Posted: Dec 17, 2011 7:49 am
by jlowder
Sorry for responding to things out of order. I wanted to respond to purplerat's post below.

purplerat wrote:There were a couple of other items from jlowder's blog that I had originally wanted to address but didn't. Now that he's here to address these points in person I thought I'd go ahead and bring up my objections. I'm only addressing 1 and 5 because the others, aside from 10 which I previously brought up, just seem like petty strawmen and not worth addressing.

jlowder wrote:1. Any reason for doubt, no matter how far-fetched or speculative, is sufficient for avoiding the conclusion that God exists. For example, even if we don't have the first clue about physics or cosmology, posit the mere possibility of the existence of multiple universes in order to avoid the theistic conclusion of the probabilistic fine-tuning argument for God's existence. This isn't like an American criminal trial where we expect the prosecution to prove the defendant's guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." We expect theists to prove God exists beyond any doubt.

The problem I have with this claim is that I can't think of a single God claim for which there are only "far-fetched or speculative" reasons to doubt. Every one I've ever encountered all have massive holes and flaws that I can't get past before having to worry about the far-fetched or speculative doubts. Your claim puts the cart before the horse. Even if some atheist focus too much on the minor reasons to doubt God claims that doesn't erase the fact that there are still very major reasons to doubt them. To overlook those major reasons and complain about some people pointing out minor reasons is as I said above just a petty strawman.

Well, I'm not a physicist, but I'll give this example. If the ONLY reason a person has for introducing the mutiverse hypothesis is to avoid the theistic conclusion of a fine-tuning argument for God, then that would be a prime example of what I categorize as a "speculative" and "far-fetched" doubt. It would be an ad hoc, "just so" story. Biblical errantists criticize inerrantists for "just so" stories all the time in the context of debates over Bible contradictions; they rightly point out that many of the attempted "harmonizations" are completely ad hoc. Some proponents of the multi-verse hypothesis can come across just as ridiculous as inerrantists and for the same reason.

purplerat wrote:
jlowder wrote:
5. Require extrabiblical evidence for relatively modest empirical claims in the NT such as the historicity of Jesus, as if there were anything extraordinary about the New Testament Jesus being based upon a real historical individual.

My objection to this point is not about whether or not there is reason to think a historical Jesus could have existed. My objection is to the specail pleading for how the NT is treated in regards to empirical claims. The bible is a book of fiction, something even most Christians and theologians accept and acknowledge. There may be bits of historical truth in it, but for no other fiction do we expect empirical claims to be taken on face value without some other source to confirm their accuracy. Tom Sawyer contains many historically accurate empirical claims. Yet you would expect a non-fiction source to validate the historical accuracy of those claims. There very well may have been a historical Tom Sawyer but you wouldn't accept at face value even the most modest claims as being historically accurate without some other source. So why treat the Bible differently?

I disagree. My position can be summarized as follows:

1. So far as I can tell, the genre of the Bible is controversial. It is question-begging to assert that the Bible is a book of fiction, if by book of fiction you mean the author's intent was to invent stories about events that never happened.
2. The claim "even most Christians and theologians accept and acknowledge" that the Bible is a book of fiction is an empirical claim. I don't know of any empirical evidence to support that claim. I think it's false. The majority of Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants believe that the Bible contains at least some historically accurate details.
3. Regarding the idea of taking the Bible at face value, I am not saying we should believe that Jesus existed because we should take the Bible at face value. In fact, I think the question, "Should we take the Bible at face value?", is the wrong question to ask. Instead, we should ask, should we believe this passage or this verse.