Would you accept the presence of evil as evidence of an evil, but not necessarily omnipotent god? Why or why not?
Though occasional use is inevitable, I generally try to avoid the words proof and disproof, especially in discussions of epistemology and empiricism. I don’t know how many of you have met him yet, but Peter Hurford is a new commenter around here with a blog of his own, and from what I’ve seen so far, I would highly recommend dialoging with him on behalf of his aptitude and courtesy. He also asks good questions, the kind that get you thinking, as opposed to, say, the kind that piss you off. Recently on another blog, Peter made a remark that I felt compelled to reply to, and I wanted to repost a slight modification of that short reply here, just to see what people here might think of it.
I recently discovered a blog called Unequally Yoked, maintained by Leah, a Yale student. In her post Your Faith Is Vain; Ye Are Yet In Your Sins, Leah invites believers to answer a few questions regarding their faith. Here are my initial offerings:
1. What earthly evidence could cause you to reject your faith (if any)?
I was just thinking about this [yet again] the other day, and while I'm hesitant to say any of the following would cause me to reject my faith, each would certainly cause me to have stronger doubts:
1.1 If recorded history could be reliably proven to extend back hundreds of thousands of years, as opposed to 6,000;
1.2 If scientists could prove that the universe always existed;
1.3 If there were no such thing as entropy;
1.4 If we had an absence of spiritual accounts instead of a consistent abundance of them spanning across multiple cultures in all times;
1.5 If the Jewish race had been exterminated or otherwise died off;
1.6 If humans lived to be significantly older than 120 years without the aid of science.
2. Have you researched these possible disproofs yourself/read the work of scholars in the field?
3. Does your faith make any empirical predictions about the earthly world? What are they?
I believe the Bible makes quite a few empirical statements about the future of the earthly world. Here are a few off the top of my head:
3.1 The writer of Hebrews states that the cosmos will "wear out like a garment." That's certainly an empirical statement, in fact, one that seems empirically verified [hence my 3 above];
3.2 The Bible states that the Jewish race would be extant up until the final hour;
3.3 In Revelation, John of Patmos describes a state of affairs where nobody will be able to buy or sell goods without the "mark of the beast."
I’ve fallen behind in my responses to jim’s series Proof of God’s Existence, but that’s okay. In fact, I’d say it’s even preferred. After all, his series is a thought experiment, which means the more we think about it, the more mental heavy lifting we’re doing. Mental heavy lifting is a good thing.
Although Scene 4: The Newspaper is pretty short, volumes could be written in response to it, especially the opening paragraph:
What is evidence? What does someone mean when they say there’s ‘no evidence’ for any particular claim? Is a claim, itself, evidence all on it’s own? Can something be rightly called evidence one day, and not the next? Is evidence automatically strengthened on the basis of multiple claimants?
–jim, Reason vs. Apologetics
Those are definitely meaningful questions, but I must confess to a certain sense of mixed emotion when I hear jim ask them. On the one hand, I believe (a)theists should ask them. In fact, I’d say if (a)theists want to get anywhere in their discussions, they’re obligated to start from common ground. Otherwise, without firmly cemented goalposts that clarify what is and is not acceptable as evidence, (a)theist discussion often descends into an unproductive shell game.
On the other hand, both jim and other atheists have sharply criticized me for similar inquiry, which makes this newfound interest in it seem a little backhanded. After all, I’ve asked jim and countless other atheists these same exact questions, only to be met with accusations of sophistry and insult!
All the while the questions remain: what is evidence? What do people mean when they say there’s no evidence for any given claim? Is a claim evidence all on its own?
jim at RvA has blessed us with a new series titled Proof of God’s Existence, and I intend to respond to each installment of his series, which seems designed to corral the believer’s claims into the confines of what jim calls “common sense inquiry.” I suppose we’ll see just what that means as time unfolds.
He begins with words likely all too familiar to veterans in this game, centered around the question of what constitutes adequate proof of God’s existence:
It’s a common question on the tip of many a Christian’s tongue when confronted with skepticism regarding their theistic worldview, yes? Responses from skeptics generally revolve around some kind of convincing display(s) of ‘miraculous’ interventions, or other manifestations i.e. events beyond the generally accepted, deterministic norms of the most current naturalistic paradigm, and supported by scientific methodology such as observation, controlled testing, repeatability and the like. –jim, reason vs. apologetics
The context of that discussion was simultaneous dreaming, and it ended with Marianne deciding that republishing her paper in its entirety would be the best approach. She added that if I were to do so, she’d be happy to receive criticism, answer questions, and/or discuss the paper. Well! I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly glad she’s given us this opportunity, as it’s not everyday we get to talk to the scientists who actually publish the papers we read and cite in our discussions of (a)theism.
Although Marianne saved me the work of having to relay her words to you, which also nicely eliminated the possibility of me getting any of her words wrong, I’d still like to address the relevance of Sleepdream #3 to our ongoing discussion on consciousness. For those who’d like to skip my thoughts and go straight to the source first, please do: you’ll find links to Marianne’s paper (in its entirety) at the end of this post.
As we mentioned yesterday, Greta Christina – an atheist blogger whom I actually admire – has written another post garnering strong support from the aetheosphere. The post is titled, "Hey Religious Believers, Where's Your Evidence?" As you might expect, it's both a challenge to believers to "show Greta the money" as well as an armchair psychoanalysis of the subset of believers who fail to rise to her challenge.
The Chaplain has taken me to task for what she feels is an incomplete critique of Greta's post, so today I intend to discuss it more thoroughly.
I feel the need to clarify a few things. In general — but in this post especially — when I say belief, I refer specifically to the belief that God exists as described in the Bible. When I say believer or saint, I refer specifically to those who have believed and known God, and henceforth accepted the provision of the Gospel: Jesus Christ. Unless in the pre-stated context of Roman Catholicism, when I say the church, I refer to the body of believers and saints spread across the world.
The biblical definition of a believer is one whose spirit has been regenerated by God. Does this mean that any person who utters with their mouth "I believe" is regenerated thusly? Certainly not. Although the church is the body of believers, not every person who attends church believes. In fact, the Bible grimly suggests the opposite, and such is borne out by the testimonies of former Christians everywhere. The difference between being a member of the church and simply attending church is precisely this matter of regeneration. Again, belief refers to something that actually happens to the subject in the spiritual realm. Anything less than this is a mere puffing up of the religious mind.
Image source: tutornext.com
Yesterday we talked about asteroids, and the fact that “there’s no evidence for X” type claims are often made amidst the very evidence being denied. We also discussed the interesting truth that an unjustified claim is not necessarily untrue. Today, let’s continue with another example from science’s history to discuss what counts for evidence, when our beliefs are justified, and the extent to which we can lean on either as an epistemological security blanket. Let’s discuss cathode rays!
First, some backstory to this admittedly oddly-titled entry: Ebonmuse has a post titled Ten Questions To Ask Your Pastor in which he uses the following rhetorical device:
Why do Christians believe in the soul when neurology has found clear evidence that the sense of identity and personality can be altered by physical changes to the brain? —Ebonmuse, Ten Questions To Ask Your Pastor
My immediate questions were, “What in the Christian concept of the soul suggests that our sense of identity and personality shouldn’t be altered by physical changes to the brain?”