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Friday, March 15, 2013

Hector Avalos is on the War Path (again)!

Sorry to readers who are tired of my debates with New Atheists -- I do have a bunch of stuff I'm looking forward to write about soon, including the remarkable story of Ranald Macdonald, the half-Chinook Indian who was the first American to voluntarily visit Japan, and maybe some good stuff from Plato, too.  But the fireworks shop has just gone up in a blaze of glory.  Hector Avalos is on the warpath, John Loftus is swearing at me (whether for good or bad reason, I'm not quite sure myself), and I still need to go through my debate with Richard Carrier and sort out fact from fiction.  So sit back and enjoy the show, if that's your leaning, or throw water on the conflagration, if you're a responsible citizen.  Or grab a few bottlerockets yourself, and come join the fray.   



In response to my criticism last Thursday of his article attempting to debunk William Lane Craig on the resurrection, Dr. Hector Avalos, Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, has let me know that he's writing another attack on my integrity, or at least competence, as a scholar. 

Now where are those smelling salts? 

Avalos' article was nominally on the resurrection. Yet he also took quite a few general shots at Christians, including the following shot at Christian scholars as a group:

It is not often that I express pleasure at reading critiques of my work. That is because criticisms of my work by Christian apologists are seldom devoid of ad hominem and vitriolic comments.

Is that really how it works?

Hector Avalos is an intelligent and in some ways skillful scholar, certainly he is accomplished. But it seems to take little to get him to go personal. In debates, attacking the credentials of his opponents has more than once proven his ready recourse.

Nor was I the one originally to take our conversation south, either.  

The goal of the chapter by Avalos in the Christian Delusion, "Atheism Was Not the Cause of the Holocaust," which first made our acquaintance, was to blame Christianity, to large extent, for the Nazis' murder of Jews.  That's a pretty edgy position to take, seemingly designed to stir up emotion.

Yet in my review, I engaged in neither "ad hominem" nor "vitriol."  Nor did I demean Avalos as a scholar.  I argued against his facts and his logic.  Here is probably the harshest paragraph in my short review:

Avalos' understanding of the Crusades and pogroms is superficial and tendentious; I recommend Stark on this subject, or Rene Girard.  His discussion of witch-hunting is also silly and illogical.  Neo-pagan historian Jenny Gibbons offers a far more reasonable discussion.  (Or for a realistic "case study" feel of how it worked, see the excellent Kepler's Witch.)  And by the way, let me add that I have personally stumbled across modern Christian missions that protect people accused of witchcraft on three continents.  Would it be too much to ask for a balanced discussion, some time?

Note that there is not a single general dig at Avalos' honesty or skill as a scholar, here. I criticize his arguments, not his person.  Many people offer "silly" or even "tendentious" arguments from time to time, without being in general silly or incompetent thinkers. 

In response, by contrast, knowing little about me, Avalos went right for the jugular:

David Marshall, who deems himself educated in biblical studies and history . . . proves himself to be an ill-read amateur here.  I have already covered the Crusades at great length in Fighting Words (2005) . . . I meet people like Marshall every day.  They think they have read a few books, and now deem themselves experts.  The truth Marshall is not really qualified to evaluate much of anything I, Stark, or any other real scholar says.  His comments prove him to be an amateur, and nothing more.

I subsequently rebutted many of Avalos' specific claims, and showed that his exegesis was often tendentious, to put it generously.  See also this on Avalos' grossly misleading description of sources for the First Crusade. 

But his comments above make one thing clear.  I did not start the ad hominem in our conversation.  Dr. Avalos did.  One wonders, then, also given his behavior in public debates, if Avalos was really so innocent in those other conversations with Christian scholars. 

When he lost that "Battle of Chapter 14" on Amazon (a good number -- his arguments turned up bankrupt), Avalos loosed an angry personal attack on me at Deconstructing Christianity, entitled, "A Slave to Incompetence: The Truth Behind David Marshall's Research on Slavery." In that attack, Avalos said nothing about what precipitated the attack, or why he was so obviously miffed, but a lot about my alleged intellectual and moral failings. Avalos played the "incompetent pseudo-scholar" string like a Stradivarius, varying it with occasional charges of dishonesty: I was a "hack writer," "slave to incompetence," "indolent researcher," "cut and paste artist," "not well-read," "lazy person's apologist," "as deep an indictment of intellectual integrity as one can find."

I responded with "Why the Hectoring, Dr. Avalos?" and “Slave to Cherry-picked Footnotes: 19 problems with Hector Avalos on religion and human bondage," I think effectively.

Which leads us to this second round, now begun.   


Second Round: the Spark

As noted above, Avalos' article on the resurrection carried an edge to it.  Avalos offered frequent digs at Christian scholars, along with a jumbled and often anachronistic read of the allegedly "totalitarian" Christian tradition:

Fourth, Campbell apparently forgets that erasing history is precisely a mainstay of Christian history.  For much of the last two thousand years, Catholic and Protestant churches functioned as totalitarian machines that sought to stamp out rival views of God and Jesus by branding opponents as heretics . . .

Book burning, whose main function is to erase history or opposing teachings, was widely practiced in Christian history. Already in Acts 19:19 were are told: “And a number of those who practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all; and they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.” Even if Christians are not forcing people to erase their books through burning here, they are seemingly endorsing the practice.

Note the verbal tip-toeing Avalos engages in in this passage, to try to avoid overt falsehood, yet still somehow milk this Acts passage for intimations of censorship.  Avalos and I have argued about this passage in the past: I have already reminded him that destroying one's own property, in this case books of magic, is not immoral, no burn bans being on at the time.  Nor was it likely to have been a great loss to human philosophy or literature. 

Indeed, I admit to have burnt literature myself, from time to time -- I pile old printouts of my writings by the door to my office, and occasionally use them to start barbecue or brush fires.  Perhaps I am unknowingly indulging the "censorship meme" passed on by my reading of Scripture!
 
But Avalos suggested that this sin is still with us as Christian scholars.  He named five Christian scholars who lost their jobs at Christian educational institutions for holding (it seems) to more liberal positions than those institutions wished to tolerate in their teaching staff.

By contrast:

I don’t know of ANY scholars who have been fired from a public secular university for expressing belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
What bothered Avalos about my long rebuttal of his long article on the resurrection-cum-case-for-the-prosecution, was it seems not my arguments against his position on the resurrection, which were irenic in tone and I believe answered many of his arguments effectively, but my response to these ad hominal digs, which I gave in a late section of my piece called "Liars for Jesus?" 

Especially, Dr. Avalos disliked what I said in response to his claim, "I don’t know of ANY scholars who have been fired from a public secular university for expressing belief in the resurrection of Jesus . . . "

I answered:  

Now that is remarkable. Not to mention, ironic. Read Guillermo Gonzalez' account of how he lost his job at Hector Avalos' own university, Iowa State University, (a controversy in which Avalos himself seems to have played no neglible at least climactic role), in Faith Seeking Understanding.

But of course, a private school is not a public school.  Private schools have the right to hire only teachers who will affirm the pedagogical assumptions they promise prospective students and their parents.  Public schools are funded, by contrast, by taxpayers, and are responsible for educating the general audience.   Shouldn't that difference be obvious?

Out of all my long article, Avalos responded solely to the first of these two paragraphs, even to a single sentence:

Hello, Mr. Marshall,

As usual, your hasty work results in sloppy documentation, and misunderstandings of what I wrote.  I will just give one example for now.


RE: "Read Guillermo Gonzalez' account of how he lost his job at Hector Avalos' own university, Iowa State University, (a controversy in which Avalos himself seems to have played no neglible at least climactic role), in Faith Seeking Understanding."

You really have no knowledge of this case, and I have already explained how those accusations are false, and mostly propaganda from the Discovery Institute, among other pro-ID vehicles.
See; http://www.talkreason.org/arti...

For you to repeat them as though they have credibility is itself testimony as to the careless way in which you deal with historical evidence.

As usual, you are hasty in doing your homework instead of taking the time and effort to get your narrative right and well documented.

-If I am wrong, could you reveal to us the internal documents from the department that establish my alleged role in any decision about his job? 

-Why did you not quote the actual stated reasons given by the university for not bestowing tenure?

-If you did, then why were those reasons not satisfactory to you?
-Where did ever speak about his tenure?
-What exactly was the nature of my influence on the vote by his department?
Could you answer those questions so that we can test how well you deal with a balanced approach to historical evidence where all the witnesses are still alive?

I answered:

Mr. Avalos: My source is Guillermo himself. I said "climactic" role, to distinguish from direct influence. The term is often implied in such phrases as "climate of hatred," which I however avoided, and was not used by Dr. Gonzalez. But the phrase does recognize that discriminatory actions are usually not taken in a social vacuum. 

The larger points are that discrimination does, indeed, seem to occur on occasion, at least as many as you have cited, against wrong-thinking Christians on secular campuses. There seems to be sufficient evidence that that played a role at your school, even if your own role was indirect and perhaps unintentional. Also that discrimination is far less justifiable at a secular school, than at a private school, which you conflate in your argument. 
But of course these are relative footnotes to the overall argument. I considered not mentioning this, to avoid drawing attention away from the more important arguments, and because, frankly, I don't have any great wish to provoke your enmity.  I'd rather remain civil with you, as we seemed to become in more recent posts.  But the fact that you in particular, at Iowa State of all places, made that argument, spreading the manure so blanketly about Christian scholars as well, made it hard for me to keep mum.  Also, I live in thrall to the Muse Irony.   

I will, however, check your link (thank you), and if I seem to be wrong about something, make the necessary corrections and / or apologies.


On reviewing the source Dr. Avalos linked to, I find nothing I said needs to be taken back or amended.  Avalos is wrong in assuming my source for what I said was the Discovery Institute: it was, instead, Gonzalez himself.   (Who wrote a chapter for my Faith Seeking Understanding.)  I didn't claim that Iowa State had directly cited Avalos' anti-ID petition, or that the petition specifically mentioned Gonzalez.

So I deny that my comments, parenthetical as they were, were a symptom of bad historical method on my part.

Nor do they derive from blind adherance to the Discovery Institute, whose press releases I am always somewhat skeptical about.
 
The truth is, I just don't like pressures towards intellectual conformity in general.  Here is what I wrote just this morning in response to criticism of Rob Bell on a Christian web site, for instance:

"My point is that I prefer the attitude of the 2nd and 3rd Centuries to that so often developed in the late 4th and 5th: I think Christianity took a wrong turn, there.  Not in terms of the content of doctrine, but in the focus on excessive demands for intellectual conformity."

I do appreciate the interesting information provided by Avalos' link.  It does explain Avalos' position better than I had been aware.   But if anything, I think it also underlines my general point somewhat.

To which Avalos responded, making it clear that he still intended to use my short comment about the Gonzalez case to justify an attack on my scholarship:

Mr. Marshall,

These are not "relative footnotes." They go to the heart of how you evaluate historical evidence, which the Gonzalez case is now.

In your blog response you complain that I homogenize early Christian sources, and then here you do the same in terms of only quoting or giving credence to the Gonzalez side.  There are at least 4 types of sources:

A. Gonzalez (provide a link, unless you are reporting personal conversations, and then why did you not check his allegations with me?)

B. Myself
C. The department which evaluated Gonzalez
D. The University at the presidential level
E. Outsiders, including the Discovery Institute, bloggers, etc.

RE: "There seems to be sufficient evidence that that played a role at your school...."

But what exactly is what you are calling evidence?

Why didn't you answer the questions I posed to test how you evaluated the historical evidence?

To which I answered, finally: 

Poppycock. I raised numerous issues about your claims.  Rather than answer those issues (which, if one wanted to be tendentious, one could interpret as systematic methodological weaknesses on your part), you focus on just one of my more minor arguments, and try to work it up into some sort of an ad hominem "case" against myself -- ignoring all the others. 

This is a moderately clever kung fu move, but as a response to my arguments, leaves a lot to be desired. 

As for the minor issue, instead of admitting your error -- my source was not DI -- you double down on an increasingly threadbare case.  One could micro-focus, in response, on YOUR historical method in making false assumptions, based on no evidence whatsoever, about MY source of information.  Or one could focus on your misreading of my original claim, which was about the "climate" in which the drama took place (not about the specific decision-making process), to which you do seem to have contributed. 

But that would be tendentious, and so is your response.  You rely too much on ad hominem.   I admit that my criticism of your actions gives you some excuse for that.  But I've already explained that my criticism was not, in fact, an attempt to historically reconstruct the exact processes by which Dr. Gonzalez lost his chance at tenure.  So let's not pretend that that is the issue, and that you can on that slender basis construct some sort of a "case" against my historical methodology.  I could build a similar case against your methods at three dozen different points in our previous arguments.   But at our stage of life, I really don't think playing such games is that much fun, anymore, if it ever was.

One might add, given his criticism of me, did Dr. Avalos contact all the people who were involved in getting those five Christian scholars dismissed, individuals, departments, and university presidents, as he delineates, to get their sides of the story, before posting his own attack on them at Deconstructing Christianity?  Did he himself follow the historical methodology that he advises I ought to have used, before posting about his own role at Iowa State?

But his link above, seems to verify my actual, minimal claim about the "climactic" role he played.  And I think that's reason enough, baring further revelations, to continue finding Avalos' criticism of Christian institutions rich in irony, which was my original point.   Avalos does, indeed, seem to be one of those people who can dish it out, but can't take it. 


Shaving with Occam's Razor

In his resurrection article, Avalos does praise the tone of one Christian scholar:

Campbell is probably the best Christian critic of my work that I have encountered in terms of the effort to address my arguments forthrightly and professionally.  For this, I do commend him, and it also renders him worthy of a response on the same level.

It is good to see that Avalos can, on occasion, write courteously. 

Avalos ends his article, however, with remarkably sweeping generalizations about "Christian institutions:"

The reality is that it is Christian institutions that have controlled biblical studies until very recently, and Christian institutions routinely disemployed, persecuted, or killed scholars who disagreed with what was thought to be orthodox, whether this was Arius in the fourth century, Galileo in the seventeenth, or Peter Enns in the twenty-first.

Conflating a seminary that (after much deliberation) lets a teacher go because they do not think he agrees with the Statement of Faith they uphold and he signed to get the job, with murder, and by this slight of hand spanning 20 centuries and millions of scholars, is painting with a pretty broad brush.  How many people have been fired or persecuted for asserting Christian teachings  by non-Christians (Muslims, Buddhists, NeoConfucianists, communists, secular humanists) over the same period?  Forty million?  Would it be fair, then, to speak of how "non-Christian institutions routinely disemployed, persecuted, or killed scholars who agreed with Christian orthodoxy?" 

Of course not. 

One may ask, then, if the reason there tends to be a vitriolic edge to so many of Avalos' conversations with Christian scholars, is not just because he habitually makes such over-the-top accusations as blaming Christianity for the Holocaust, or accusing Jesus of hate speech.  Nor is it even just because the evidence which supposedly support such wild claims often dissolves under careful scrutiny.

Clearly, Avalos often introduces this element of vitriol to the discussion himself. 

William of Occam (another of those obnoxious Christian scholars) taught us to explain patterns by the simplest theorum that covers the facts.  It is not that Christian scholars are all such nasty bastards as he supposes, waiting to viciously pitch into any scholar who happens to come to unorthodox results.  Rather, Avalos initiates combat, and then complains when the other side shoots back. 

Well, I do plan to shoot back, as needed.  Unfair criticism ought to be responded to, as indeed both Jesus and the Apostle Paul rebutted their critics at times.

But I'll try to use "smart bullets."  I don't want to cause "collateral damage" to truth, justice, or even good will, where it can be avoided.  So I do not intend to engage in wholesale invective of the sort on offer in Avalos' article on the resurrection.  I want to be fair even to Dr. Avalos, who certainly deserves a good measure of respect, hope that he seeks a more constructive dialogue with his Christian opponents, and fairly consider the truth of any charges he may bring against myself. I am, of course, often liable to error, and ought to be grateful when it is pointed out.

But don't be surprised if things get a little hot here, soon. : - )




56 comments:

Crude said...

Hector Avalos is an intelligent and in some ways skillful scholar, certainly he is accomplished. But it seems to take little to get him to go personal. In debates, attacking the credentials of his opponents has more than once proven his ready recourse.

I think it's fair to criticize Avalos' skill as a scholar when he reacts to criticism the way he does. For every inch he edges in that direction, he edges away from being a scholar. Sometimes poor character traits directly impact a person's professional reliability.

It is not that Christian scholars are all such nasty bastards as he supposes, waiting to viciously pitch into any scholar who happens to come to unorthodox results. Rather, Avalos initiates combat, and then complains when the other side shoots back.

I recently read a summary of how one side of the political spectrum sees the other side operating. I think it works well for Cult of Gnu style atheists, of which Avalos seems to fit the mold.

Atheist 1: Attack! Attack attack ATTACK attack attack attack!
Atheist 2! Attack! Attack!
Theist: Defend.
Atheist 1: Rude! RUDE!
Atheist 2: So very, very rude!

Something along those lines seems to be in play here.

domics said...

Wow!
is Dr. Avalos attacking your credentials the same Dr. Avalos who invited at a recent SBL meeting the unqualified and un-academic Nazareth mithicist Renè Salm?


David B Marshall said...

I've heard of the theory, but didn't recall the man's name. Apparently Bart Erhman has written a piece trashing him, but Bart wants $ Bucks for reading privileges. Don't know their connection, except that Robert Price seems to like this Salm fellow, and of course Price is part of the skeptical coterie that produced The Christian Delusion, etc.

domics said...

Salm's 'theory' is of course trashed by all serious academics and his invitation to a SBL meeting caused an uproar among them.
That was Dr. Avalos who invited Mr. Salm it is said by the same Salm in the comment#5 of this blog :
http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/more-sbl-fallout-from-rene-salms-paper/


David Marshall said...

Interesting. So apparently Dr. Avalos doesn't mind uncredentialed outsiders "challenging the current paradigm," even if almost any credentialed Christian will invariably prove to be defective in his / her scholarship.

I noticed that Salm also both likes and dislikes ad hominem and psychobabble. On the one hand:

"The Nazareth myth stands on its own. Second guesses on why I wrote the book are irrelevant and often wrong."

But on the other:

Ehrman: "Salm claims that those who oppose him have a theological or religious bias against his views, but this simply is not true. EVERYONE who is an expert opposes his views – Jewish, Christian, agnostic, or other. There is not a single archaeologist of ancient Israel that gives him the least credit."

Salm: "That's because they know on which side their bread is buttered."

"Everybody is entitled to an opinion, both the credentialed and the non-credentialed. The difference is that the credentialed academic has one hand on the facts and one hand on a paycheck, while the non-credentialed layperson is free to pursue the facts unfettered."

Which aside from contradicting his prior disparagement of mind-reading, is of course grossly false. Everyone is NOT "entitled to an opinion." Scholarship is not a democracy.

Cornell Anthony said...

So Avalos the anti-Christian see's Campbell as a worthy Christian scholar or the only worthy scholar who engages his work?

What about N.T Wright, Ben Witherington III, James Dunn, James Orr, Luke T Johnson, John Meier, Craig Evans, Richard Bauckman, Larry Hurtado, D.A Carson, Raymond Brown, Eldon J. Epp, Graham H. Twelftree and Martin Hengel?

Can someone ask him what he thinks of these scholars?

If Hector Avalos dismisses the works from all these scholars, then there really is no reason to take him seriously, and one would have to come to the conclusion that Hector Avalos is indeed an abject ignoramus who just dislikes Christians.

Avalos is starting to me remind me of a 6 year old who is angry at the kid who disagrees with him on which Marvel Superhero is the coolest.

Cornell Anthony said...

'So Avalos the anti-Christian see's Campbell as a worthy'

Meant to say 'The ONLY worthy'

David B Marshall said...

Cornell: Not to be pedantic, but Avalos is not an "ignoramus." He's learned, accomplished, and intelligent. Bigotry, not stupidity, is what fells him.

Whether one takes him seriously or not, his arguments provide good fodder for refutation of the kung fu variety.

Vasile Aciobanitei said...

I just have a question:

- Why this imagination that whenever an atheist writes an opinion, the atheist is seen as a barking mad, hater, foaming at the mouth animal... while when a theist or an apologist, when writes an opinion is seen as a calm, wise, pacifist, kind of loving person?

I mean, not everybody has this kind of imagination, but isn't this kind imagination part of a paranoid personality?

David B Marshall said...

Vasile: Many atheists have posted very reasonable and welcome opinions on this blog, over the past two years.

Some theists are jerks. We take it on a case-by-case basis.

Hector Avalos is not "barking mad" in the sense of "crazy," just in the sense of "angry." I heard from another Christian scholar tonight who was also subjected to his ad hominem attacks. I wish him peace, and hope he gets over it.

steve said...

For someone who wrote a book against "fighting words," Avalos sure uses a lot of fighting words against his ideological opponents.

Vasile Aciobanitei said...

I can write "fighting words" and be on the floor laughing.

Anyway, my question was something like "why atheists are seen by theists and/or apologists, anything but calculated, calm, wise or loving persons?"

I spent a lot of time through forums, boards, blogs, etc. And I was called names, insulted, "ad hominem"-ed, you name it. I learned a lot of insults, "sophisticated" insulting phrases, wisecracks, smartass, you name it.

Anyway, coming back to guessing the atheists tempers... why do you care about that? I mean, aren't you happy? Isn't anger and insulting the last resorts of a loser?

Moreover, aren't theists and apologists covered by the above peace? Why should I feel obligated even to remark the anger or the "fighting words" of atheists? why should I feel compelled to be ironic or condescending against atheists?

Why as a theists or apologist, cannot focus on the important points to convey. Is it more important to see emotions and reactions?

But then again, the atheist-theist dialog has nothing to do with rational. All is about emotional manipulation...

I guess then, that when atheists get emotional and throw "at hominem", maybe theists and apologists had reached their aims: "atheists feel anger because they cannot feel peace when they attack God"... However, when theists and apologists feel anger, then... maybe... God is not there.

David B Marshall said...

Vasile: For me, it's all about truth. I'll debate facts and evidence with calm skeptics -- who I pointed out do show up here pretty often -- in a cheerful, friendly manner. I even analyze Avalos' arguments in detail in various posts on this blog -- he actually didn't seem to mind my several-part critique of one of his books here, a few months ago.

But human beings are more than just rational, and it would hiding one's head in the sand to ignore the emotion so often behind the arguments. It is also legitimate to tag bad behavior and label it as such -- one of the worst things a teacher, which both Avalos and I are, can do is turn one's head away from a student who is misbehaving. One misbehaving student can disrupt an entire class. One unfair fanatic can ruin a rational conversation or dialogue. I usually focus on the facts. But occasionally, it is proper to focus on motivation, and tag it as inappropriate, so that rational discourse can procede with fewer obstacles.

From that, of course, you can rationally deduce nothing whatsoever about the existence of God -- at least not easily.

Vasile Aciobanitei said...

You confuse "rational dialogue" with teaching, you won't accept truth from students, for they are not able to think with their heads yet... unless you finish your "rational dialogue" from which they can start "thinking".

For you it is impossible to even think that a student is smarter than you, unless he/she thinks at least like you then says something what you'd like to hear.

I think that atheism was born from students who started to think differently than their teachers. Students and not disciples, disciples are slaves not allowed to think above their masters.

You don't like students, you'll love to have disciples.

David B Marshall said...

Vasile: It's getting hard for me to find the sense in your comments. Maybe that's partly because English is not your first language, which is cool -- it's good to have a variety of perspectives.

You seem to be telling me what I like and don't like -- I like "disciples," don't like "students" or people who say what I don't want to hear? What do these random (and wrong) guesses about me have to do with the subject of this thread?

As a matter of fact, I always tended to favor the smartest students in the class,whatever their perspectives -- that was one of my weaknesses. And I would feel intensely uncomfortable around anyone who agrees with me too much -- maybe one reason I spend so much time on atheist web sites. But you wouldn't know that, since you're talking (not to put too dainty a point on it) out of your ass.

Best get to a relevant point, if you can -- the slide into wild ad hominal guesses isn't going to get you anywhere here.

As for when and how atheism was born, anyone can guess.

domics said...

I could agree with Vasile...
let's hope that Avalos students are allowed to think above their master...

David B Marshall said...

Feel free to post again when you have something to say, Vasile.

Cornell Anthony said...

David I never came to the conclusion that Avalos was in fact an ignoramus, I just said that if he does in fact dismiss all those scholars I listed outright, then I would brand him as an ignoramus.

Vasile Aciobanitei said...

DMB said: Feel free to post again when you have something to say, Vasile.
===
No thanks, I wasted already precious time writing in this garbage blog.

I know, you'll delete that too.

David B Marshall said...

You did, indeed, waste time, yours and ours. You began with a tendentious question, which pretended falsehoods about me, and I answered patiently, giving you every benefit of the doubt. Rather than responding to that generosity by acting the maturity that is requested of posters here, you've gone from vacuity to vacuity and from stupid, witless sneer to stupid, witless sneer.

I suspected you could do better, with a little patience. But likely I was wrong.

BibleWheel said...

David Marshall wrote:
"Mr. Avalos: My source is Guillermo himself. I said "climactic" role, to distinguish from direct influence. The term is often implied in such phrases as "climate of hatred," which I however avoided, and was not used by Dr. Gonzalez."

That comment is absurd. The word "climactic" refers to a CLIMAX, not the any kind of climate!

This is pretty typical of the quality of thought I see in David Marshall's work.

David B Marshall said...

Wheel: That's an example of quality of spelling, not quality of thought, genius.

BibleWheel said...

So David you are saying that you misspelled that word twice, and both times you actually meant to say that he played a "climatic role"? OK. That seems to make sense. He did add to the "climate" as does everyone. But you have totally IGNORED the main point that he was rejected for performance, not believing that "Jesus was resurrected" which is the POINT that you were supposedly addressing. Talk about "genius"! Doh.

The specific point you were supposedly refuting was Avalos' statement that "I don’t know of ANY scholars who have been fired from a public secular university for expressing belief in the resurrection of Jesus." The Gonzalez case is totally irrelevant to that point.

You were able to admit a spelling error. That is good. Can you now admit an error in your argument?

David B Marshall said...

Wheel: The actual point was that Hector Avalos contributed to a climate of intolerance at Iowa State University. Follow the bouncing ball carefully, now, friend. Whether or not that contribution made any difference at all to those who denied Dr. Gonzalez tenure is not MY point. And since Avalos purports to be criticizing ME, that is the only REAL point.

Avalos introduced a false analogy between teachers being booted from Bible schools for failing to affirm some aspect of perceived Christian orthodoxy, and teachers being booted from public schools for believing one particular Christian dogma, the resurrection. I reject that analogy, for numerous reasons, one already given. One problem with that analogy is between public and private schools. Since I mentioned that problem, I did not "totally ignore" Avalos' point, which is bogus. I could mention other problems with the analogy, in fact they are implicit. Another is that it is illegitimate to compare denying ANY tenet of Christian doctrine (Bible school) to affirming ONE tenet of Christian doctrine -- which Avalos did to give his argument a bogus advantage.

Got it now?

BibleWheel said...

David, thank you for proving my point, which is that you are babbling about NOTHING while pretending to be refuting Avalos' VALID point he made when he said "I don’t know of ANY scholars who have been fired from a public secular university for expressing belief in the resurrection of Jesus."

We are not talking about any "false analogies" here. We are talking about the Avalos' words that YOU QUOTED and failed to refute.

You need to admit the TRUTH. You attempted to rebut Avalos by citing the Gonzalaz case which is totally irrelevant. Yet you replied by saying it was "ironic" because Gonzalez failed to get tenure at Indiana. It was NOT ironic, it was IRRELEVANT! And it appears you know that I am right, because now you are bloviating on all sorts of other "points" and not even trying to defend your OWN WORDS that I have exposed as erroneous.

You appear to be a radically confused individual. You can't even follow your own "bouncing ball" when you bounce it for yourself!



BibleWheel said...

As for your second point concerning the "false analogy" - I agree that there is a difference between booting a Christian for not holding to dogams as opposed to booting a scientist for not following the facts. But that only shows that religious schools are based on BLIND FAITH and not logic and facts, as is science.

Your attempt to rewrite the Christian faith by asserting it is not based on "blind faith" is patently absurd. Blessed are they who believe but have not seen. We walk by faith, not sight. Etc., etc., etc.

David B Marshall said...

Wheel: You really do go around in a circle, don't you?

Avalos' argument, which he has attempted to make in his books as well as on blogs, is that there is "something in the water" in Christianity that leads to persecutions, intolerance, and murder. (He actually draws on Jeffrey Dahmer as an analogy, in one of his rebuttals of me.) It is in order to support THAT point, that he brings up those two booted seminary teachers, and attempts to draw an analogy to the supposed dirth of persecution at public educational institutions.

I noticed four serious problems with Avalos' analogy, and mentioned two of them. Now I've mentioned three. Here are all four:

(1) Private schools may rightly hold to sectarian standards in choosing whom to hire: public schools may not.

(2) In fact, Christians are sometimes persecuted at public institutions for holding unorthodox opinions.

Avalos denies that the Gonzalez case was such an instance. You believe his argument: fine. I haven't read all his argument yet, but some of what he said is clearly bogus, as I will explain later, and I think he is probably wrong.

(3) Avalos equivocates. "Belief in the resurrection" is more specific than "any unorthodox tenet." This is like saying, "All the provinces in China have trees, but only two American states have redwoods. So China is more completely forested than America."

(4) Of course, it is also absurd to compare firing a teacher for holding to heterorthodox positions, to genuine persecution, murder, etc.

As for "blind faith," the claim that Christianity relies on it is itself an instance of it. As Dr. McGrew and I will be showing, and as I have already shown, in fact Christians have almost always based faith on "facts and logic." On that subject, Mr. Wheel, you appear to be simply ignorant. I am "rewriting" nothing, I have simply done my research.

BibleWheel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David B Marshall said...

Wheel: There's a chapter in the subject in The Truth Behind the New Atheism. I also have a related chapter in True Reason, now an e-book, soon to be printed; Tim Mcgrew and I are also adding an appendix for the print version.

BibleWheel said...

Thanks for the info David.

I can understand where you are coming from. When I was a Christian I thought of "faith" as a "mode of knowing" much as you say it is one of the two "faculties of mind." Though I'm not sure I would agree with that anymore, that's not the problem I am criticizing. The problem I'm focusing on is when you say that dogmatic religions like Christianity do not depend fundamentally upon blind faith in the sense of believing propositions for which there is insufficient evidence. That kind of faith DEFINES an essential aspect of the Christian faith. No amount of sophistry can refute this fact. It seems insane to equate FAITH IN ENTIRELY UNPROVABLE RELIGIOUS DOGMAS with science.

Does this make sense to you?

David B Marshall said...

Wheel: It sounds like you might want to think a little more about the four levels of faith, and how they relate to one another. There may be insufficient evidence on one level, and it may come on another level.

Say you're trying to trying to pull out of the driveway where the road takes a bend. Your friend in the passenger seat tells you "Watch out! A car is coming on your left!" You didn't observe that car, but trust your friend, and put on the brakes.

This is an instance of trusting a "higher level of faith," faith in people, over a lower level, faith in your senses.

Similiarly, yes, Christianity involves believing in God, and trusting Him. Of course we think there IS sufficient evidence for him, as we think there's sufficient evidence for our friend and that he is reliable. But the higher levels of faith transcend the lower levels, while remaining reasonable. This may LOOK unreasonable to someone who lacks that higher-level faith -- a paranoid, in the first instance, an atheist, in the second -- but it looks reaonable to us, for reasons we are willing to and often do give.

BibleWheel said...

Good morning David,

I have read your pdf on Faith and Reason where you discuss the four kinds of faith as "faith in the mind, the senses, other people, and (the question at issue between theists and atheists) God." I think your argument is fundamentally fallacious in a rather obvious way. There is a consilience between my senses. I can see something that looks like ice and it is cold when I touch it and it melts when I warm it up. And most importantly, I can ask other people what they see and feel and their reports will be consilient if it really is ice. This is the essence of objective reality, the foundation of science. Likewise, there is a consilience in my thoughts if my thoughts are true, and again I can check with others and if there is consilience with their thoughts I have more CONFIDENCE (reason to believe, "faith") that my thoughts are correct. Thus the first three kinds of "faith" you mention simply define the essence of objectivity and science. The final aspect of faith, the kind of faith that defines Christianity, is TOTALLY DIFFERENT than the first three. There is no conscilience about any "god" let alone the various versions of the Christian God!

I believe this is a fatal flaw in your argument.

Great chatting!

Richard

David B Marshall said...

Richard: The real tension here I think is between immediacy and scope. Some ways of knowing offer intense immediacy and perhaps greater certainty, others offer broader scope. But physics, history, law, gossiping, taking notes in class, while valid ways of finding things out, can be affirmed either very directly or very circuitously, defending on the case. Logic is probably always more direct than science, and therefore has a great advantage in immediacy over it. But science has the advantage of scope. History has an even greater advantage of scope, though it usually relies on accounts we hear, not on things we touch directly.

Claims about God are often verifiable or falsifiable in a variety of ways, which can be immediate or not. Scientific claims also vary in their immediacy, as in their scope.

So I don't think there's an absolute difference, but each level of faith carries different advantages, and different points of stress. And each needs to be verified or falsified by tests proper to its nature.

Anyway, I appreciate the challenges: they help me to think these things through, as well.

BibleWheel said...

Hey there David,

I think you missed my point (especially since you didn't even address it).

CONSCILENCE is the essence of objectivity and science. Your first three examples of "faith" work only because they are based on consilience. Your fourth example is entirely different. There is no "consilience" about any god, let alone the various versions of the Christian God.

The first three kinds of "faith" are how we "find things out" (to use your phrase). The "fourth" kind of faith is not a method of finding things out. It is totally different than the first three.

When you say that "Claims about God are often verifiable or falsifiable in a variety of ways" you are talking about finding CONSILIENCE using the first three (scientific) modes of knowing. The fourth kind of "faith" is absolutely and totally different than the first three. This is obvious because there is no "fourth" way of konwing because the only way to "verify or falsify" claims about God are subsumed in the first three kinds of "faith."

I really think you should try to answer this point, since I believe it is a fatal flaw in your argument.

Great chatting!

Richard

David B Marshall said...

Richard: Sure, we Christians believe we know things by faith in God. That is the point of Hebrews 11. If we didn't, then indeed, our faith would be useless.

Some of those things we find out through one form of faith, we may check through lower forms, as you note is possible, and you call consilience. Others, and here the parallel is also present, we find out through the higher level of faith, say, about an afterlife, but can't verify it through lower levels. This, too, is normal in mundane epistemology.

And of course, as with the lower levels of faith, it is possible to be wrong about God.

But faith is not, by our definition, JUST a method of finding things out. It means also taking a chance in trusting them, as you noted. So trusting an airplane to fly, and the pilot to fly it, isn't just a theoretical act, it means (in the full sense) getting on the plane.

So I don't think the difference is total: I see it as a hierarchy, with immediacy and scope increasing or decreasing according to level and individual case.

BibleWheel said...

David,

I'm confused by your comments. It seems like you are saying that you can KNOW that something is true merely because you believe it. It seems you are saying that Muslims are fully justified to believe the Quran is the Word of Allah and that Allah is the true God merely because that's what they believe. It seems you are saying that all subjective beliefs are equally true. If this is not what you meant, then what does your reference to the "Hebrews 11" kind of faith have to do with anything?


David B Marshall said...

No, that is not at all what I am saying. I am saying there are two kinds of claims, at any higher level of faith: (1) Claims that can be supported by lower levels in a straightforward way; (2) Claims that cannot be so supported, but are rational because the rationality of believing the claim for that source IS supported. Both, I am saying, CAN be rational, CAN be proper, but MAY ALSO be mistaken. I am also saying faith in God might be of either kind.

For instance, I trust my wife's report about traffic. Because the car is out of sight and sound, I have no other source to verify her report. But if she is herself credible, then trust is still reasonable.

And that, I take it, is also the meaning of "faith" in Hebrews 11. The examples given there seem to support that interpretation.

BibleWheel said...

David,

By "higher level faith" do you mean the fourth kind of faith? And by "lower level" do you mean the three kinds that I have identified as the scientific methods of knowing based on consilience?

If so, then it seems my argument stands, and I have exposed a fatal flaw in your argument.

I get the impression you don't really understand consilience and the role it plays in epistemology. Our confidence that we "know" is directly proportional to the consilience of many witnesses. The first three kinds of "faith" are ways of knowing through consilience. This is the foundation of epistemolgy. It is reflected in the Biblical doctrine of truth being established in the mouth of many witnesses. In this case, the "many witnesses" are our different senses which confirm each other, different people who confirm each other, and a matrix of mutually confirming thoughts. Your fourth kind of "faith" has nothing to do with any of this. It is totally different. You have not addressed this point, which means you apparently have missed my criticism in its entirety.

I think it is very important that you try to address my argument. You are writing many words that have little to do with it.

All the best,

Richard

BibleWheel said...

Good morning David,

I found the answer to my question in your pdf where you wrote:

There is here some implied agreement with the idea that higher levels of faith (such as in human testimony) is necessarily weaker than lower levels (in the senses, “physical testimony.” I take this to be an over-generalization, for reasons I have given. But other than that, I think Locke’s ideas are fairly accurate.

As far as I can tell, your idea of higher and lower levels of faith doesn't impact, let alone refute, my argument.

I believe I have exposed a fatal flaw in your argument. The first three kinds of "faith" are ways of knowing based on EVIDENCE confirmed by CONSILIENCE of "many witness" - consilience of my different senses, consilience of my thoughts about what I sense, consilience with what other people report. Your fourth kind of "faith" is radically different. There is no "consilience" in anything about God or theology. It is not a valid path to knowledge.

It appears, therefore, that you argument is mere rhetoric where you confuse your reader by conflating the BLIND kind of "faith" (your fourth kind) with the legitimate modes of knowing (sense, testimony, reason) that are the foundation of objective science. If my assessment is correct, your argument is really nothing but a deception caused by false equivalence. Therefore, it would probably be a good idea if you could answer it and show why it is not valid.

All the best,

Richard

David B Marshall said...

Richard: While I appreciate your requests for clarification, I don't see that you've said anything to undermine my argument, yet, frankly. Of course Christians argue that the fourth level of faith, faith in God, is supported by many forms of evidence on the first three levels. Where did you get the idea that we don't?

And let's not suppose that the only purpose of lower forms of faith is just to support "science." Science is just one of many ways of knowing, and not the most important or basic.

BibleWheel said...

David,

The fact that Christians think their beliefs constitute "evidence" is the error I am trying to help you see. This seems rather obvious because you reject the idea that Muslims, Mormons, and Hindus would be justified by appealing to their faith in their peculiar gods as "evidence." I explained this in a previous post and your answer seemed to indicate that you missed my point again. I had written:

It seems like you are saying that you can KNOW that something is true merely because you believe it. It seems you are saying that Muslims are fully justified to believe the Quran is the Word of Allah and that Allah is the true God merely because that's what they believe. It seems you are saying that all subjective beliefs are equally true. If this is not what you meant, then what does your reference to the "Hebrews 11" kind of faith have to do with anything?

You said "No, that is not at all what I am saying" and then went on with a bunch of irrelevant words that said nothing about the fourth kind of "faith" as used by other religions. That's the question you needed to answer.

And all this is just more confusion because you have not yet shown any understanding of my argument. I believe I have demonstrated that you entire argument is false because the fourth kind of faith is not a way of knowing anything. If it were, then everyone could come to agreement just like they do with objective science which is based on the first three ways of knowing. There is no consilience about God because your fourth kind of "faith" is totally subjective.

I've explained this a number of times now but you have not shown any understanding. Your entire argument boils down to an equivocation over the word "faith." The first three kinds are the basis of objective scientific knowledge. The fourth kind is not the basis of any kind of objective knowledge. This is the error in your argument. I really think you need to address it directly.

All the best,

Richard

BibleWheel said...

David,

You wrote: And let's not suppose that the only purpose of lower forms of faith is just to support "science." Science is just one of many ways of knowing, and not the most important or basic.

On what basis do you call the sources of objective knowledge (i.e. the consilience of senses, testimonies, and thoughts) "lower" while calling BLIND FAITH in religious dogmas "higher"? That makes no sense at all.

This is the error in your argument. The fourth kind of "faith" - faith in some god(s) and/or religious dogma - is not a source of any knowledge. Your entire argument seems fundamentally fallacious. And as far as I can tell, you have not addressed my argument. I get the impression you don't even understand it.

All the best,

Richard

David B Marshall said...

Richard: I didn't say we see our beliefs as evidence -- where did you get that? Everything you say after "it seems . . . " is a total misunderstanding, justified by nothing I have ever said, anywhere.

If you don't yet understand that I am saying faith in God and in Christ IS supported by evidence on the first three levels, then we're in a world of hurt. (Whether you think that evidence is good or bad would be irrelevant to the epistemological point, just as the fact that a given person is a liar, does not mean human testimony in general must be of no value.)

The fact that you think faith in God is "not a source of knowledge" is likewise irrelevant -- the issue is what WE think about the matter, since the question is how Christians understand faith from the inside. And of course we think faith in God IS a source of valid knowledge. This issue again parallels similiar matters on a lower level. You may think your eyes are fine; I think you're blind as a bat, and missed a clear third strike. I may think Obama is a terribly dishonest human being: you might swear by him. That both senses and other people are potential sources of knowledge, is however undeniable. That gods, should they exist (even ones I don't believe in), would also be potential sources of knowledge, is likewise undeniable. You seem to be confusing theory with ontology, but you're certainly mixing up my argument badly.

BibleWheel said...

David,

You wrote "Sure, we Christians believe we know things by faith in God. That is the point of Hebrews 11. If we didn't, then indeed, our faith would be useless."

And then you wrote "I didn't say we see our beliefs as evidence -- where did you get that? Everything you say after "it seems . . . " is a total misunderstanding, justified by nothing I have ever said, anywhere."

Your comments appear to be radically incoherent and self-contradictory. You explicitly stated that Christians think they "know things by faith in God." You cited Hebrews 11 which states that "faith is the EVIDENCE of things not seen." This means that you take your "faith" as "evidence."

And now you assert "I didn't say we see our beliefs as evidence"? I'm guessing you are equivocating between belief as trust versus belief as accepting the truth of a proposition like "Jesus rose from the dead." Whatever. You are radically confused and it's pretty easy to see why.

Your argument looks like a deception based upon a blatant CONFLATION of real sources of evidence (senses, testimony, mind) with "faith in God." I have explained this a number of times and you still don't get it. "Faith in God" does not given any kind of evidence for anything.

You have not yet shown any understanding of the difference between the consilient modes of knowing (senses, testimony, mind) and the BLIND "faith in God" which provides no evidence of anything.

I have refuted your argument. You have not yet even addressed a word of it and as far as I can tell you don't even understand a word of it. You have been evading my argument and writing many confused, irrelevant, and self-contradictory words. My refutation stands.

It would be great if you would try to address the argument I have presented. Here it is in a nutshell.

You claim that there are four levels of faith. The first three (senses, testimony, mind) are just the ordinary ground of objective scientific knowledge. There is a consilience between my senses. I can see something that looks like water but when I try to touch it I find it is a mirage. The senses confirm or disconfirm each other. Likewise, I can ask other people what they see and feel and their reports will be consilient if it really is water. This is the essence of objective reality, the foundation of science. Likewise, there is a consilience in my thoughts if my thoughts are true, and again I can check with others and if there is consilience with their thoughts I have more CONFIDENCE (reason to believe, "faith") that my thoughts are correct. Thus the first three kinds of "faith" you mention simply define the essence of objectivity and science.

The fourth kind of "faith" (faith in God) is nothing like the first three. It is not a kind of "evidence" for anything. It doesn't matter if Christians think that their dogmas have an evidential basis in the first three kinds because that doesn't make "faith in God" itself any kind of evidence. This is your error. The kind of faith that defines Christianity, is TOTALLY DIFFERENT than the first three. There is no conscilience about any "god" let alone the various versions of the Christian God.

Your fourth kind, "faith in God" is entirely subjective and offers nothing that can be tested like the other three. Your argument therefore is FALSE. "Faith in God" is not anything like an authentic source of knowledge. There is no CONSILIENCE with the rest of our knowledge. That's why it's just BLIND FAITH.

I have proven my point. I have refuted your argument and you have not touched a word as yet.

It would be good if you at least attempted to address the point of my refutation.

All the best,

Richard

BibleWheel said...

David,

You wrote: "If you don't yet understand that I am saying faith in God and in Christ IS supported by evidence on the first three levels, then we're in a world of hurt."

This is a perfect example of the gross confusion of your writing. If all you are saying is that "Christians believe there is some evidence that somewhat supports their faith in God" then it is YOU, my friend, that is in a world of hurt. That's NOT YOUR ARGUMENT! Your argument is that FAITH IN GOD IS A KIND OF EVIDENCE that is "higher" than the "lower" levels that are the basis of objective scientific evidence.

You don't even understand you own argument! Your words twist in loopy tangles because you are trying to prove a falsehood by conflating real sources of evidence (senses, testimony, mind) with blind "faith in God" which is no evidence for anything.

I get the impression you are getting frustrated. I don't want this discussion to end prematurely. So here is what we need to do. First, we must come to an agreement about what your argument actually states. I quoted you earlier, and then you changed the words and seemed to be talking about something very different. Your words are starting to make me feel seasick because they keep shifting in unpredictable ways.

I believe I have found a fatal flaw in your argument. Therefore, it is in your interest to at least UNDERSTAND the flaw so you can evaluate if it is real or not. No one but a FOOL would willfully choose to hold to falsehood, right? The same goes for me. If my refutation is false, I want you to show me the error. But to do that, you need to begin by UNDERSTANDING what I have written.

Sound like a plan?

All the best,

Richard

David B Marshall said...

Richard: I explained this above. (A) Beliefs we obtain by faith in God fall into two categories, both rational: (1) Facts we can confirm by other means, on "lower levels of faith," and (2) Facts we cannot confirm by other means, but are rational because they are premised on belief in God that can be confirmed by other means. This is the same as at lower levels of faith, (1) trusting my wife and then checking with my eyes as I turn into traffic, and (2) trusting my wife without being able to see for myself, but knowing from prior evidence that she is trustworthy

That's a different question from whether (B) faith in God itself is affirmed by facts gathered at lower levels of faith. Yes, we argue that it is, as I have consistently said. In fact, (2) depends on that fact. So I think I see how you got turned around, now.

If you can distinguish (1) from (2), and (A) from (B), we may be able to get you untangled.

Bottom line: no, I do not advise believing anything without rational grounds for that belief, including Christianity.

BibleWheel said...

Hey there David,

These comment boxes are not the best for in depth discussions. They're too small. I am now answering your third paragraph. You wrote "The fact that you think faith in God is "not a source of knowledge" is likewise irrelevant -- the issue is what WE think about the matter, since the question is how Christians understand faith from the inside. And of course we think faith in God IS a source of valid knowledge. This issue again parallels similiar matters on a lower level. You may think your eyes are fine; I think you're blind as a bat, and missed a clear third strike. I may think Obama is a terribly dishonest human being: you might swear by him. That both senses and other people are potential sources of knowledge, is however undeniable. That gods, should they exist (even ones I don't believe in), would also be potential sources of knowledge, is likewise undeniable. You seem to be confusing theory with ontology, but you're certainly mixing up my argument badly."

OK - so you say the "issue is how Christians understand faith from the inside." Why is that the "issue"? If that's all you are saying, then you argument means nothing. Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Scientologists all think they have "evidence." And they are all deluded. They have no more basis for their beliefs than any of the many contradictory versions of Christianity. So what is your point? What is your argument? From what I've read, you are trying to say that there is no essential difference between faith and reason (that is the title of your PDF). That's absurd because there is no consilience of "faith in God" with anything. There are only the first three "levels of faith" - the fourth level is just "blind faith." It doesn't matter how much evidence you THINK you have if you don't have any REAL evidence that can be confirmed.

It seems clear you are trying to create a FALSE EQUIVALENCE between religious beliefs based on no objective evidence with SCIENCE. That is ridiculous. If that's not what you are trying to do, please learn to write a little more clearly.

You say Christians think that "faith in God" is a source of knowledge. So what? Every cult thinks their subjective feelings prove their beliefs. That's why they are DELUDED. This sounds like a psychotic person who cannot discern between their own imagination and the real world. They mistake their own feelings which cannot be objectively verified for knowledge about the objective world. That is the ESSENCE OF DELUSION.

People who know how to think know the difference between EVIDENCE and "faith in God." I can easily discern between sane scientists and deluded cult members. Is there any way to distinguish between "True Christians" and totally deluded cult members? Your writings on this topic make no sense at all. What are you really trying to say? It sounds like you are trying to make a false equivalence between SCIENCE and "faith in God." If this is not what you are getting at, perhaps you should find an editor who can help you clarify your writing.

All the best.

Richard

BibleWheel said...

Hey there David,

You said "(2) Facts we cannot confirm by other means, but are rational because they are premised on belief in God that can be confirmed by other means."

What does this have to do with your four levels? Everyone would agree that belief in X is rational if it is supported by Y that is supported by evidence. This has NOTHING to do with your "four levels."

Your four levels of "faith" is where your error lies. It is where you hid your trick, trying to make a false equivalence between science and religion, faith and reason. Why do you continue to distract from the essence of your argument?

Your trick is that you identified the three consilient means of acquiring objective knowledge (senses, testimonies, mind) as kinds of FAITH so that you could then import "faith in God" as a FOURTH MEANS OF ACQUIRING KNOWLEDGE.

And now you words are twisting and turning. They make me feel seasick.


David B Marshall said...

No, you're confusing things again. There are two distinct issues: (1) Do Christians mean, by "faith," something reasonable and derived from the evidence? Or do they mean "believing without any evidence, even against the evidence," as many atheists claim? (2) Does the evidence in fact support Christian faith, whatever they think about it?

Conflate these two issues, and it becomes impossible to think rightly about faith and reason.

Of course I think the evidence supporting Mormon faith is weak. But that doesn't mean that by "faith," THEY mean "belief that is supported weakly," because they don't agree with my opinion that the evidence is weak! Neither, of course, do I agree with your opinion that the evidence supporting Christianity is weak, to put it mildly.

But that is emphatically not the issue, here. Again. We may disagree about how honest Obama is, or how good your eyes are. But the act of trusting senses, or people, or gods (if they exist) will still be rational in theory, whether or not it is wise in any particular given case. Please don't mix these two issues up.

You claim that I'm getting frustrated and losing my temper: but I am doing no such thing. You are quite obviously doing that which you accuse me of doing, and growing increasingly rude in the process, dropping nasty little insults along the way. Maybe you'd better quit while you're ahead, because your argument appears to be going quickly downhill, here.

BibleWheel said...

David,

You wrote "Bottom line: no, I do not advise believing anything without rational grounds for that belief, including Christianity."

There you go again. What does that have to do with your classification of the four levels of "faith." You need to address this point. It looks like you are calling the three consilient sources of objective knowledge (senses, testimonies, mind) FAITH so that you can confuse everyone and claim that "faith in God" is likewise a source of real knowledge.

David B Marshall said...

"Your trick is that you identified the three consilient means of acquiring objective knowledge (senses, testimonies, mind) as kinds of FAITH so that you could then import "faith in God" as a FOURTH MEANS OF ACQUIRING KNOWLEDGE."

Sorry you don't follow the argument. You're tying yourself in knots, and I don't think it's due to stupidity. I have explained several times now, that faith in God is supported by lower levels of faith, as they in turn are supported from beneath. And yes, by the nature of the case, information from beings more intelligent than humans (like God, or the gods) would also be a rational means of learning new things, should such things exist. This is obvious. Maybe you need to just give it a rest for a while, let the silly insults settle, and come back to it with a fresh mind.

BibleWheel said...

David wrote No, you're confusing things again. There are two distinct issues: (1) Do Christians mean, by "faith," something reasonable and derived from the evidence? Or do they mean "believing without any evidence, even against the evidence," as many atheists claim? (2) Does the evidence in fact support Christian faith, whatever they think about it?

I don't think you are accurately representing Christianity. Many Christians have said that blind faith is essential. First and foremost, Jesus himself said "Blessed are they who believe, but have not seen." Likewise, Paul said that Christians walk by faith, not site. Etc. So it seems rather disingenuous to suggest that this is not a fundamental teaching of Christianity. I pointed this out to you in one of my first posts and you did not respond as far as I know.

It also seems absurd to suggest that "blind faith" is not an essential aspect to Christianity because all any Christian has to go on is HEARSAY (via mouth or Bible) and subjective feelings. Neither is sufficiently supported to allow any Christian to honestly assert that they don't "believe anything without rational grounds for that belief." Not by a LONG shot. There is nothing like "sufficient" evidence for any claim like that, especially for the VAST MAJORITY of believers who have no means of any kind to "check the facts" (think of a convert before the internet).

Atheists are describing reality with great precision when they assert that the vast majority of Christians are "believing without any evidence, even against the evidence." Sure, you can cherry pick scholastic Christians who spoke of evidence, but that's just a support for the underlying FUNDAMNETALLY IRRATIONAL BELIEF in Christianity that has no objective evidence. This is what the leading philosophical Christian apologist, William Lane Craig, explicitly teaches. He says that you don't need evidence other than the witness of the Holy Spirit. It might as well be the burning in the bosom.

BibleWheel said...

Sorry you don't follow the argument. You're tying yourself in knots, and I don't think it's due to stupidity. I have explained several times now, that faith in God is supported by lower levels of faith, as they in turn are supported from beneath. And yes, by the nature of the case, information from beings more intelligent than humans (like God, or the gods) would also be a rational means of learning new things, should such things exist. This is obvious. Maybe you need to just give it a rest for a while, let the silly insults settle, and come back to it with a fresh mind.

This is the essence of your error. Your idea that the "support" of the three sources of knowledge (senses, testimonies, mind) is FAITH. That's not correct. The support is CONSILIENCE. You might think you see water, but when you try to touch it you find out it is a mirage. The senses confirm or disconfirm each other. The same thing for what others says, and for the thoughts in the mind.

This is the essence of your error. You are trying to make a false equivalence between real sources of knowledge that can be confirmed through consilience and BLIND FAITH IN VARIOUS GODS AND DOGMAS.

Do you understand this point?

Great chatting!

Richard

David B Marshall said...

Richard: Those are common atheist talking points, and I have therefore taken the trouble to systematically overturn each and every one of them in print or on line. I show that (a) the consensus among great Christian thinkers for 2000 years has been for reasoned and evidenced faith ("Faith and Reason," online, "Faith and Reason in Their Historical Context," with Tim McGrew, True Reason, 2014), to a lesser extent, The Truth Behind the New Atheism, 2007). (b) Most ordinary Christians also say they believe for rational and evidential reasons, and can give those reasons. (Truth Behind the New Atheism, 2007) (c) The New Testament in general connects faith and reason in seven distinct ways (True Reason essay, with McGrew). (d) Even in the oft-quoted Thomas passage you cite, Jesus was not at all telling Thomas to believe without reason or evidence, but in fact provided him with a great deal of both.

So no, atheists are dead wrong when they say that. I know this is very hard for atheists to deal with -- you seem incredibly reluctant to admit what in this case a fact that has massive historical evidence to support it.

As for faith vs. consilience, I've already said so many times that the fourth level of faith IS confirmed "when you touch it," as you put it, that I'm getting tired of repeating myself. All you're doing is repeating "blind faith! blind faith!" and then when I challenge you, and say, "that's not what Christians believe!" you just repeat yourself using the word "consilience" instead. This thought, that Christians actually believe religious faith is rationally supported, seems intolerable to you, for some reason. Yet it is clearly the truth.

BibleWheel said...

Richard wrote "Jesus himself said 'Blessed are they who believe, but have not seen.'"

David answered "Those are common atheist talking points."

So now the words of Jesus are "common atheist talking points"?

Your assertion that "Jesus was not at all telling Thomas to believe without reason or evidence, but in fact provided him with a great deal of both" is utterly ridiculous. Yes, Jesus gave Thomas evidence, and then IN THAT CONTEXT said "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jesus directly contradicts your words. He contrasted believing after seeing evidence with believing without seeing evidence. All you have done is directly contradict what Jesus plainly said. That is not an "argument." It is an assertion that directly contradicts the plain sense of Scripture. You need to explain how you support your assertion. I am mystified how you could think to directly contradict the Bible without giving any explanation at all.

Now you wrote I've already said so many times that the fourth level of faith IS confirmed "when you touch it".

Your comment reveals a profound confusion on multiple levels. First, how does "faith in God" differ from "faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster" or "faith in the Tooth Fairy"? This point alone destroys your argument. And you are confused about consilience. The "touching" idea was meant to show how one SENSE confirms or disconfirms another SENSE. That's how consilience works. The first three levels CONFIRM each other. It is absurd to say that the "fourth level" (faith in the FSM) is anything like the first three. The first three CONFIRM EACH OTHER. They form a GROUP OF MUTUALLY CONFIRMING WITNESSES. The fourth level (faith in the Tooth Fairy) provides NO CONFIRMATION OF ANY KIND and so must not be classed with the first three. It's the stuff of romance, poetry, dreams, visions, fairy tales, cults, and psychotic delusions. It is not properly classed with the three sources of objective knowledge. That's why it is absurd for you to call them "faith" at all. That is TRICK - a blatant equivocation - that you are using to try to make faith look like it is on the same level as mutually confirming evidence.

This is the TRICK you use to deceive yourself. This is not meant as an insult. I'm trying to help you see so you can get free from your self-delusion.

You have yet to show any understanding of my argument. The first the "levels of faith" are the foundation of objective knowledge based on consilience. The "fouth level of faith" is not that KIND OF FAITH at all. It is the kind of faith that one has when one believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Can you see the difference? You are fooling yourself with the word "God." All you need to do is replace that word with FSM, Tooth Fairy, or any other fantasy entity and you should be able to see your error.

All the best,

Richard

BibleWheel said...

David,

The vast majority of people who have been Christian throughout history have believed without any "evidence" at all. Most of them couldn't even READ, let alone check the facts to see if the Bible stories were true! It is, therefore, an indisputable fact that the majority of Christians have believed without evidence. And it's also a fact that Jesus called such people "blessed." And it is a fact that Paul said "we walk by faith, not sight." And how many preachers have preached this throughout history? You are tilting at windmills my friend. The overwhelming body of evidence and logic strongly contradict your argument.

All the best,

Richard