would never get anything else done!

  3. Maybe you just need to direct his attention to the de-conversion blog on wordpress.  They answered all those questions and more.

  4. He demands proof Les, proof!  Bury that son of god for the rest of us.  It seems that out off all the loons that I’ve ever dealt with, it is always the Catholics that give the most lip service.  He makes a nice bandwagon statement in there, and a bit of strawman in the beginning and hey look a few other sophist tactics in there too.  Should be a fun ride if you still can stomach these guys.

    Apparently he is a professional intellectual, so you might want to keep on your toes.  Runs an interesting “school” of genuine classical education.  Site for you consideration: http://www.classicalliberalarts.com/introduction.htm

  5. I know this is Les’ battle, and he’s doing quite fine, BTW. Nevertheless, due to Mr. Michael’s condescending characterization (read: name-calling) of the members of SEB as a “little pond of idiots,” I am compelled to respond on my behalf.

    My questions to Mr. Michael are quite simple:

    1. How does debating my opinions with someone whose beliefs are obviously contrary solve anything? Please explain how such an exchange would prove to be fruitful, and more than a mere debating exercise. Is there a clear goal here?

    2. I do not know you, Mr. Michael. We are not challenging one another in a political arena and we are not competing for the hearts and minds of anyone. It is quite likely I will never meet you. Therefore, why would I wish to expend my time and energy discussing my personal opinions with you? What could this possibly accomplish?

    3. What do you hope to gain if I were to put my cards on the table and offer my opinions? Do you honestly believe that you have the persuasive powers to convince me that those beliefs are wrong for me? Are you that arrogant to believe such a thing could happen?

    Just a few practical questions Mr. Michael may wish to consider from a member of this “little pond of idiots.” I know you are reading this blog. I’m all ears.

  6. I think we’ve all seen this tired argument before.  To me I like to the pose the following in retort: “If we knew with 100% certainty that a Christian god did exist, why continue living? Heaven is so much better right? To me there is less purpose in living with a god than without one. Knowing that all I have is this life I attempt to spend everyday fruitfully and make my life count for something.”

    Arguing with those already embedded in religious thought is pretty difficult. I would prefer to have a discussion with those in the middle ground.

  7. Arguing with a TB™ is like wrestling with a pig in the mud. You get pretty muddied up and you soon realize the pig likes it. It becomes a lose-lose situation. If you find a TB™ with an open mind, chances are he was not really a TB™ to begin with. My experience has been that a TB™ refuses to be confused with the facts because his mind is already made up. Lots of luck, Les, and I’ll be subscribing to watch the fireworks.

  8. 1) What is the purpose of Human Life?
    In the ‘grand scheme’ of the Cosmos, None.  The universe no more notices you than you do an ant or a mayfly.  Humans therefore have to define a purpose for themselves. 

    In 200 years time most of us will have no effect on others- you will be a name on birth, death and marriage certificates, and 8 or so census. Some- Beethoven, Shakespeare, Hitler, Newton, Darwin- will live on through fame, either for what they did, or what the discovered so allowing others to do (Newton didn’t invent gravity, he described something that happened anyway, yet much of physics is based around his work, even where modified and corrected).

    For the rest of us we live to survive- to eat to live, procreate and nurture the offspring to adult hood, and once another generation is assured, to die.  The best we can achieve is to ‘do no evil’, to hope that we left the world a better place than we entered it.  There is no reason to do this other than empathy (see 3 below)

    2) What makes a day or event greater than any other?
    Only Human association with events that day.  Some days are remembered for human acheivement, though even then the assignation is somewhat haphazard- why celebrate Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, and not William Wilberforce?  Other days- the holy-days you refer to are a deep seated human need.  A mid-winter festival is common for those in high latitudes, and predates Christianity in most modern cultures.  It’s dark, its cold, there is no crops or fruit, and the last of the fresh meat is about to go bad- why not use all that fresh food up in a celebration of humanity- shaking our fist at the darkness and saying we will stand together another winter at least. And while we’re about it, light big fires to give the Sun a hint what his job is.

    3)What is the starting principle from which you define human rights?
    You’re assumption is that only a god can give rights.  Why?  All the rights anyone on this planet has are those granted by those who have power over the piece of land they are standing on.  Grind up the universe to the finest powder, and sieve it through the finest mesh, and you will not find one ‘natural right’.  No right is self evident EXCEPT within the sphere influenced by humans.  Every right given or taken away in the name of a supernatural being, is given or taken away by humans, and enforced by humans.  Every rule is enforced by humans.  Every act of evil is perpetrated by humans, every act of kindness.

    Why are we kind?  Empathy.  You give because you understand the suffering.  Failures to empathise are considered socio-psychological disorders.  How do we teach kids to be good? Through fear (of punishment)  and empathy- “How would you feel if…”.  The difference between the though patterns of a pre-pubescent child, and a post pubescent teenager shows a growth of empathy, and an ability to see that there are times when rules inhibit a fair outcome- the difference between Law and Justice.  One study posed the question “A man’s wife is really ill, and he can not afford the medicine- should he steal it?”.  10 year olds mostly answer-“No, stealing is wrong”, where a 16 year old will examine the rights and wrongs, weighing up the theft against the life, exploring other solutions.

    Empathy is a survival trait, one that is now discussed as evolutionary.  It places the tribe ahead of the individual, ensuring the best chance for the birth of future generations.  The successful tribes, the ones who’s descendants survive, are the empathetic ones. 

    So, yes, you are right.  With out a God there is no reason for us to exist.  We are an accident.  We may be alone in the vastness of the universe- the sparrow flying for a brief second through the king’s hall on a winters night, before and after us only darkness- but that is no reason to give a god the credit for every act of kindness you do.  When you help a stranger take the credit yourself.  Do not fear a being that no-one has reliably seen or met.  If you can look your conscious in the eye in the small hours of the morning and not regret then that is the best we can hope.

  9. Well said, Last Hussar.  100% agree.  Probably too much for William Michael to comprehend without gibbering, throwing a fit, and pointing at his fairytale-ology in exasperation.  But well said.  Pearls before swines…
    – Matt

  10. Here are some questions I bet you will struggle to answer in a positive way.


    Silly when questions infer not only that there is a theological correlation, but that there is only one right answer.

    What is the purpose of human life?  You obviously cannot have an opinion about what a government should do before you can state what the purpose of life even is. 

    Obviously….

    What is the starting principle from which you define human rights?  I’d like to understand how an atheist concludes that humans have any “rights”.  The idea of a human right assumes that (a) there is a law higher than that of the individual and (b) that right is evident to humans in general, not in particular.  What exactly do you believe those rights are and what is your justification for them?

    And of course there’s only one answer/basis that you’ll accept, right? Religion. How about basic civilization and societal constructs, which have after all been around a lot longer than the invention of religion.

    Again, refutations are a dime a dozen, demonstrations are the proof of reason and truth.

    Demonstrations of opinions?

    Bah.

  11. As I expected, you suggest that my logic is flawed, but provide no reason for your criticism other than your opinion.  That kind of dumb response is what I meant when I said you should leave the little pond of idiots and put up some real reasons for your views—-which you obviously think are important enough to post on a website.  Your too acustomed to picking on the little girls, like Georgie Porgie…”when the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away.”

    Urgh…(twitch)…gah…guh….MOTHERFUCKER!!! COCKSUCKER!!!!

    LEARN THE FUCKING DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “YOUR” AND “YOU’RE”…..GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! 

    I’m So smarter than your Les!  I know your going to just get all bitchy and cry about it!

    WHY DO THEY ALWAYS HAVE TO BE SO ILLITERATE!?!??!?!

  12. Thank you for that wonderful piece, Last Hussar. That is pure poetry. I might have to print that out. Seriously.

    The main thing to remember from this is the fact that Mr. Michael is in the education business. It is his job to shape impressionable young minds into something consistent with his deep-seated beliefs. I assume that also reflects the desires of the parents of these students, and that those parents are willing participants in this. As such, it is their prerogative as parents.

    But simply because Mr. Michael is in this business of indoctrinating young, impressionable children, does not mean that his goals will be successful when applied to us. While most of us here have a common thread, we still have our own differences. Those of us on SEB are not some monolithic bloc of misguided people who will drop our deeply-rooted beliefs because of an artful bit of argumentation by some religious person with a Rutgers education.

    Make no mistake: Mr. Michael is in the evangelism business. It doesn’t matter to him if his subjects are little children or adults. When your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    I have no doubt that Mr. Michael is a highly intelligent, articulate person. I might even go so far to say that he sincerely means well. However, I believe that he lacks the maturity to accept that not everyone he encounters is going to be receptive to his dogma. I think he would be delusional to think for a minute that debating any one of us will compel us to “see the light” as he sees it. He is going to find much disappointment and frustration in life until he finally realizes the fallacy of this.

    We are not wrong in our values. The values we embrace are simply different than those held by Mr. Michael. We are secure in those values and they are an integral part of each one of us. And that is what seems to eat at him the most. Perhaps he sees us as a challenge or a “case study” for his own whim. Mr. Michael is young and naive. With maturity, perhaps he may find that tilting at windmills is a losing strategy.

  13. Oh shit, I almost forgot! With all this talk of religious indoctrination, I neglected to mention that we’re coming up on the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre. (I think it was 11/18/78.)

    And by the way, those people drank Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid. But the term “drank the Kool-Aid” persists as an idiom, much to the chagrin of the folks at Kraft Foods. LOL

  14. As an intellectual exercise to amuse your latest blowhard Troll, here’s my tuppence-worth, Les:

    1.)  What is the purpose of human life?  You obviously cannot have an opinion about what a government should do before you can state what the purpose of life even is.  I would love to read your answer to a question like this.  Again, not you picking on other people’s answers, but something of your own for consideration.

    Government is a purely social construct that attempts to allocate access to resources and regulate human behavior.  A social construct has absolutely bupkis to do with the purpose of life.  Plato’s philosopher-King never existed and likely never will.  Tyrannies attempt to define that purpose as a means to their own ends; the most benevolent of democracies recognize its definition as the perogative of the individual.  To presuppose that a definition of the purpose of life is a requirement for a definition of government is purely nonsensical.  Mental masturbation, if you will, on the part of your correspondent.

    2.) What makes a day or event greater than any other?  After all, to set a holiday as a day of rest from other activities, or to recognize one event over another, implies that one is more significant than the other.  What exactly is this system of ranking events in the mind of an atheist?  Also, if holidays are intended to be celebrated in common, what would be the link that bound these groups together?  Or would there be as many holidays as individual

    In one form or another, all holidays are rituals in a cult of the self, whether the “religious” admit it or not.  In our time, no one celebrates when a kid is born out of wedlock.  More to the point, being “born in a barn” indicated a distinct lack of social grace, at least in my family.  And these days, it’s usually the freethinkers who fuss when a tyrannical government executes the politically inconvenient.  My, how “Christian values” have changed in the twenty centuries…  Like I said, “cult of self.”  Try having Christmas without presents or Easter without candy or handing out canned food to the poor and homeless instead of gorging and falling asleep watching football on Thanksgiving.  Lemme know how well that goes over with your family…

    3.) What is the starting principle from which you define human rights?  I’d like to understand how an atheist concludes that humans have any “rights”.  The idea of a human right assumes that (a) there is a law higher than that of the individual and (b) that right is evident to humans in general, not in particular.  What exactly do you believe those rights are and what is your justification for them? 

    In a nutshell, when your Mom said that you were special, she was right.  But, then, so was everyone else’s Mom.  More to the point:  If the span between birth and death is all there is (and ever will be) to our existence, how much more precious is that time than if Earth is merely the staging ground for Eternity?  When you live, day in and day out, with the knowledge that your every action has consequences for other human beings (each of whom has as much right to their time on this planet as you), you understand the burden of not being a theist.  You don’t have the luxury of imagining that wrongs will be auto-magically righted in the afterlife.  You have to live with the consequences of your actions, possibly for the rest of your life.  No higher power is necessary than that—and I’m not convinced that it could place a higher obligation on one if it were.  Is it any coincidence that fundamentalist Christians have higher divorce rates than any other group?  Or that atheists are demographically under-represented in prisons?  Bottom line:  Those who accept both sides of the freedom of non-theism don’t expect someone else to clean up
    their messes.  Religions with the concept of an afterlife, on the other hand, childishly dodge any temporal responsibility with the rationalization that they just have to convince God that they’re sorry and He’ll do the heavy lifting.

  15. They keep getting crazier and crazier, but anyhow don’t forget to reply I want to see how long you two can go back and forth (or until he stops replying) anyways it should turn out interesting.

  16. Great posts Hussar and Cubicle.

    Urgh…(twitch)…gah…guh….MOTHERFUCKER!!! COCKSUCKER!!!!

    LEARN THE FUCKING DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “YOUR” AND “YOU’RE”…..GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! 

    WHY DO THEY ALWAYS HAVE TO BE SO ILLITERATE!?!??!?!

    Tee hee.

    *note to self-you can use naughty words here*

  17. people of every flavor) have some expectation that others must justify their positions

    I have to agree – conversation with my mother a couple of nights ago included “well, then you go find the hypothesis so that we can test for God, and then I’ll show you he exists”.

    She couldn’t understand why I was frustrated, nor conceive that I’d heard all of her arguments before.

    What is the purpose of human life?

    Ask a particular human and they’ll tell you. I want to express myself freely. When I can do that, I’m going to express myself in practical ways.

    Also, there’s no necessary relation between purpose of life and government. We can still have opinions on government, despite this.

    What makes a day or event greater than any other?

    Flatly speaking, this statement implies that atheists can’t have good days or bad days. Wrong.

    Besides, nobody needs an excuse to celebrate, but we’re usually good for taking one.

    What is the starting principle from which you define human rights?

    Humans. Doesn’t matter; there are no rights. There are the privileges you fight for and privileges you keep. If there were rights in the absolute sense, we’d all have them and there’d be no dispute. It’s a purely human issue.

    refutations are a dime a dozen

    Of course – because where you go demanding explanations from other people, it doesn’t matter if you’re wrong, does it?

  18. Yes, nice work, Hussar and cubiclegrrl.  I’d just like to add my spin:  that “human rights”, along with morals and laws, are an evolved entity, and consist of the uneasy balance between our genetic heritage of looking out for Number One, but also behaving nicely to family and friends, with the admixture of those regulations necessary to build society.  Human rights are the recognition that we don’t want societies like those of social insects: the individual has worth.  But they don’t exist in a vacuum or in the mind of God: they are evolved constructs.  That’s why they are so fragile, and must continually be defended.

  19. “As I expected, you suggest that my logic is flawed, but provide no reason for your criticism other than your opinion.” He got you there, didn’t he. Since his email didn’t actually contain any logic, he’s right to criticise you for calling his logic flawed. Though I do think that he protests too much. After all, he is demanding that you provide counter-arguments for his groundless assertions.

  20. Chiming in late. It’s just another conceited wanker.

    He starts out with a straw man—namely, that atheism purports to have answers to questions it doesn’t claim to. He then moves forward with an attempt to shift the burden of proof (“Again, refutations are a dime a dozen, demonstrations are the proof of reason and truth.  State your ideas positively”). It’s a methodology we’ve seen time and time again:

    a) I claim that you can’t answer this question.
    b) I can make up an answer out of thin air.
    c) Therefore, I win.

    He is right that Les calling his first missive tortured logic as an opinion and not formal proof, but the master baiter misses the simple fact that this is indeed an, um, opinion.

    Regardless of this, whether or not atheism has answer to the questions he poses doesn’t establish the merits of his own beliefs—hey, that’s a false dichotomy right there. That’s already three fallacies committed by the master baiter; four if you include the repeated ad hominem. There’s not much there there, is there?

    I’ll amuse myself and answer the questions, though.

    1) There is a purpose to human life?

    2) Holidays have no special meaning to me. At most, it’s an occasion to remember something or to stimulate the economy by buying gifts or a day off work. Call me a curmudgeon.

    3) The idea of human rights assumes a right giver. Therefore, I am not persuaded that human rights exist, but we should pretend anyway in the spirit of the non-neocon version of the Golden Rule.

  21. Les, before answering, consider this :-

    Is someone who believes that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you eat his flesh and drink his blood and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree, likely to be accessible to logical argument?

    Don’t waste your time!

  22. Ask Mr Know-it-all if my priest is correct:

    My priest advises penance over Obama vote

    Because apparently its one of those doctrinal questions that drives people (Catholics) crazy.

    Not me, of course. I meant Catholics like him and my priest.  (((sigh))) And no, I’m not off topic, because he is giving “life” as his erstwhile reason, just like Mr Know-it-all here. 

    I realized while all this is happening—my priest is trying to get rid of us (the liberals in the parish)—and this is his bullshit reasoning for doing it. 

    Anyway, cheerio and all like that, thought I would add my 2 cents.  Tell Mr Know it all to call my priest and tell him how wonderful he is… he’s made Fox News and NPR just since yesterday!

  23. @Last Hussar: That was absolutely beautiful.  You took the words right out of my mouth with more eloquence than I could ever hope for.

  24. Cheap shots at Christianity?  If you’re so bored with the Christian arguments, wouldn’t you also be bored with the Christian bashing?  Yet, they’re still being posted…with no arguments attached (helpful).  I’ve responded to two replies now…one to Last Hussar, who you all seemed to admire.  They’ll be posted soon, I trust.  I think it’s cute how you rally each other together while mocking how stupid my thoughts are. You all say the same thing over an over again.  ALso, I’m sorry for mistyping “you’re” as “your”.  That is a grave error indeed and probably will cost me this debate.  I’ll try harder, knowing that not only Logic but Grammar is under scrutiny here!  (Its OK…I teach linguistics.).

  25. For the record…I am aware that I omitted a “d” and the end of the word “and” and accidentally capitalized the letter “l” in “also”.  I don’t want to offend anyone.

  26. Mr Michael.

    I for one didn’t criticise your mistypes: I know I made a couple, or my sentence structure is wrong as it changed its focus slightly while typing.  My only excuse is that it was about 1am. Also such criticism allows the focus to be shifted to grammer rather than content.

    Where are these replies?  Posts appear automatically- Les censors very little, usually spam.

    While I am waiting please answer the following so we know which particular strain of Religion we are debating.
    Which of the following are historical events (ie actually happened)
    Creation in 6 days
    Creation of the Earth as it is, with no evolution, continental drift etc.
    Noah/Flood
    Birth of Jesus as per the Gospels
    ditto Life of Jesus
    ditto cruxifiction/resurrection.

    Which OT laws are still valid? Which ones should we ignore? Why?
    How old is the Earth?
    Which teachings of Jesus are no longer valid?

    To everyone else- may I suggest cutting back on any response (such as name calling) that, if the tables were turned, cause you to say ‘Fuckwad- you have no answer so you resort to abuse’

  27. With all due respect Mr. Michael, Last Hussar’s response was very eloquently written and he managed to convey my feelings quite succinctly.  I assume others agreed with him because he did the same for them. 

    With regards to your comment that atheists should be bored with christian bashing by now, I admit I do sometimes find it a bit repetitive but if you guys keep lining them up we’ll keep knocking them down.

    For a linguistics professor an error such as mistaking “your” for “you’re” is pretty darn grievous.  That would be like a biology professor mistaking a cell wall for a cell membrane.  But, having done it myself a few times in heated debate I can see where you’re coming from.  I think the reason people have picked on you for that is not so much that you made a boo boo but that in most, if not all, debates we get into with theists they display an alarming disregard for grammar, punctuation and usually spelling.

  28. Mr. Michael,

    You still haven’t responded with any substance, so I will reiterate a few interrogatories the best I can. Please help shed some light here:

    (1) Why do we need to justify our beliefs to you (or anyone else) by way of debate?

    (2) Why would such an exchange prove fruitful? What would it accomplish besides our mutual amusement?

    (3) We are obviously entrenched in our beliefs, as are you. Why would you think that your assertions would have any bearing on our beliefs?

    (4) Why should any of us care who you are, what you believe, or what your objectives are? Why do you care so much about us?

    (5) Mr. Michael, you have not offered one bit of intelligent argument so far. You have yet to offer a single claim, much less support one. You have merely asked us to defend our positions. What makes you think you are important enough that we would even want to go there?

    (6) Finally, why do our beliefs on this site bother you so much? You came to us, we didn’t come to you. Why so much angst and frustration on your part? Do you honestly believe that you matter to any of us? What do you realistically hope to accomplish by trolling here? Do you have such visions of grandeur that you think you can “set us straight?” Are you really that delusional?

    I will await your reply here. I don’t expect much, as I am a realist, but surprise me anyway. And please, don’t quote Georgie Porgie again. I’m sure that’s a great instructional tool when you’re teaching the little kiddies down home, but I’d like to think that your Rutgers education can serve you better than that when dealing with real adults.

  29. Last Hussar…my reply was e-mailed, sorry.  Here are my answers to your last post.

    I will not answer your questions in a modern scientific manner as though that is the nature of biblical literature. 

    1.  Creation in 6 days: The world was created by God out of nothing, i.e., God was its source and it was created by divine power which has no limits.  I will not support the Creationist attempt (which is a Protestant attempt) to align the six days of the creation story with a scientific/natural detail of the process.  Why? I don’t believe the “either-or” decision is entirely necessary.  At the same time, there is no problem believing that an *omnipotent* God could have created the world as desribed (literally) in Genesis. Creation itself could have been miraculous rather than natural. 

    2.  Creation of the Earth as it is, with no evolution, continental drift etc:  There is no doubt that evolution occurs, the question is of the extent and degree, which there can be no purely scientific evidence to demonstrate without assumptions of uniform change, no divine intervention, etc..  So I say “as it is” but not with an unnecessary rigidity.  If the stream in my backyard has eroded in 5 years, I don’t doubt radical changes may have occurred over ??? years. 

    3.  Noah/Flood: I certainly believe that the Flood of Noah was a historical event.  However, I do not feel the need to argue that the descriptive details are intended to read in a modern literal sense.  Again, this is ancient literature in a philosophical tradition, not modern historiography written for analysis by scientific methods.

    4.  Birth of Jesus as per the Gospels:  I believe that Jesus was miraculously born of the Virgin Mary, based on the testimony of the Gospels.

    5.  Life of Jesus.  Yes, I believe Jesus’s life is a historical fact, based on the testimony of the Gospels and non-biblical references.

    6. Cruxifiction/resurrection:  Yes, I believe that Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection were historical facts, based on the testimony of the Gospels.

    Which OT laws are still valid? Which ones should we ignore? Why?
    There are OT laws that have been superseded by the law of Christ, which raises the standards of faith and morals due to the increase in grace given to men since Christ’s advent. For example, Jesus explained that Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of the hearts of the ancient Jews, but He forbids it and gives the grace necessary through the sacrament of Matrimony to avoid divorce. 

    Some laws were strictly ceremonial with regard to the rites of the Jewish temple, which prefigured the kingdom of Christ, which is eternal and universal (i.e., not limited to Jerusalem).  Also, like divorce, some laws were given (in God’s wisdom) to lead the ancient Jews to increased piety, which in the time of Christ was to be perfected.

    How old is the Earth?
    From the philosophical perspective, I say it is roughly as old as man and vice versa.  In a strict scientific sense (i.e., with sensible proof), we cannot say anything more specific than I just have, so it is irrelevant.

    Which teachings of Jesus are no longer valid?
    This is a complex question because you don’t distinguish things he taught in a specific context during his own life from those which he taught for perpetual observance.  For example, He commands Peter to go and pay the temple tax.  Obviously, I don’t need to go and pay the temple tax.  However, He also commanded us to love our enemy, which is a perpetual commandment. 

    At the same time, Jesus himself told his disciples that there was more (not less!) to be taught after His death (John 16:12).  This clearly refers to the teaching office of the Catholic Church begun by the apostles and continued today.  Nothing Christ taught will be superseded as the teachings of Moses may have been.

  30. I will not answer your questions in a modern scientific manner as though that is the nature of biblical literature.

    Okay – so where’s the credibility in it? Oh, you mention farther down the line:

    I believe Jesus’s life is a historical fact, based on the testimony of the Gospels and non-biblical references

    .. but the problem is – and you can take this on someone who spent only a year as a religious studies student, decredit me as it may – there is little or no credible account that the Jesus that lived is anything like the Jesus in the Bible. The ease with which people associated things with the Jesus of the Bible is absurd. This is what gives me doubts about this particular claim.

    However, you also said:

    I say [the Earth] is roughly as old as man and vice versa.  In a strict scientific sense (i.e., with sensible proof), we cannot say anything more specific than I just have, so it is irrelevant.

    to which, I must say, it is not doing you any favors to believe that the information on the age of the Earth is so vague as to be nearly summarized in a statement such as yours. I don’t know what you consider sensible proof, but I can say that the proof is often unsensible. That’s rather the whole point: the world isn’t as black and white as we all want it to be, and we have to be willing to get out of our comfort zone (sensibility) if we want to see the truth. There would never have been need for science if the truth of things was common sense. If my life has taught me anything, it’s that common sense is usually self-congratulating, but incorrect.

    Thank you for detailing the nature of your beliefs, all the same. At this point most passing proselytizers are highly defensive, and you’ve made the effort to transit from demanding to expressive. Good show.

  31. Stormin Norman:

    (1) We don’t need to justify ourselves to others…go ahead and stop.  You kept the conversation going on your part.

    (2) If you don’t believe debate can produce persuasion of opposing ideas or deepen those we hold, go ahead and quit.

    (3) I have believed at times in the past I was entrenched in my beliefs, but was persuaded of better things.  Have your views not changed over time?  How can you be sure they have stopped changing?

    (4) I haven’t suggested you should care about me.  I knew readers would enjoy a debate…and they have.  Apparently I was on the money.

    (5) I just posted some of my beliefs as requested by Last Hussar.  Go read them.

    (6) You’re lack of hospitality doesn’t seem to represent the group’s.  I am enjoying the conversation, sorry you’re not.

    You assume the “kiddies” are less intelligent than adults…that would be an unjustified assertion.  After all, I am paid by adults who are persuades first.  Has anyone every offered to pay you to teach them or their children?

  32. Patness:

    1.  Probability is a valid source of belief when scientific data is inconclusive.  Would you deny that?

    2.  We have written accounts that pretty closely agree on the details of Jesus’ life.  What evidence are you using the suggest his actual life was different? 

    3.  You say “There would never have been need for science if the truth of things was common sense.”  That is not really the context in which modern science developed.  The classic text on the scientific method was Bacon’s “New Organon” which didn’t suggest that truth was unknown before or that man needed to advance beyond common sense through science, only that truth was possibly buried among false conclusions of the Old Organon (i.e., Aristotelian logic).  Time has proven Bacon quite wrong in his theory, though the Scientific Method surely has its uses.  Modern science has taught us little that medieval farmers didn’t know.  In fact the best practices in modern farming are nothing but a return to pre-modern organic methods.  Science may have demonstrated facts in new ways, but the facts are largely the same as ever.

  33. 1.  Probability is a valid source of belief when scientific data is inconclusive.  Would you deny that?

    To the extent that this statement infers that valid statistics are not based on a hypothetical model, yes, I do deny. The only reason statistics are any good is because we’ve got a falsifiable model to test against.

    In other words, science is still at work behind the statistics. Otherwise, you’ve got numbers that you can (and people often do) abuse to mean anything you want. The authority of statistics is based on method – method of gathering data, method of interpreting data, methods of data application. All of these, in turn, owe their authority to the scientific process.

    All that said, it is, as you might suggest, that “all models are wrong; but some are useful”.

    We have written accounts that pretty closely agree on the details of Jesus’ life.  What evidence are you using the suggest his actual life was different?

    I can get people to write an agreement that O.J. Simpson murdered his wife. I can also get people to write an agreement that O.J. Simpson did not murder his wife, but was the victim of a deliberate plot by a racist institution.

    That there is written agreement says little of the integrity of a) the individuals who allegedly signed onto it, or b) that the information agreed upon is actually correct. In fact, once there is a consensus in any community, there is always an increasing trend to adopt that consensus in the face of scrutiny, even when, as in the case of the scientific community, the community is based on scrutiny. In the case of science, the reason it stands is because the scrutiny continues.

    The classic text on the scientific method was Bacon’s “New Organon”

    You’re entitled to your opinion – I don’t know who the man is, and he certainly hasn’t borne a direct influence on my views of science, nor on those of anyone I know.

    Modern science has taught us little that medieval farmers didn’t know

    Medieval farmers knew how to cure diseases? How to solve quantum mechanical formulas? Generate or store electricity? They didn’t even understand what any of those were, because that technology didn’t exist. For that matter, even if it did, they wouldn’t be allowed to know about it – books were the sign of a heretic, and that entire section of the population, without notable exception, was illiterate.

    Germ theory was radical in its time, too, centuries later. Before then, everyone thought alchemy was useful, and that the “active element” in a variety of things could be used to create other creatures. Ever see the recipe for bees?

    At best, they could have been expected to recognize that something differed from their norms. This is my point: unless and until someone decides to get all uppity and scare people with a new idea, we can’t progress. Common sense is an exercise in circular logic – concluding to be true all of the things we already believed.

    Science may have demonstrated facts in new ways, but the facts are largely the same as ever.

    The facts are the facts – they have always been the same. The point is that, until they were scientifically demonstrated, we had no way of defending them as facts, as opposed to opinions and wishful thinking. Remarkably enough, now that we’ve started to do just that, it’s become clear that most of the beliefs we’ve traditionally held are liable to remain in the realm of wishful thinking.

  34. We’re a bit defensive tonight, aren’t we?

    (1) We don’t need to justify ourselves to others…go ahead and stop.  You kept the conversation going on your part.

    Then why did you call out Les (and his readership) in the first place? Surely you were expecting some sort of justification? You sought him out for a reason. Something piqued your curiosity and inspired you to write. Spoiling for a fight, perhaps?

    You still haven’t answered what it is you hope to gain from all this, aside from engaging in rote argument.

    (2) If you don’t believe debate can produce persuasion of opposing ideas or deepen those we hold, go ahead and quit.

    I do believe debate can produce persuasion – if there is a realistic objective and one party can clearly demonstrate to the other that the other is wrong. Your engaging in name-calling toward a group of people whose theistic beliefs are inapposite to yours is pointless. You cannot possibly hope to effect change with anyone that way. Calling this group a “little pool of idiots” isn’t very mature. Calling protestants “idiots” doesn’t help either. That whole Martin Luther and Reformation thing still a sore point with you people? It’s been 500 years. Get over it. Despite 2000 years of trying, there are now some 5 billion-plus people who apparently don’t agree with your assertion that “Catholicism would win on a worldwide contest.”

    (3) I have believed at times in the past I was entrenched in my beliefs, but was persuaded of better things.  Have your views not changed over time?  How can you be sure they have stopped changing?

    You have a point here about change, and yes, my beliefs have evolved over time…but your hostile approach toward others’ opposing beliefs is not going to be the agent of any further change. You presume that we are pliable.

    You stated in your first missive that you “would be able to refute any argument you have against the (Catholic) Christian faith…” That’s nice. But so can any freshman debate student worth his/her salt. Being able to offer refutation doesn’t amount to much. After all “refutations are a dime a dozen.”

    (4) I haven’t suggested you should care about me.  I knew readers would enjoy a debate…and they have.  Apparently I was on the money.

    You are on the money only insofar as people here will engage you for mere entertainment value. You cannot possibly win or influence. Most likely, we will all walk away still believing the same as before. If anyone enjoys the “debate,” it could only be for the thrill of the chase.

    (5) I just posted some of my beliefs as requested by Last Hussar.  Go read them.

    I did. You merely restated a number of stock tenets espoused by the Catholic church. A list, nothing more. Any of us could’ve looked up those same points on Google. Where is the debate there? Where are your arguments? While your list is a good start, and it identifies part of your belief set, you still have not made an argument. Tell us why these tenets should be compelling to us.

    (6) You’re lack of hospitality doesn’t seem to represent the group’s.  I am enjoying the conversation, sorry you’re not.

    What you perceive as lack of hospitality is nothing more than me challenging you to back up your rhetoric with substance. I am sorry that you have misconstrued that as hostility; nothing could be further from the truth. I am disappointed that you are being thin-skinned and defensive about it. Meanwhile, I am enjoying this.

    You assume the “kiddies” are less intelligent than adults…that would be an unjustified assertion.  After all, I am paid by adults who are persuades first.  Has anyone every offered to pay you to teach them or their children?

    No, I was making fun of your sissy Georgy Porgy reference. wink

    The adults you persuade are those that embrace your beliefs. That’s great. But it is singing to the choir. I doubt there is much persuasion going on there; just a matter of setting the hook and cashing the checks. But that’s OK, as like minds should stick together, and I believe that parents have a right to raise their children under their own beliefs. When children mature, they are free to enter the world and draw their own conclusions. And if you can make some money off that system, I’m cool with that. But don’t try to feed us some altruistic B.S. when you are clearly in it for the money.

    BTW, I am paid by professionals to teach them. Big deal. I’m in it for the money too.

    Based on the puffing in your first email, you seem to fancy yourself as being in the league of the Jesuits. I have watched Jesuit scholars argue and it is a sight to behold. I’ve even gone a few rounds with a couple of them. No clear winners and I still walked away believing what I believe. So far, I am not seeing anything from you that remotely resembles what the big boys can lay down. You don’t scare me.

    Maybe you should stick to talking to the kiddies and their doe-eyed, impressionable parents. That’s where the money is.

  35. Patness:

    1.  I was referring to philosophical probability (i.e., reasoning about uncertain events), not mathematical probability & statistics.

    2. Your arguments really aren’t helpful here at all.  You are forced to reason from the assumption that the apostles were (a) of low integrity and (b) in error about the events of Christ’s life.  Yet standing 2000 years removed from the events, what are the grounds for your suspicion? 

    Nothing you say is difficult to understand, I simply can’t determine why you believe this suspicion is rooted in reason and not blatant prejudice.  Remember too that the apostles would have fabricated a story that they later gave their lives for.  I know this is not proof, but it does make your suspicion one step harder to justify.

    3.  Francis Bacon is considered by just about everyone ot be the father of the scientific revolution, not an obscure figure.  Come on…if you haven’t read it, you should before making assertions about the nature of science and its historical origins.

    4.  Medieval farmers knew how to cure diseases? Many, yes.  They also avoided most of the habitual diseases our high-tech society can’t avoid.  How to solve quantum mechanical formulas? Of course not, they were farmers, not physicists.  Generate or store electricity? Of course not, but electricity is not necessary for life, only a convenience that we choose to use.

    This is a bit arrogant though.  Do you know how to make your own yeast for bread. They did.  Do you know how to plow a field with a horse?  They did.  Does your ignorance of their methods and expertise make you inferior to them? Neither does their ignorance (even disinterest) in ours suggest anythingnegative of them.  In fact, if you want quality fresh food, you go to the Amish farm market, not the modern supermarket for the best.  Technology is a means, not an end and “new” doesn’t mean better.

    4.  Do you really believe medieval people were held back from knowing things?  Do you forget where the great mathematicians and scientists were educated?  Copernicus?  Galileo?  Leibniz? Descartes?  In the medieval liberal arts academies, not modern schools.  Curse the peasants for teaching their children to work rather than idle away in schools for 12 years only to enter the work force unskilled.  Read William Cobbett’s “Cottage Economy” if you want to really understand the life of the peasant class.

    5.  “Books were a sign of the heretic.”  What in the world are you talking about?  Books were banned that brought complicated and dangerous religious disputes to the uneducated classes by demagogues like Martin Luther.  Those publishing such books were suspect because there were already established means for religious disputation if that was truly their aim. 

    As for illiteracy, though millions in America CAN read, I would bet that the percentage of people who DO read is nearly the same as it was then.  We are not any brighter then they were merely because our 3rd graders have mastered their phonics lessons.  If you think modern education is increasing in achievement, you need to look at the statistics. 

    6.  Alchemy was a field of study and practice, not the summa of medieval scientfici knowledge.  It was even suspect then as was astrology.  That’s like people in 2500 AD suggesting that acupuncture was how people viewed medicine in the 21st century.  Microbiology surely led to discoveries, but they were not as radical as you think.  Why? Because our ability to cure diseases after they were present was not as desirable for them as being able to bear with the suffering that, though postponed or substituted for another, would inevitably take their life.

    My grandmother, for example, has been kept alive for 20 years by constant medication and medical care for what?  Surely not her happiness.  There’s more to the medical/tech discussion that mere animal survival.  This is why assisted suicide has become an issue…the doctors are keeping people physically alive longer than they wish to be.  A mechanic can keep a rusty ‘74 Pinto in running condition, but that doesn’t mean anyone wants to drive it.  There’s a limit to the value of this kind of technology.

    7.  As for circular logic, re-read what you wrote about the reliability of the Gospels above.  I don’t think science immunizes us from that.

    8.  Your last statement makes no sense to me.

  36. William- Its gone 3 here, so I may not answer everything you wrote.

    Geology is completely at odds with the story given in Genesis.  The way you write seems to imply that you believe the Genesis account as accurate. I had to reread the bit about Protestants carefully- I assume you mean those who say things like ‘A day could mean a billion years t God’ We are certain that man has been on this planet for just a fraction of its age, and other animals rose and fell before anything recognisable as ‘Man’ appeared.

    Where any debate will come to an abrupt halt is of course the all powerful god- there is nothing he can not do.  A very useful get out clause.  For instance the only way the Bible can be correct in the account of creation is if God created the entire universe to look old. There is no way to disprove this, because any evidence we present you will just say- “God made it look that way”

    Ditto the Flood. Ignoring there is not enough water to cover Mt Ararat (I know- God shipped it in from off planet), the geology of the Earth is wrong for the flood as described in the Bible.  Unless God disguises the fact.

    Jesus- there is no evidence for him outside the Bible.  Every religeon’s holy book describes miracles etc. What make them wrong and you right?

    How do we know which laws Jesus repealed- at what point did pork become ok, but not homosexuality?

  37. Stormin Norman:

    (1) No…discusson with some thoughtful people, which I’ve been enjoying.

    I enjoy the challenge of having my ideas tested by others and doing the same in return. Give me a break.

    (2) Go back and re-read my first note. I didn’t call your group idiots…but the evangelicals who you normally deal with most often.  Other readers know exactly what I’m talking about.  Your whole thing about billions of non-Catholics is a fallacy. Ten people on one side don’t prove that a single opponent is wrong. 

    (3) I admit my attitude was bit hostile.  I do not presume folks on the site are pliable, but honest and reasonable. 

    (4) I’ve offered positive arguments to every question I’ve been asked.  Honestly, I’ve found you to be the least reasonable of the folks posting.  You don’t even address the topics.

    (5) I really don’t believe that all of the other posters would agree with your statements that no matter what is said they will walk away clinging to the same exact ideas they held before. 

    (6) Last Hussar asked me the questions. I responded.  Complain to him/her.

    (7) I have not provided YOU with any substance because you’re not even talking about anything.  You’re asking me why I’m on the blog, what I’m trying to gain, etc.. What did you expect? Read the other posts.  I’ve offered quite a bit of reasons for my views.

    (8) Great assumption about my clients.  I’ve taught everyone from Muslims to Catholics, Evangelicals to Jews and non-Christians.  In fact, my sphere of company is as diverse as yours can be. 

    (9)  As for “cashing the checks”, I live on a self-sufficient farm in rural NC.  I’m not in this for money and earn about $1500 per month is cash income.  Most of the work I do is offered at no charge, thanks to my simple lifestyle which I pursued for this reason…to be free to serve others.  Good try, though.

    So, you’ve thrown suspicions and accusations around enough…did you have a point?  Stay out of the discussions, you’re wasting time.

  38. QUESTION:  DOES “STORMIN NORMAN” ACTUALLY REPRESENT THE GROUP WHEN HE SPEAKS AS “WE”?  I DON’T BELIEVE YOU ALL WANT HIM AS YOUR REPRESENTATIVE.

  39. QUESTION:  DOES “STORMIN NORMAN” ACTUALLY REPRESENT THE GROUP WHEN HE SPEAKS AS “WE”?  I DON’T BELIEVE YOU ALL WANT HIM AS YOUR REPRESENTATIVE.

    Our new Emperor is kicking me out? Wharrgarbl.

    I’m not a representative of anybody here.

    But let’s humor Mr. Michael just the same, shall we? Let’s have a vote from registered SEB members. Should I stay or should I go? Up/down vote. If the majority of the responses say “go” I will go. Executive privileges: if Les wants me out, I’m out. It’s his blog and I will respect his decision either way.

    Let the voting begin. I’ll check back tomorrow to see the results.

  40. LAST HUSSAR: 

    1. Of course there are reputable geologists who hold the Christian faith.  You cannot verify that there is no possible interpretation of the geological data that can be reconciled with a traditional Catholic interpretation of the book of Genesis.  I’d have to confirm that myself.

    2.  The “God is omnipotent.” argument is of course a very strong first principle.  However, omnipotence is essential to the divine nature, so if there is a God, He would necessarily be omnipotent.  Otherwise, “God” would have no meaning since another being might be stronger than he.  I know that this is purely axiomatic, and I don’t throw this at you as an argument, it is simply the foundation for my belief on the issue you asked me.

    3.  As for the flood, I made it clear that the Genesis account is not a scientific record.  It was written centuries after the events, thought likely originally transmitted by oral tradition.  The work is philosophical, not scientific.  We are under no necessity to read details so rigidly.  Will you set the whole argument on a point I am not even making, namely that the flood water rose several thousand feet above sea level? It is figurative language. Get over it.

    4.  There is certainly evidence for Jesus outside the Bible and you know better.  Christ is referred to as a real person as early as 110 AD in Pliny’s Letter to the Emperor Trajan.  That’s less than 80 years removed from his death.  There are also deductive suggestions that Christ was a real person…for instance, where is the Jewish argument that he never actually existed?  After all, they had a lot to lose because of his life.  Didn’t they ever deny his real existence?  No.

    5.  Every religion has miracles.  You suppose that the only Christian miracles were performed a long time ago in a galaxy far away.  Do you deny the reality of the miracles of the saints throughout history?  What of Padre Pio’s stigmata?  The miracles at Lourdes and Fatima?  You pretend these are all and mere fables belinging to “once upon a time”.  Research them yourself.  The miracles of Christ are authenticated by the fact that they continue in the Church, as He said they would.

    6. I explained already the principle in which laws were repealed by Christ.  Why ignore what I said? But for the sake of your request, you can read the issue explained by the apostles in Galatians 2, Acts 10, 15 and the entire book of Hebrews.  It’s not a mystery.  Eating pork was a ceremonial law in Israel (as was circumcision).  Homosexuality was a matter of sexual morality that had nothing to do with being a Jew of celebrating in the temple.  It was moral and was affirmed in the New Testament.  There is no justification (within Christian ethics) to repeal the teaching of Christ and the apostles. The prohibition against homosexuality is repeated by St. Paul in 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10.  It can’t get any clearer.

  41. Ah Hell, might as well weigh in.

    Modern science has taught us little that medieval farmers didn’t know.  In fact the best practices in modern farming are nothing but a return to pre-modern organic methods.

    Actually, if we were to rely only on medieval farming methods, we would starve to death with our current population and demands.  Bio-engineering, advancements in fertilizers, etc. have made feeding billions of people, reliably, possible.

    2. Your arguments really aren’t helpful here at all.  You are forced to reason from the assumption that the apostles were (a) of low integrity and (b) in error about the events of Christ’s life.  Yet standing 2000 years removed from the events, what are the grounds for your suspicion?

    Are you saying that the apostles wrote the books of the Bible? Because there is strong evidence to the contrary by religious scholars.  That the books were often written decades to centuries after the fact seems to be the consensus.  This is also the reason for so many contradictions in the Bible.  So, low integrity of the apostles is meaningless, as the integrity of these particular individuals has nothing to do with the argument, and they had no input on the events of Christ’s life when setting it down on paper. 
    Standing 2000 years removed, I can say with certainty that there are no such things as magic, miracles, and God(s)—because, as of this time, people making this extraordinary claim have failed to show any proof whatsoever.
    I do not doubt that there existed a Jesus, however, I believe he was simply a tool of Paul to swipe the religion of the Jews and reshape it into his own imaginings.  Paul was good at what he did, there can be no doubt of that.
    – Matt

  42. I was referring to philosophical probability (i.e., reasoning about uncertain events), not mathematical probability & statistics

    I suspected as much. For as much as philosophers try to ground themselves in reason, whether or not their reason is grounded in reality is another issue. The problem to tackle remains: is their model accurate enough for its intended use (whatever that use happens to be?)

    Your arguments really aren’t helpful here at all.  You are forced to reason from the assumption that the apostles were (a) of low integrity and (b) in error about the events of Christ’s life.  Yet standing 2000 years removed from the events, what are the grounds for your suspicion?

    I make no assumptions about the nature of the apostles from a philosophical standpoint – although, in reality, as you suggest, I have a strong bias against them. In principle, I know nothing about them. In practice, this is what leads me to distrust both them and their accounts.

    In principle, God answers our prayers. In practice, we would rather face a blizzard bundled up than pray for mercy. You may be a man of faith, sir, but I guarantee you still look both ways when crossing the street.

    Standing 2000 years after the alleged fact, what reason am I given to believing them? For me, this isn’t a matter of proof, but practicality. People lie. Unless and until something is demonstrated to be reliable to a degree I’m comfortable with, I won’t make an investment in it.

    you should (read Bacon’s work) before making assertions about the nature of science and its historical origins

    Historical origins. I’m all for giving credit where credit is due, but this remains history. This is not to say that Bacon, (or Newton or Darwin) were not intelligent and wise men. Merely, I believe their domains of understanding to be relevant but obsolete. Things are what they are, regardless of what we call them (or who we attribute them to).

    Medieval farmers knew how to cure diseases? Many, yes. They also avoided most of the habitual diseases our high-tech society can’t avoid.  How to solve quantum mechanical formulas? Of course not, they were farmers, not physicists.  Generate or store electricity? Of course not, but electricity is not necessary for life, only a convenience that we choose to use

    That is to say, perhaps, that farmers couldn’t get fat because they were underfed and worked to death. Incidence of all other diseases (cancer, etc) is difficult to measure. We didn’t know those diseases existed; we didn’t look; we thought we had answers.

    After all, they were farmers. Implicitly, their understanding was minimal on almost all subjects. They weren’t doctors, physicists, engineers, dieticians, chemists, actuaries, etc… This is not denying that most people possess little understanding today, but our common sense takes for granted knowledge that those farmers could not conceive of.

    There is some merit to saying that, like common sense, “technology” is cultural. An inventive Tanzanian fisherman is no fool – but a new one-man fishing net is largely obsolete in North America. Also: electricity is only a convenience until you need a pacemaker to live. Unless death is merely an “inconvenience”.

    Do you really believe medieval people were held back from knowing things?  Do you forget where the great mathematicians and scientists were educated?  Copernicus?  Galileo?  Leibniz? Descartes?  In the medieval liberal arts academies, not modern schools.

    Yes, and the Church can be credited with the founding of Universities, too – whose works were exclusively to the extent of affirming the Bible and extending its interpretations. Wanna make bets on what happened to those who adamantly denied the existence of God based on a lack of evidence? A contemporary example would be to look at some of the Madrassas in Iran or Pakistan.

    “Books were a sign of the heretic.”  What in the world are you talking about?  Books were banned that brought complicated and dangerous religious disputes to the uneducated classes by demagogues like Martin Luther

    Which is why, prior to the printing press and Martin Luther, people were executed for translating the Bible into the vernacular (see John Wycliffe). The man responsible for translating (what would become the basis of) the King James Version was a follower of Luther’s philosophies.

    Of course, there was an acceptable way to dispute this: challenge a man of God – then be killed for heresy.

    Alchemy was a field of study and practice, not the summa of medieval scientfici knowledge.  It was even suspect then as was astrology.  That’s like people in 2500 AD suggesting that acupuncture was how people viewed medicine in the 21st century.

    Precisely – anecdotal claims of its use without reliable evidence. You notice how popular “alternative” medicine has become?

    Microbiology surely led to discoveries, but they were not as radical as you think.  Why? Because Our ability to cure diseases after they were present was not as desirable for them as being able to bear with the suffering that, though postponed or substituted for another, would inevitably take their life.

    Watch what happens when we go anti-vaccine and people start dying from measles, mumps, and rubella. Death is only inevitable for a small list of afflictions for which there is no vaccination, cure, or convenient treatment. Herpes is not a reason to want to die. We got this far from understanding how diseases work. Again: nobody concieved of bacteria because, common sense, there’s no such thing as an animal too small to see.

    As for circular logic, re-read what you wrote about the reliability of the Gospels above

    Not seeing it: same practice applies. Scrutinize, scrutinize, scrutinize. Like common sense, the way that changes is through grounded dispute. Common sense is held beyond dispute, which is the problem that science doesn’t have.

    The only reason we don’t see much scientific dispute of evolution is likely a matter of two factors: a) evolution is actually right, or b) the burden of evidence for a dispute is tremendous. Make no mistake – all data gathered and tested against evolution on anything is in agreement with the theory.

    makes no sense to me

    the facts you state, that are largely the same as ever, might refer to what you see as fundamental to human nature. Let’s assume the facts you’re referring to are constants, then yes, the facts haven’t changed.

    Science has discredited much of what was considered common sense, centuries ago. Disease is not a matter of angels and demons.

    =======

    As a side note, I recall having a conversation with a lovely young woman who had travelled the world and was convinced that society needed to revert to hunter-gatherer tribalism and discard the traps of the modern world. Her reasoning is that the world of the hunter-gatherer was simpler and filled with more fundamental wisdom – that the old ones understood how things really were.

    I patiently disputed her before considering pointedly asking her how many people had to die to live into her ideal world. I see nothing about the old ways that makes them more desirable. If today’s thinking is insufficient to solve the problems it creates, then tomorrow must be different. However, I recommend forging ahead, rather than behind. I do not trust the worldviews of my elders – their minds and worldviews are often too simple to be useful to me.

  43. MATT:

    1. As a farmer living in a rural community, I can assure you that the innovations you speak of rarely lead to food on your dinner table.  The mass produced crops in America are wheat, inedible corn (“dent corn”) and soybeans.  Granted, wheat is obviously a staple food, but the dent corn and soybeans are merely raw materials for modern processed foods.  Anyway… 

    2. Can we stop using imaginary witnesses like “consensus”  and “religious scholars”?  Who are they? What are their reasons?  What religious scholar in the world teaches that the apostolic books were written centuries after the apostles lived? No one believes that. 

    3.  Contradictions in the Bible?  List them.  Are they really contradictions?

    4. So, if you’re in the house and you have no proof that it is raining outside, you would feel justified to say that you were certain it was not raining?  What?

    5. Here you say “I believe”…we are seeking the grounds for your belief.  Using your reasoning above, If you have no proof he did so, should you not rather thay that you are “certain Paul spoke the truth”?  Why does that rule not apply to this case?

    I’m sorry, Matt, but this is the worst post yet.  You came onto the blog and made a handful assertions without a single lick of proof for anything you said.  Address the real contradictions in your own statements before worrying about the contradictions you’ve heard about in the Bible.

  44. Can we stop using imaginary witnesses like “consensus” and “religious
    scholars”? Who are they? What are their reasons? What religious scholar in
    the world teaches that the apostolic books were written centuries after the
    apostles lived? No one believes that.

    All of my professors did: and discussing the matter with one of them in particular it became clear that their knowledge of the Bible and its thousands of variant manuscripts was vast.

    A contradiction: – differing accounts between Matthew and Mark? Anyone? I can’t remember. The most commonly cited one, nonetheless.

  45. In general, your arguments are rooted in an unjustified suspicion of the past and prejudice that you cannot explain.  You make scientific and historical generalizations with no support or way to verify what you say. 

    Am I wrong in beliving that you really don’t have reasons for what you hold, but are prejudiced in all of your fundamental arguments?

    I’m trying to be real here.  Don’t accuse me of arrogance..I’m asking you to look at the posts above and see what reasons/evidence for all of your statements have been given.  It is nothing but a list of repeated opinions and assertions spoken with an air of “consensus”.

    Half of them are just verbose dodges of the questions I ask and points I raise.

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.