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Thursday, May 09, 2013

Atheists damn The Truth Behind the New Atheism!

OK, so we did the outliers -- or should we call them, the out-truthers, those few and proud atheists who have read The Truth Behind the New Atheism and have been willing to admit that yes, it is a pretty decent read.

But being something of an out-truther myself, I have to report, and I know this will shock you, that a majority of on-line reviews from writers who really dislike Christianity have given the book a decided "thumbs down."

And some of those skeptics don't like me, either.  I have been wished into the belly of a long, water-dwelling South American serpent.  I have been wished to hell.  Often enough, along with my fellow "apologists," (not a word that much resonates with me -- I prefer titles like "cross-country skiier," "grower of succulent grapes," "John and James' Dad," even "history buff," if you will -- and in my heart of hearts, "lover of truth") -- I often hear myself called a "liar." 

Yes, it is tedious.  When someone starts calling you that (unless you really happen to be a liar, then one must make do), it's probably time to pull up tent stakes and find new grazing ground.  That's what I did a few weeks ago when John Loftus, after years of relative civility, dropped the "l" word on me.  His running dogs over at Deconstructing Christianity strain at a tattered leash, and when the big L drops the little l, it has much the same effect as Montgomery Burns saying "Loose the hounds!"  You know they won't listen to reason anymore, if they ever did. 

"Liar" is, for many New Atheists, a defense against genuine thinking, as is most ad hominem.  If you demean a person, you don't need to really consider her arguments.  A word can be a lazy man's border security system. 

A couple days ago, I discovered a month-and-a-half old thread on Amazon entitled, "David Marshall and Lying for Jesus."  The thread had more than 200 posts. 

There are I think several such threads on Amazon.  Most were started by a retired lawyer from San Diego, who writes under a variety of aliases, to avoid Amazon censors. But this thread was started by someone calling himself "Seeker," who I think is probably not that particular lawyer, or one of his many "sock puppets."  (Though I am beginning to waver in this conviction.) 

Still, since I also have Seeker on "ignore," I had overlooked the thread. 

But the kinds of arguments in this thread seem to have attained a kind of viral status on a microcosmic level.  I am sometimes confronted with their like, often attributed to a fellow calling himself Arizona Atheist, who is also fond of trying to debunk The Truth Behind the New Atheism.  There is a thought out there that AA has succeeded in some way.  It is not a thought I find it easy to lend credit to, because when I read AA's arguments, I seldom find even an accurate summary of my arguments, let alone anything resembling good reasons for rejecting them.

But let's peer for a few minutes at "Seeker's" attempt to debunk -- well, not The Truth Behind the New Atheism itself, but the moral character of its author.  Mind you, the book has been out almost six years now, and the following represents the diligent efforts of a number of hard-core skeptics, at least one of whom used to be a prosecutor.  One would think they'd be able to hang me on SOME charge, by now: 

*******************************************

As a Christian, I would be concerned if a Christian apologist's book about "The Truth" contained even a single falsehood; but David Marshall's The Truth Behind the New Atheism is just loaded with obvious falsehoods and other deceptions. Here are 30+ examples.

Wow, what a standard!  We should be worried if a Christian book contains even one mistake?  Every book as detailed as The Truth Behind the New Atheism is bound to contain a few errors, which the mendacious may call "falsehoods."  (Or in Seeker's case, "unrepentant, serial lies.") 

I detail 160 exagerrations and errors in Dawkins' book, but never once call him a "liar."  I'm flattered that Seeker holds me to so much higher a standard than the "world's top thinker," that a single "falsehood" would be enough to discredit my book!  But I don't really claim my writings to be infallible. I'm not St. Peter, or even a minor French pope. 

1. Marshall falsely accuses Dawkins of being inconsistent in claiming that the search for irreducible complexity (IC) is both scientific and unscientific. (63)

Marshall concocted this false accusation by taking Dawkins' statements out of context. Dawkins' actual argument is that IC is scientifically: (i) relevant in trying to *falsify evolution;* but (ii) irrelevant in trying to *prove ID.* Since Dawkins' two statements relate to two different functions (disproof vs. proof) and two different theories (evo vs. ID), it's obvious that they are no more inconsistent than reporting that the Yankees won their first game and lost their second game. Those two baseball scores are not logically inconsistent, because they refer to two different contexts. Dawkins' two statements are not logically inconsistent either, for exactly the same reason.

Amazingly, when Marshall was challenged on this point in another forum, he stubbornly defended his false accusation by concocting yet another falsehood, claiming that Dawkins had basically said that it's OK for evos to point to biological structures that disconfirm evolution, but not for creationists to do the same. Marshall never provided a citation for this remarkable claim, perhaps because he knows it's just as false as his original accusation was.

Incidents like that make Marshall look like an unrepentant, serial liar.

Wow!  I'm a "serial liar" already for misreading Dawkins on this clear distinction he makes between an argument against evolution and for ID!

But wait a minute.  Read pages 124-5 of Dawkins' book, and no such distinction is offered.  In both cases he is talking about "creationists" and "irreducible complexity."  Dawkins admits the "creationists" are right in saying IC would "wreck Darwin's theory," he quotes Darwin as admitting that.  He then adds a new subhead ("The Worship of Gaps"), and says "Searching for particular examples of IC is a fundamentally unscientific way to proceed."  What does "proceed" mean?  Dawkins says nothing about "proving Intelligent Design" on that page.  The generic verb "proceed" obviously encompasses what Dawkins had just been talking about -- the search for examples of irreducibly complex organs. 

Now it's true that on these several pages Dawkins does talk about both rebutting evolution and supporting "creationism," which he conflates with proving "God."  But he emphatically does not distinguish between the two, let alone so clearly that were I to overlook that distinction, that would make me a "serial liar." 


The truth is, Dawkins isn't thinking very clearly, or clearly making the distinctions Seeker wishes he had made.  It is hardly the fault of his critics, if we turn up our noses at such rhetorical mush. 

After the subhead on page 125, Dawkins talks about "God of the Gaps."  But that phrase is not a clear marker for ID, either.  The Intelligent Design concept of IC isn't about "God," to begin with -- it's an argument to an intelligent designer, not to "God," as they explain over and over again.  They also explain, again and again, that it is not the gaps in science that they think prove design, it is the regularities.  Also, ID isn't "creationism."  And in general, Dawkins and Darwin have already conceeded that searching for examples of IC is in fact a scientific way "to proceed."  It may not prove God, but then proponents of ID (not creationists) seldom claim that it does. 

So the one who is playing games here is Richard Dawkins, and anyone who pretends he is saying something coherent on page 125 of The God Delusion.  It's not the fault of his critics if Richard Dawkins can't criticize his scientific opponents coherently.  And it certainly doesn't make us "liars," let alone "unrepentent" or "serial" liars.

One could reverse charges here, and call Seeker a "serial liar" for falsely claiming that Dawkins clearly makes the distinction he claims he does.  The truth is, Dawkins wants to have his cake and eat it, and Seeker (being wounded by many past lost arguments) really doesn't care if his accusation bares any resemblance to reality here, or not. 

2. Responding to Dawkins' comments about blind faith, Marshall implies that Dawkins doesn't cite any actual Christians (16); but in reality Dawkins cites several prominent Christians, including McGrath, Swinburne, Unwinn, and Martin Luther. ("The God Delusion," 54, 65, 105, and 190) Marshall's claim is simply false.

Seeker just doesn't understand my argument, here.  (I take that back.  When a hostile writer says "So and So implies," but doesn't quote exact wording in context, it's likely that they know they are not telling the full truth.) 

First of all, I admit to engaging in some hyperbole, here:

If opinions need to be supported by evidence, let's begin with this one.  How does Harris know Christians don't support their beliefs with evidence?  Dennett cites Pascal, Dawkins cites Harris, and everyone takes this alleged Christian doctrine for granted, but no one cites any Christians!

Even on the face of this, it should be obvious I am exagerrating, and probably am not asking the reader to take this quite literally.  Pascal is, after all, a Christian, and I say Dennett cites him.  (I don't remember now if this was just an oversight, or I expected the reader to cut me some slack rhetorically -- one does not wish to think one is writing for woodenly literalistic nincompoops.  In another part of the book, I introduce Nicholas Wolterstorff's fine discussion of the different levels at which one interprets a text.) 

But even at this literal level, Seeker grossly misunderstands my claim.  Yes, Dawkins cites McGrath -- but not to prove that Christians don't support their beliefs with evidence.  In fact, McGrath points out emphatically and repeatedly (see # 4 below) that we do support our claims with evidence!  And as I also point out, Dawkins grossly misreads Swinburne on this issue. Swinburne is famous for emphasizing the evidence for Christianity, as anyone even faintly familiar with his work ought to know. 

I haven't read Unwin, and don't trust Dawkins' account of him.  But even by that account, Unwin argues that there is a lot of evidence for God.

Martin Luther can be quoted saying anything given the right day and brand of beer.  McGrath and Swinburne are genuine authorities on the subject, but Dawkins shuts his ears to their deep knowledge of the issue:    

3. Marshall excoriates Dawkins for defining "faith" as meaning "in the teeth of evidence and reason." "I've done the research," Marshall proclaims, and "For 2000 years Christians have defined faith as inseparable from reason and evidence." (21-22)

Despite Marshall's boasting about his "research," he cites both the wrong author and the wrong book at one point. Hilarious. Even worse, he blatantly misrepresents Dawkins' statement, treating it as if it referred specifically to Christianity, when in reality the quote refers only to unspecified religious memes.

Mangling a footnote makes Marshall look like a pompous fool. Misrepresenting Dawkins' statement and then using that same misrepresentation to launch a blistering attack on Dawkins makes Marshall look dishonest.


Pompous, maybe, but correct.  I have done the research, and Dawkins has not, which is why every scholar who knows the first thing about how the Christian tradition views faith and reason agrees with me, not Dawkins. 

Dawkins is in fact referring to Christianity, as he makes clear numerous times throughout the book.  Early on, he plainly states that while he is talking about theism in general, Christianity is the religion he knows best, and shall be his primary target: 

Unless otherwise stated, I shall have Christianity mostly in mind, but only because it is the version with which I happen to be most familiar. (GD, 37)

Also, most of Dawkins' targets on blind faith are in fact Christians.  Seeker himself admits this, by noting that Dawkins (falsely, I would add) accuses Pascal, Unwin, Luther and Swinburne of justifying blind faith.  So Seeker is dead wrong and contradicting himself on this one, too.  I'm not only not "lying," nothing is more obvious in The God Delusion than that Dawkins' accusations about "blind faith" are meant to apply first and foremost to Christianity. 

Seeker's attack on my credibility is the kind of puerile criticism one comes to expect from these folks.  In one of my footnotes, I cite Dawkins for a book by Dennett, or the other way around, I forget which.  That's called a "typo," and no more discredits a serious argument than a misplaced comma -- such are the straws that tendentious fools grasp at.

4. Marshall blasts Dawkins again, because "Dawkins ... said nothing at all in response to McGrath's argument about faith." (23)

In reality, Dawkins has a very pointed response to McGrath's argument. (TGD, 54-55) Marshall's claim is an outright falsehood.


This is nonsense squared.  Dawkins does not, in fact, breath a word on those two pages about McGrath's informed and detailed rebuttal of his notion that by "faith," Christians mean something that ignores or is contrary to the evidence.  Instead, Dawkins makes the absurd claim:

It seems to be the only point in rebuttal that he has to offer: the undeniable but ignominiously weak point that you cannot disprove the existence of God.

But that emphatically is not the "only point in rebuttal" that McGrath offers.  He also offers an historical rebuttal of Dawkins' false notion of Christian faith.  (And if McGrath, too, was mistaken in thinking Dawkins was attacking Christianity on these grounds, as Seeker suggests {#3}, why didn't Dawkins point that out?) 

Here are a couple paragraphs from the section "Faith as Blind Trust?" in McGrath's book.  Can someone please show me where Dawkins rebuts or even takes notice of these paragraphs?

The simple fact is that Dawkins offers no defense of this definition (of faith), which bears little relation to any religious (or any other) sense of the word.  No evidence is offered that it is representative of religious opinion.  No authority is cited in its support.  I don't accept this idea of faith, and I have yet to meet a theologian who takes it seriously.  It cannot be defended from any official declaration of faith from any Christian denomination.  It is Dawkins' own definition, constructed with his own agenda in mind, being represented as it were characteristic of those he wishes to criticize. (85)

That is a devastating critique.  Dawkins does not mention it, or breath a word in response. 

Does McGrath indicate that he believes there is positive evidence for God?  Of course he does, in many ways, for people who can read.  He's not trying to be thorough, it's a short book.  But consider the following paragraph:

It is interesting to turn from this rather sloppy piece of rhetoric to a more careful argument by Richard Swinburne, Oxford University's Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of Religion, who uses probability theory to access the reliability of a belief in God -- or more specifically, the Christian belief that Jesus Christ is God incarnate.  I do not expect Dawkins to agree with Swinburne's theistic conclusion, or his calculation of the highly probable existence of God.  But I do expect him to show the same careful attention to detail in assessing the relative probabilities of belief and unbelief, instead of his usual populist swashbuckling rhetorical exaggerations.  After all, Dawkins, not Swinburne, is meant to be the scientist. (90-1)

Does that sound to you as if Dawkins can cite McGrath as a reference to prove that what Christians mean by faith is "believing in the teeth of the evidence (#2)?"  Does it sound as if Dawkins has shown that McGrath is wrong in what he thinks about Christian theology?  That he has even tried to answer McGrath's arguments on this point? 

Seeker, clearly, does not have the slightest clue of what is going on, here.
5. Marshall says that the respected skeptic Michael Shermer "recognized" that some of the most common justifications that Christians give for believing in God are "essentially rational." (24)

In reality, Shermer gave a lengthy, detailed explanation for why he does *not* recognize those justifications as rational. Marshall just blatantly twisted Shermer's opinion into pretty much the exact opposite of what he actually said.


Again, Seeker is simply clueless. 

I cite Shermer's study against the New Atheist position.  I don't claim that Shermer himself agrees with the implications of that study that I draw out.  In fact, the very fact that he does not admit those implications, make my argument all the more powerful. 

Shermer asks people why they believe in God.  Half or more give rational answers -- they have positive reasons for believing in God.  Shermer does, in fact, admit that those reasons are essentially rational, calling them "intellectually-based." (Why Darwin Matters, 37)  What he does not clearly admit, is that the intellectual reasons people give for believing are the "real reasons" that they believe:

Notice that the intellectually based reasons offered for belief in God . . . which occupied first and second place when people were describing their own beliefs dropped to sixth and third place, respectively, when they were describing the beliefs of others . . . Sulloway and I believe that these results are evidence of an intellectual attribution bias, in which people consider their own beliefs as being rationally motivated, whereas they see the beliefs of others as being emotionally driven. 

Shermer and Sulloway seem to be drawing an irrational conclusion from valid and useful data, here.  What people say about themselves is valid evidence for what they believe, and why they believe it.  I cite Shermer for that, and for his admission that the leading reasons given for believing are essentially rational, or "intellectually-based," as he puts it.

But I do not cite Shermer for apparently positing, unjustifiably, that what people guess about other peoples' motives should be taken more seriously than what they report about their own motives.  (Citing Shermer, John Loftus does this overtly in his Outsider Test for Faith book, a book Shermer reviews with strong approval. And the term "bias" itself seems also to imply that people's guesses about the motives of others is the essential data, and their reports about their own motives are less reliable, a very odd assumption.) 

What people say about their own motives is evidence.  What people say about motives of others is mere speculation.  Even if Shermer, Sulloway, Loftus and Seeker all fail to recognize that distinction, I consider it absolutely in the right to insist upon it. 

6. Marshall says Dawkins's definition of faith, "Believing what you know isn't true," is "nonsensical." (24)

That's not Dawkins' definition; it's Mark Twain's. Marshall's attack on Dawkins is based on a falsehood.

Dawkins' definitions, which I have quoted several times by this point, are close enough to Twain's for my point, which Seeker is trying to fog up, here.  When asked, Christians do not, in fact, agree with the definition of faith EITHER Twain OR Dawkins, or a thousand lesser skeptics, attempt to impose on Christian theology, in Dawkins' famous words, "believing not only in the absense of evidence, but in the teeth of the evidence," which means almost exactly the same as Twain's version.

If, in the heat of the argument, I happened to say "Dawkins" instead of "Twain" here, as might happen, me not being the pope and all, the difference is utterly trivial, and it is tendentious and ridiculous to suppose that makes my point wrong, still less me a "liar."   (And I give several other forms of Dawkins' definition -- he is nothing if not flexible in getting the point across, and would probably himself find Seeker's fixation on the gnat's toenail worth of difference between his wording and that of Twain, of no importance.) 

7. Implying that scientific evidence is no more reliable than the evidence for religious faith, since both are contained in secondhand reports, Marshall says, "In fact, scientific evidence *is* based in faith - exactly the same sort of faith as informed Christians have in God." (29) (Emphasis in original.)

Granted, both religion and science use hearsay reports, but the key aspects of scientific reports generally refer to observable events that can be and frequently are independently replicated, while the key aspects of religious reports generally do not. Only a fool or a liar would argue that the two types of evidence are "exactly the same" as Marshall does.

I didn't say the two types of EVIDENCE are "exactly the same."  I said the two types of FAITH.  And I immediately explain what I mean:

Science is always based on at least three kinds of reasonable but fallible faith: trust in the mind, trust in the senses, and trust in other people.  None of these can be proven -- to use mind to prove mind is to argue ina circle.  And the senses might be wrong.  And there is no scientific test to prove our colleagues honest, reliable and competent -- only social tests.  Yet without reliance on all three, good science can't be done.  Maybe it could in the age of Galileo, Boyle, and Hooke, when scientists could make their own instruments, but nowadays most scientific work is simply too complex.  And even then, as we have seen, science was as much a product of coffeehouses as home laboratories.

Where do I say, or "imply" that scientific evidence is "no more reliable" than evidence for religious faith? 

That depends on the details.  Some scientific evidence is actually LESS reliable than some evidence for religious faith.  For example, a meteorologist is a scientist who studies weather.  He may say, "There is a 50% chance of snow tomorrow." So he is saying there is some evidence that it will snow, but not very certain evidence.  On the other hand, New Testament skeptics might admit that it is almost certain that Jesus said a certain saying, or that he was crucified as Christians believe.

But I make no foolish sweeping generalizations comparing the two.  All you can tell, from what I wrote, is that both science and religion appeal to the same sources of knowledge.  (Not that they appeal in the same way, since science is an epistemology, while religion involves a basic understanding of the world that makes use of a variety of epistemologies.) 

As far as I know, no scientist who has read this paragraph has objected to it, yet. 

The genuine fool is the person who thinks he can rebut the argument of an entire chapter, by misreading a single phrase, and attacking that, out of context. 

8. Marshall quotes Harris' statement that "Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them." (42)

Marshall makes Harris' statement seem more objectionable by taking it out of context in two different ways.

First, Harris explicitly linked his statement to *wartime* situations, like the hunt for dangerous believers like Osama bin Laden, the targeting of whom would undoubtedly be quite acceptable to many Christians. Marshall's failure to disclose that context seems deliberately deceptive.

Second, in a book implicitly comparing atheism and Christianity, it is simply dishonest to exaggerate the offensiveness of atheists' claims while simply ignoring similar Christian claims, so Marshall's failure to disclose Jesus' arguably even more offensive comment in Luke 19:27 also seems dishonest.

Harris does talk about the Taliban and other extreme Muslims later in the paragraph: "We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas." (The End of Faith, 52)   But Islam is brought in to illustrate a general point, here, not to confine that point.  It is true that Harris probably was not advocating Gestapo tactics against his ideological foes within democratic society. 

I go relatively easy on Harris, here. I simply add the gentle remark, "A little job discrimination would seem mild by comparison."  I have even warned Christians against taking Harris out of context here, as some do.  But it was an extraordinary careless bit of rhetoric, which many people have found startling, especially in light of Dawkins' comparison of religious education to child abuse.  Harris certainly had the light ribbing I gave him coming. 

9-10. Marshall says, "Karl Marx convinced a third of the world ... that money was the real problem"; and, "Communism then proved conclusively that people can hate one another in a cashless society." (55)

When challenged, Marshall angrily refused to document either claim, perhaps because he knows they're both outright falsehoods.

Angrily?  I don't remember the exchange -- or as little to do with Seeker as possible.  But if I refused to answer his question, it is more likely because I was aghast at the historical ignorance of the man.

I'm still at a loss to guess what is supposed to be untrue about either statement.  Was the Gulag a money-based economy?  Has Seeker heard of the Gulag?  Even China, when I first moved there, was largely run on rations. 

11. Marshall implies that scientific evidence confirms that life appeared in roughly the pattern reported in Genesis. (61)

But Genesis 2 indicates that humans were the first animal life form on Earth. I don't think scientific evidence confirms that!

"Implies," again!  Don't I ever say anything?  Can't Seeker find any errors in my actual words, that he has to keep on extracting "implications" that only he can see?  (And thus never gives the actual quotes?) 

And Seeker apparently thinks the normal way to read a book is to begin with chapter two, then read chapter one!  How is one supposed to answer such silliness? 

12. Marshall cites a Hubert Yockey e-mail about an origin-of-life issue and then says, "Therefore (Yockey doesn't suffer fools gladly), Dawkins and his ilk were the real religious fanatics." (65)

But Yockey's e-mail never even mentions Dawkins. Marshall's implication that Yockey is specifically criticizing Dawkins is highly misleading, if not downright false.

I also cite Yockey's Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life a couple pages later, where Yockey does single out Dawkins for making the error I am describing on page 65.  Thus, "Dawkins and his ilk" is again correct.   

13-14. Marshall says that Dawkins' responses to the creationist challenges, "What is the use of half an eye?" and "What is the use of half a wing?," don't answer the real question about missing half of the parts. (74)

Marshall's twin accusations are both false. Dawkins does answer the "half of the parts" question for both eyes and wings. Part of Dawkins' response directs readers to his book "Climbing Mount Improbable," where his discussion of eyes and wings covers over 100 pages and includes stages in both cases having far, far less than "half of the parts." So the problem here isn't that Dawkins' explanation is missing half of the parts, but rather that Marshall dishonestly leaves out half of Dawkins' explanation.

In this case, both Dawkins and I are guilty of some lack of clarity, though Dawkins much more so.  Dawkins does in fact conflate missing half of a structure with half of its parts, in the case of the wing, as I point out.  He does so with the eye, too, at the top of page 124: "By analogy with the trees of different height, it is easy to imagine situations in which half an eye would save the life of an animal where 49 per cent of an eye would not."  But Dawkins' discussion of the eye does involve parts as well as overall structure. 

So my criticism, overall, is correct.  Dawkins' critique is off-target.  I could, perhaps, have improved my critique by some slight rewording.     

15-16. On two occasions (76 and 189) Marshall falsely implies that Christians invented science.

In reality, medicine, astronomy, and agriculture were studied for centuries before Christ was even born; and Wikipedia indicates that Islamic, not Christian, scientists were the first to use the basic, experimental approach used today.

"Implies," again!  How Seeker loves that weasel word!  This is why I usually just ignore people like this.  Why not quote what I actually say, and attempt to refute that? 

On page 76, I am concluding a paragraph, and engaging in a light-hearted discussion of my feelings about science, not making a close historical argument:

Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)  His followers invented science, quoting Solomon, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, to search out a matter is the glory of kings." (Proverbs 25:2) Why let secularists have all the fun?

Here I am referring to Francis Bacon, who quoted this verse twice in arguing for an empirical scientific revolution. Bacon's arguments are often credited for helping to inspire the birth of modern science. As Rodney Stark shows in For the Glory of God, most of the key founders of modern science were in fact "pious" Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. (As were the great scientists of the 13th and 14th Centuries.) 

On page 189, I am beginning a paragraph, and an therefore also writing in a rhetorical and philosophical tone, answering Sam Harris' equally rhetorical and philosophical arguments, before getting down to the actual topic of the chapter:

Sam Harris is brutally candid.  What kind of God would let a man "rape, torture, and kill" a little girl?  What was God up to when a tsunami struck Asia and 100,000 children were "simultaneously torn from their mother's arms and casually drowned?"  Hearing such stories, I'm almost ready to shake my fist at the sky, too.  I have no idea why God allows uch things.  I often ask, but have been given no reply.  This ancient argument against God is renewed every day in the news, in prayer requests, and in accounts of, say, how smallpox devastated the Native Americans.

But if one hates suffering, shouldn't one applaud the religion whose followers invented science, the modern hospital, and the Red Cross, and helped end slavery, the caste system, foot-binding, and widow-burning.  Yet Harris is equally passionate in his dislike for Christianity.

Now suppose some anally-retentive Christian were to take Harris' claim that one hundred thousand children were swept from their mother's arms, in the style Seeker takes my claim about science, here?  If one were to show that only 200 children were literally swept from their mother's arms, should we call Harris a profligrate liar?

I'm happy to give credit to the Greeks (less the Muslims, sorry Wikipedia) for inventing something resembling modern science, also "for the glory of God," as the atheist historian of science Richard Carrier admits.  The point of the paragraph is obviously not that no one else ever studied stars or cut open bodies before Francis Bacon's time.  Again, Seeker is reading not like a true Seeker after truth, but as a tendentious jackass looking desperately for something, anything, to criticize.   

It seems Marshall has told so many falsehoods that he can't keep them all straight anymore.

It seems Marshall thought he was writing a book for grownups. 

17. Marshall says, "Species do not ... change as gradually as Darwin anticipated - something dramatically new appears, then remains much the same for long periods." (77)

In reality, Marshall's description of evolutionary change closely follows Darwin's own description in "Origin" that, "... each form remains for long periods unaltered, and then again undergoes modification." (6th ed., pp. 119-120)

If Marshall wants to criticize Darwin, THEN HE OUGHT TO READ HIS DARN BOOK FIRST! Sheesh!

This phrase was added to a late edition of Origin, tacked on at the end of a sentence, and is not the general emphasis of Darwin's work, which is on the gradual and steady accumulation of changes: 

Natural selection acts only by the preservation and accumulation of small inherited modifications . . . natural selection (will) banish the belief of . . . any great and sudden modification in their structure. (119)

If my theory be true, numberless intermediate varieties, linking closely together all the species of the same group, must assuredly have existed . . . (215)

But in any case, I am not "criticizing" Darwin.  I praise him highly in this book.  Here, I am simply pointing out that the fossil record has proven something of a surprise, from Darwin's point of view.  I don't think that is a very startling observation, and likely one Darwin would admit himself, were he alive today -- being an honest man. 

18-19. Marshall accuses Dawkins of misrepresenting both the story of the Levite's concubine (Judges 19-21) and the story of Jephthah, who sacrificed his own daughter to God (Judges 11). Marshall argues that neither story can validly be used as an indictment of religion, because the last verse in Judges says: "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (97-98)

But in both cases it is actually Marshall who misrepresents the Bible.

Many of the actors in the first story were clearly devoted to God, and many of them committed further acts of violence after first praying to God.

Now here is a remarkably bald act of deception, indeed.  In fact, Dawkins says nothing at all about Judges 20-21.  He ONLY mentions the initial story of the Levite and the concubine, in Judges 19 (God Delusion, 240-241).  And that passage doesn't so much as mention God, prayer, or any religious observations whatsoever. 

That is the only chapter Dawkins mentions, and it is therefore all I respond to.  Seeker brings in the following two chapters because he can't find any purchase against my actual argument, based on what Dawkins actually said.

Anyway, only a fool of the highest order could read that story, and think the author's intent is to say, "Here are God's children acting as God wishes them to act." 

The author both begins and ends the overall story by saying there was no king in Israel, in those days -- to stake a clear editorial position on the horrendous events he is chronicling.  But apparently he, too, was writing for adults, and this clear editorial signal went over the heads of both Dawkins and Seeker.   

In the second story, Jephthah made an explicit deal with God, promising a human sacrifice to Him in return for a military victory; and God demonstrated His acceptance of the deal by granting the military victory Jephthah had prayed for. Only a fool or a liar would claim that God played no part in that transaction and in the resulting human sacrifice.

Apparently the author of Judges is simply too sophisticated for some of our woodenly literalistic, anally-retentive type atheists. 

20. Responding to Harris' gibe about God making Shakespeare "a far better writer than Himself," Marshall says, "Even Nietzsche thought Luther's Bible the best thing in German." (111)

Marshall provides no citation for that claim, perhaps because it's an outright falsehood.

If a missing citation proves someone a liar, what does that say about Richard Dawkins, who gives only a quarter as many citations as I do, per page? 

21. To emphasize how miraculously prescient the Bible is, Marshall implies it was written in the Stone Age. (114)

I'm serious, Marshall really does say "Stone Age," a falsehood so blatant it would make the Father of Lies himself blush.

Now I'm thinking "Seeker" actually may be Tim Beazley. 

I admitted years ago that "Bronze Age" was correct.  I've seen atheists make the exact same minor error.  But the fool is still crowing.  Something must be placed wrongly inside this person's skull. 

"He's a liar!  No, an unrepentant, cereal liar!  No, he's the biggest liar in all the world!  No, he's a bigger liar than the devil!" 

This grows wearisome, as I'm sure any reader who has survived this far probably agrees. 

In sum, everything I can or do say will be used against me in the court of Seeker's fevered imagination.  (Who does seem more an more like a retired prosecutor with weak morals and too much time on his hands.)  Allusions will be made, but not cited.  Texts will be poured over for apparent micro-flaws in the most allusive and purely poetic comment.  Analysis will rest, not on the level of my book's argument as a whole, nor the argument of a given chapter, section, or even down to an individual paragraph.  Parts of sentences will be wrest out of context and given pernicious significance.  When that fails, "implications" will be read.  Never, ever, will a point be granted, a larger argument considered fairly, a moment of fun or good cheer entered into.  It's not enough that the enemy be considered a "liar," he must be wilful, outright, sadistic, a more profligate deceiver than the devil itself. 

Imagine these kinds of minds going to work on the Bible.  Well, you don't have to imagine -- read Richard Dawkins' book. 

And with that, I have given this tribe its due.  I will not post on them again for a good long time, if I can help it. 

Maybe I'll go cut the grass.

89 comments:

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

In my humble opinion, the problem is that you provide such abundant and repeated evidence for either incompetence or dishonesty in the way you handle your sources, as your treatment of Durkheim shows:
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2013/05/david-marshalls-use-and-abuse-of.html#more

Perhaps you should use your time to actually get a solid education in biblical studies and Christian history, as the way you operate cannot be good for your cause.

I don't comment much on Chinese history or religion because I don't have the expertise, and I am humble enough to recognize it.

If you would just do the same for biblical and Christian history (and anthropology, for that matter), then you may be perceived differently by non-believers who actually do know those fields.

There are plenty of Christian apologists who do have the relevant education, and so I am not sure why you feel compelled to venture into areas in which it is painfully obvious that you don't have real expertise.

Billy Squibs said...

It gets worse - http://davidmarshallandlyingforjesus.blogspot.ie/

I admire you for what you are doing, David, and also the manner in how you conduct yourself.

David Marshall said...

Billy: Yes, I think I saw that. Thanks for the kind words. For the most part, it's probably best to ignore people who "think" at that level, but once in a while, one must clean up the trash that people throw over the fence.

steve said...

Somehow I don't think Hector's self-testimony to his own impartiality is...impartial.

David Marshall said...

Hector: Honestly, considering the advantages God has given you in intelligence and opportunity, shouldn't you be sitting at the Grownups' table? (See previous post.)

You are the only person I know of who has any serious academic credentials, who claims to find my writings ignorant. And we both know why that is, let's not pretend we don't. You got your butt kicked over the sloppy crap you wrote in one of Loftus' books, and in your book absurdly blaming Jesus and the New Testament for promoting hatred and violence.

This is the same motivation that makes the likes of "Seeker" so obsessive. That OUGHT to be a warning.

I don't know what you're on about Durkheim, now, and frankly don't much care. I quote him accurately. I've read those passages carefully, many times. The phenomena is widely admitted in standard works on comparative religion.

steve said...

Avalos has an odd habit of fighting for the cause of atheism, even though, if atheism were true, nothing matters. He's a conflicted atheist.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

RE: "If atheism were true, nothing matters."

I believe that we call that a false dichotomy. And, of course, nothing you say actually addresses the facts or arguments in my post on DC. Try again.

David Marshall said...

Steve: I suppose Dr. Avalos wanted to let me know he's posted another attack on The Truth Behind the New Atheism. If you read my critique of his article, "Atheism was not the Cause of the Holocaust," and the debate that followed, in which just about every critical point was substantiated against his hostile fire, and my six-or-so-post analysis of his tendentious Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, elsewhere on this site, I think you'll understand his motivation.

steve said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

"I believe that we call that a false dichotomy."

Calling it a false dichotomy doesn't make it a false dichotomy. Try again.

steve said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

"And, of course, nothing you say actually addresses the facts or arguments in my post on DC. Try again."

If atheism is true, why do facts and arguments matter?

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

RE: "Calling it a false dichotomy doesn't make it a false dichotomy. Try again."

Your logic is still impeccable. Yours is a truism that applies to almost anything. Calling something a true dichotomy also does not make it a true dichotomy, and so you end up saying nothing meaningful by observing that "calling something a false dichotomy doesn't make it a false dichotomy."

So, try telling us something that we don't know already instead of repeating slogans.

RE:" If atheism is true, why do facts and arguments matter?"
Because lack of belief in any specific entity you call "God" bears no necessary logical relationship to how I value facts and arguments anymore than lack of belief in Zeus means that "facts and arguments don't matter."

After all, who made up the rule that facts and arguments only matter if one believes in your god (or in Zeus)?

If anything, I lack belief in your god because facts and arguments do matter to me, and you have offered no facts or arguments that I find convincing for the entity you call "God." Comprende?





Billy Squibs said...

After all, who made up the rule that facts and arguments only matter if one believes in your god (or in Zeus)?

I don't think that is the argument being made, Hector. So no one has to answer the question.

The question being asked is why is truth important at all. Do you have a duty to truth? Is there some atheistic teleology?

Incidentally, that would be God with a capital G. You are an educated man, Hector, so I'm sure you are familiar with proper nouns. Is it that you think adherence to the rules of grammar when mentioning God reinforces the myth? Whatever the reason it seems grounded in pettiness.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

I don't see "God" as just a matter of grammar, and so you are simply reflecting your own theological biases.

In particular, it reflects a Christian bias, unless you also use it when referring to Zeus, Krishna, etc. Is Zeus also God for you? Or just Yahweh?

So, I think you need to update your reading on how modern scholarship is changing when it comes to
references to the Christian god(s).

We had a whole session about that at a recent Society of Biblical Literature convention. Do you ever attend those? Some textbooks may change because of that session.

So, keep up. We are not all from an RTS school.

David B Marshall said...

The spelling of God, as a proper name, is a matter of grammar, of course. Obviously God refers to Him "than which nothing greater can be conceived," unique in monotheism, a particular person, and therefore capitalized. Zeus is, of course, also capitalized, but not "god" as a generic term for deities in general in polytheism.

It's a wonder, though, that dr. avalos attends meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature, after writing a book on "the end of biblical studies." Apparently he doesn't think it needs to end quite so fast, after all.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Dear David,
You are only showing how poorly read you are again. The title of my book, The End of Biblical Studies, as I have pointed out numerous times, is meant as a double entendre:

1. "End" in the sense of "termination."
2. "End" in the sense of "purpose."

If you read it, I explained therein that I seek to end biblical studies as it is currently practiced (in a religionist and apologetic mode) and not terminate the study of the Bible per se.

So, do you ever feel a sense of shame for pontificating on things you don't read?




David B Marshall said...

Hector: Do you ever relax? It was a clean shot: take it like a man.

I've gone through your attempt to rebut my "God" argument in a cursory way, now. Speaking of "poorly read," do you really think you read either Durkheim or myself accurately? Honestly, while there's a bit of substance there, which I appreciate as far as it goes, it looks like it'll mostly be shooting fish in a barrel, again. Is that really the best you got?

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Dear David,
RE: "The spelling of God, as a proper name, is a matter of grammar, of course."

Again, you are misinformed about the religiocentric biases that are being recognized in how we treat biblical deities in our English writings.

What I am trying to convey is that there is currently some rethinking on how capitalization reflects religious biases, but apparently you are not reading current scholarship on this issue either.

Historically, we are de-emphasizing capitalization of words relating to entities that Christians consider special or sacred.

For example, the debate about capitalizing "He," when referring to the biblical god(s), is already present among Christians:
http://www.epm.org/resources/2012/Apr/6/why-dont-you-capitalize-he-when-referring-god/

Note one tradition:

"We follow the style, which does not capitalize pronouns relating to deity. This intends no disrespect to God; it is the usage of the historic English Bibles: Wyclif (1380), Tyndale (1534), Cranmer (1539), Geneva (1557), Rheims (1582), and King James Version of KJV (1611). Moreover, it is the style followed by the New International Version (NIV) and English Standard Version (ESV), as well as by our denominational magazine New Horizons. The NASB and NKJV do capitalize pronouns relating to deity (introducing something which is not in the Greek or Hebrew, I might add)."

The religiocentric biases of capitalizing "God" when referring to the Christian deity is being recognized even by the most traditional and authoritative dictionaries, such as the Oxford English Dictionary, whose on-line entry on "'god" says the following:

"Even when applied to the objects of polytheistic worship, the word has often a colouring derived from Christian associations. As the use of God as a proper name has throughout the literary period of English been the predominant one, it is natural that the original heathen sense should be sometimes apprehended as a transferred use of this; ‘a god’, in this view, is a supposed being put in the place of God, or an imperfect conception of God in some of His attributes or relations.

Besides having been thus modified by the influence of the Christian use, this sense as expressed in the definition has been affected by the pagan uses of Latin deus and Greek θεός, of which god is the accepted rendering. Thus, in speaking of Greek mythology, we distinguish the gods from the dæmons or supernatural powers of inferior rank, and from the heroes or demigods, who, though objects of worship, and considered as immortal, were not regarded as having ceased to be men; and the analogy of this nomenclature is often followed in speaking of modern polytheistic religions.

When the word is applied to heathen deities disparagingly, it is now written with a small initial; when the point of view of the worshipper is to any extent adopted, A CAPITAL MAY BE USED" [my emphasis].

Note that it recognizes that capitalization is mainly the result of Christian influence, and not because of some inherent grammatical need. Note that it suggests that we can capitalize Zeus, if the viewpoint of the worshipper so allows it.

So, it may be a matter of time before we consistently start treating other gods the same as your god when capitalizing (or not capitalizing).

As it is, not all of us believe that the biblical deities such as Yahweh or Elohim were regarded as "Supreme" in the sense of having all of the attributes that orthodox Christians have bestowed on that entity.

So, even by your criteria, Yahweh may not be deserving of the capitalized term "God."

I help to found a new unit in the Society of Biblical Literature called the Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship unit, which deals with these sorts of issues.

Our debut session was in 2012 in Chicago, and I served as its first chair. That shows you how much the SBL is changing.

David B Marshall said...

I am vaguely aware of the debate. It is obvious, however, that the most obdurant and angry atheists tend to write "god." More reasonable atheists, and almost everyone else, has written "God" for the past few hundred years anyway when referring to the Supreme Being. This carries the advantages of clarify, tradition, and of making grammatical sense.

Capitalizing "Zeus," or "Harry Potter," "Santa Claus," or "Darth Vader," is also standard, whatever you think of those characters, and whether you believe in them or not. "God," being a proper name for a unique being, of course should be capitalized as well, and in my view Steve is usually right (with a few exceptions) about the motives of those who defy tradition, clarity, and grammatical sense to do otherwise.

The very fact that you emphasize "religio-centric biases" rather than "good grammar" appears to reflect your own political motivations.

As C. S. Lewis pointed out long ago, the value of caps for pronouns referring to God is added clarity. Grammatically, this is more ambiguous than "God," however, part of a narrower convention.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

RE: "obdurant and angry atheists tend to write 'god.' More reasonable atheists..."

It always puzzles me how a seemingly educated man such as yourself can thoughtlessly assume that your definition of "reasonable" is that of everyone else.

I don't deem as "reasonable" capitalizing the generic name for your deity but not that of others, and you give me no reason why we why should we privilege your deity in that manner.

So, why not say that my motivations include fairness and equity in how we treat religions rather than
"anger"?

What exactly is "angry" about saying that we don't want to treat your deity as more special than any other?

And why do you focus on "anger," as though it were a bad attribute, when your deity calls himself an angry god.

Or is anger only good when your deity acts on it, as in Zephaniah 3:6-10 (NLT):

"I have wiped out many nations, devastating their fortress walls and towers. Their cities are now deserted; their streets are in silent ruin. There are no survivors to even tell what happened. I thought, 'Surely they will have reverence for me now! Surely they will listen to my warnings, so I won't need to strike again.' But no; however much I punish them, they continue their evil practices from dawn till dusk and dusk till dawn." So now the LORD says: "Be patient; the time is coming soon when I will stand up and accuse these evil nations.

For it is my decision to gather together the kingdoms of the earth and pour out my fiercest anger and fury on them.

All the earth will be devoured by the fire of my jealousy. "On that day I will purify the lips of all people, so that everyone will be able to worship the LORD together. My scattered people who live beyond the rivers of Ethiopia will come to present their offerings."


Lovely stuff, by the way. And do you capitalize every letter in LORD, or is that not a grammatical rule for you?

So, compare those actions by your deity in Zephaniah (and elsewhere) to my proposal to be equitable in how we capitalize deities next time you speak of angry atheists.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Corrected sentence: I don't deem as "reasonable" capitalizing the generic name for your deity but not that of others, and you give me no reason why we should privilege your deity in that manner.

Billy Squibs said...

Hector, I'm happy for you that you are so dedicated to eradicating religio-centric biases. However, if you had a conversation with a Christian and they explained to you the importance of referring to God with a capital G would you do so for their sake - at least when interacting with them?

Also, back to the more interesting questions about obligations. Do you, as an man who believes he inhabits a godless world, have a duty to truth? If so could you expand on its origins? Also could you tell me if there is a place for teleology in your world-view?

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Dear Billy Squibs,
I don't always have a problem capitalizing "God" per se, and so the better question is whether you are willing to capitalize "God" when other religions think it should be.

RE: truth
First, you need to define "truth" for me to even know how to answer your question properly.

Theists, if anything, have no monopoly on the love of "truth" especially as they seem to think that they are interacting with some invisible being that non-believers can't detect. How "truthful" is that?

I also don't want to recapitulate the entire history of philosophy here, but if you want to know my basic approach to epistemology, I have outlined it in The End of Biblical Studies, pp. 114ff.

David B Marshall said...

You have a great (but not unique) gift for missing my point. Of course I don't think "God" is a "generic name," and of course it isn't. That's precisely one thing that distinguishes "God" from "god." Another is that once you have grasped the concept of "God," you should realize that He is not "my god / God," but as Anselm said, that than which no greater can be conceived. This is why I argue against Christians who deny that Allah is an appropriate name for God, that they are different gods, etc. God by definition transcends all cultures, and even our concepts of who He is. By definition, whether that definition corresponds to anything or not, there can only be one, which is why "God" is a proper name, just as Allah, Shang Di, Kami-sama (as Christians use the term), Dieu, Bog, etc, are names in other languages for the one God called "God" in English. (And sometimes Zeus worked that way in Greek, for instance in Cleanthes' Hymn to Zeus.)

Your anger, Dr. Avalos, is palpable, as is the injustice -- not justice -- with which you treat the Christian tradition. This, I have documented, and you do little to disguise. The causal roots of that anger, I do not presume to guess.

steve said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

“Your logic is still impeccable.”

That’s one thing we agree on. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing for your own position.

“Yours is a truism that applies to almost anything. Calling something a true dichotomy also does not make it a true dichotomy, and so you end up saying nothing meaningful by observing that ‘calling something a false dichotomy doesn't make it a false dichotomy.’”

To the contrary, to point out that your allegation is just an assertion is a meaningful observation. You haven’t given the reader any reason to think my statement was a false dichotomy.

“So, try telling us something that we don't know already instead of repeating slogans.”

Given how much you don’t know, you’d have to clear your schedule.

“Because lack of belief in any specific entity you call ‘God’ bears no necessary logical relationship to how I value facts and arguments anymore than lack of belief in Zeus means that ‘facts and arguments don't matter.’”

You suffer from an artificially compartmentalized belief-system. If Christian theism is true, then that has logical implications for human nature, human responsibility, human destiny. Conversely, if atheism is true, then that has logical implications for human nature, human responsibility, human destiny.

Same thing with the existence or nonexistence of Zeus. If Greek mythology were true, that would implicate a different worldview than Christian theism or atheism.

And let’s not pretend that atheists merely disbelieve in God. Atheists typically have positive beliefs, like belief in naturalistic evolution.

“After all, who made up the rule that facts and arguments only matter if one believes in your god (or in Zeus)?”

i) For one thing, many atheist thinkers are moral relativists or moral nihilists. But in that event, we have no epistemic duties. Absent objective moral norms, we are under no moral obligation to have fact-based beliefs.

You accuse David of dishonesty, but you are, by your own admission, a moral relativist. So even if David were dishonest, big deal?

ii) A godless universe is indifferent to who is right and who is wrong. The corpse of Bertrand Russell has no advantage over the corpse of George Whitefield.

Likewise, according to the standard secular narrative, humans are just a temporary stage in the evolutionary process. You and I are just primates. By your lights, David is a dishonest primate. So what? Are you equally concerned about the beliefs of gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees?

According to the standard secular narrative, the human species will become extinct. So in the long run, what does it matter who believed what? If atheism is true, everyone loses.

steve said...

Cont.

“If anything, I lack belief in your god because facts and arguments do matter to me, and you have offered no facts or arguments that I find convincing for the entity you call ‘God.’ Comprende?”

You are not the standard of comparison. Sorry to disappoint you.

“So, I think you need to update your reading on how modern scholarship is changing when it comes to references to the Christian god(s).We had a whole session about that at a recent Society of Biblical Literature convention.”

That betrays your own bias. You’re illicit appeal to authority.

Why should we take the Society of Biblical Literature as our frame of reference rather than the Evangelical Theological Society, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, or the American Catholic Philosophical Society?

“So, do you ever feel a sense of shame for pontificating on things you don't read?”

Why are you trying to shame David? After all, he’s just a primate. Do you also think gorillas should feel ashamed?

Moreover, you’re an avowed moral relativist. Well, if moral relativism is true, then David is entitled to be a shameless Christian apologist, right?

“First, you need to define ‘truth’ for me to even know how to answer your question properly.”

Good question. From a standard secular perspective, truth is whatever your primate brain perceives to be the case. “Reality” is just a neurological construct. That’s a problem with Hector’s naïve appeal to the “facts.”

Avalos keeps demonstrating that he’s a conflict atheist. His atheism is self-contradictory.

David B Marshall said...

Steve: Let's not get carried away with how shameless I am, even as an example. I'm debunking his new round of incoming as we speak. If anything, I probably feel shame too easily, which I why I don't watch the Seattle Mariners very often.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Dear Steve (and assuming you are the Steve from Triablogue):

I think we have covered this ground before, and you are just repeating the same platitudes and circularities.

I don't deny that atheism/theism has consequences. I simply deny that they are the specific ones you cite (e.g. that truth does not matter if one is an atheist, etc.).

My argument also is THAT EVERYONE is a moral relativist, whether they are theists or not.

So, you are still not understanding my position, since you seem to think that only atheists are moral relativists. As it is, you don't even seem to understand moral relativism.

I've already explained many times that your theistic morality is circular: "X is right/wrong because X is right/wrong."

Nothing changes if you have what you call God in your moral system because it is YOU who have judged that whatever God says is right is right.

So, how did you decide that God should be the moral arbiter in the first place unless you had a prior judgment that YOU made?

How is that not just as relativistic as the moral judgments of anyone else who is also the judge of their own morality?

You have provided no reason why anything God says should be regarded as right other than give us yet another circularity, such as: "Because he is a Supreme Being who makes the Rules"...or some other such nonsense that only reflects that YOU are the one making all the ultimate moral judgements about the standards you follow.

You have NEVER been able to solve your circularity problem, and and so start there.

The last time you tried, it ended in disaster for you --so much so that you had to take your post down---remember?

You lost all of my respect that day, and so quit wasting peoples time with your amateurish philosophical/apologetics arguments.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

RE: “Why should we take the Society of Biblical Literature as our frame of reference rather than the Evangelical Theological Society, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, or the American Catholic Philosophical Society?”

Because my comments about how modern scholarship is changing is best served by an organization that represents the widest range of modern biblical scholarship.

The SBL is the largest organization of biblical scholars in the world, and its membership represents the widest spectrum of biblical scholars, from atheists to evangelicals.

The ETS, EPS, or ACPS do not. They are focused on a narrower set of biblical scholars. Besides, many members of those organizations also belong to the SBL.

Since the SBL has members of from of those organizations, that alone shows that it does allow for a wider variety of opinions.

So, if you just want a statistical sense of where biblical scholarship in general is today, then the SBL would be the place to go.

That is not to say that I agree with everything the SBL does, as I still think it is too religionist.

But important strides have been made since the publication of The End of Biblical Studies, though many other factors are also at work.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

RE: "This is why I argue against Christians who deny that Allah is an appropriate name for God, that they are different gods, etc. God by definition transcends all cultures, and even our concepts of who He is."

I wonder what your good friends at Triablogue think about this, given this discussion:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/05/is-allah-god.html

If theists can't even agree on what "God" means, why do you expect atheists to settle your arguments?

steve said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

“I don't deny that atheism/theism has consequences. I simply deny that they are the specific ones you cite (e.g. that truth does not matter if one is an atheist, etc.). My argument also is THAT EVERYONE is a moral relativist, whether they are theists or not. So, you are still not understanding my position, since you seem to think that only atheists are moral relativists. As it is, you don't even seem to understand moral relativism.”

Your objection is confused. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Christians and atheists are both moral relativists.

That fails to explain your warrant for acting as if “facts,” arguments, and honesty matter. To claim that Christians and atheists are both in the same boat, ethically speaking, even if that were the case, does nothing to justify your own practice.

If everyone is a moral relativist, then that includes atheists, as a subset thereof. If, by your own admission, atheists are moral relativists, then why do you keep acting as if we’re *supposed* to have a fact-based belief system? Why do you devote so much time and effort to disproving Christianity if, by your own admission, it is not morally incumbent on humans to respect the truth?

“I've already explained many times that your theistic morality is circular: ‘X is right/wrong because X is right/wrong.’"

I already rebutted your contention when I reviewed that chapter in the book edited by Loftus. In addition to my review, I also posted follow-up articles.

“Nothing changes if you have what you call God in your moral system because it is YOU who have judged that whatever God says is right is right. So, how did you decide that God should be the moral arbiter in the first place unless you had a prior judgment that YOU made? How is that not just as relativistic as the moral judgments of anyone else who is also the judge of their own morality?”

You’re conflating several different issues:

i) To begin with, you repeat your initial confusion. Even if Christians and atheists are both moral relativists, that does nothing to justify your own practice. You act as if atheism is an intellectual virtue, while Christianity is an intellectual vice. Your practice is inconsistent with your avowed moral relativism.

If you were consistent, you wouldn’t care what other people think. Since you can’t say it’s morally wrong for Christians to be Christian, since you can’t say Christians are derelict in their epistemic duties, what is your rational basis for trying to dissuade Christians from being Christian? Your practice is self-contradictory.

ii) In addition, you’re conflating a value judgment with a factual judgment. My “deciding” that the Christian God exists is not a value judgment (or moral judgment), but a factual judgment. I don’t have to measure God by moral standards to conclude that God exists. Although there is a classic moral argument for God’s existence, arguments (or evidence) for God’s existence (and the Christian God in particular) are hardly confined to moral arguments.

steve said...

Cont.

“You have provided no reason why anything God says should be regarded as right other than give us yet another circularity, such as: ‘Because he is a Supreme Being who makes the Rules’...or some other such nonsense that only reflects that YOU are the one making all the ultimate moral judgements about the standards you follow. You have NEVER been able to solve your circularity problem, and and so start there.”

i) Since you’re not quoting or citing anything I’ve written on the subject, you’re in no position to say I failed to provide a reason.

ii) You’re attacking a crude version of divine command theory. Perhaps that just reflects your ignorance of Christian ethics. For instance, your attack disregards natural law theory. Moreover, divine command theory and natural law theory are not mutually exclusive. God commands us to act the way he designed us to act. The “rules” are grounded in the nature God gave us.

“The last time you tried, it ended in disaster for you --so much so that you had to take your post down---remember?”

I think you have me confused with Paul Manata. So you’re the one whose memory is faulty. Your confidence outstrips your competence.

“You lost all of my respect that day, and so quit wasting peoples time with your amateurish philosophical/apologetics arguments.”

Notice that when Avalos is unable to win an argument on the merits, he resorts to emotional appeals. Why does he imagine that I value his respect?

Avalos has forgotten that he’s just an ape. A disapproving ape.

steve said...

BTW, notice that in his response to me, Avalos chose to focus on moral relativism to the exclusion of other objections I raised to his position. I'm happy to take his evasive silence as a tacit admission that my other objections are unanswerable.

David B Marshall said...

"If theists can't even agree on what "God" means, why do you expect atheists to settle your arguments?"

A curious thought . . . Don't worry, Hector, I don't think you're in any danger of being nominated to serve as pope. And I'm not Catholic, anyway, so much as I like some of them, I don't really want one that much. We'll just go on hashing our ideas in the sunny light of Reason, Tradition, and Scripture, and, God willing, disagreements will make our fellowship all the deeper.

steve said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

"So, if you just want a statistical sense of where biblical scholarship in general is today, then the SBL would be the place to go."

So you judge truth by the quantity of opinions rather than the quality of the arguments. No doubt that goes a long way towards explaining your anti-intellectual positions.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Nothing mysterious. I am not judging "TRUTH." I am reporting what most scholars might believe, and so you ask them, and then count them to get a statistical profile. Whether what they believe is "truth" or not, is not what I am talking about. Are you really this obtuse?

steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

"Nothing mysterious. I am not judging 'TRUTH.' I am reporting what most scholars might believe, and so you ask them, and then count them to get a statistical profile. Whether what they believe is 'truth' or not, is not what I am talking about. Are you really this obtuse?"

Why should we care how many scholars believe something unless their beliefs are true beliefs? Just collecting opinions regardless of their veracity is irrational. But I do thank Avalos for once against illustrating his anti-intellectual priorities.

steve said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

“The last time you tried, it ended in disaster for you --so much so that you had to take your post down---remember? You lost all of my respect that day, and so quit wasting peoples time with your amateurish philosophical/apologetics arguments.”

Aside from confusing me with Paul Manata, Avalos is the one who’s still smarting over that incident. Manata contacted some philosophers to ask them what they thought of Hector’s argument for moral relativism. When they said they thought his argument was logically inept, Paul quoted them.

With his face turning redder that a beet, Avalos then contacted the philosophers to pressure Manata into withdrawing the comments he found so acutely embarrassing. Having lost the argument, Avalos resorted to censorship to cover his humiliating retreat.

Billy Squibs said...

This relationship is unhealthy.

rockingwithhawking said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said:

"So, keep up. We are not all from an RTS school."

Speaking of academic snobbery:

1. I suppose this means Avalos' co-blogger John Loftus lacks the right credentials in Avalos' mind since Loftus' bachelor's degree is from Great Lakes Christian College and his master's degrees from Lincoln Christian University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

2. It seems to me Avalos is the type of person who would thumb his nose down at a Cambridge Univeristy alum from Homerton College if Avalos attended King's. (Although this means a Trinity College alum could thumb his nose down at Avalos for the same reason.)

Next up for Avalos is thumbing his nose down at a Hufflepuff alum or thumbing his nose down at Beauxbatons Academy of Magic over and against Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

3. I suspect Avalos would likewise thumb his nose down at Abraham Lincoln, Michael Faraday, Ramanujan, and the herpetologist Roger Conant for not having graduated from any formal schools, Buckminster Fuller for having been kicked out of Harvard, William Herschel for being an amateur astronomer, as well as a slew of amateur historians, etc.

4. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of minorities got into top Ivy League institutions primarily because of their minority status rather than primarily because of their merit, whereas white people got turned away despite their merit.

rockingwithhawking said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said:

"So, keep up. We are not all from an RTS school."

So, keep up. We are not all anthropologists or religious studies majors. Some of us study proper academic fields like philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE).

So, keep up. We are not all college professors. Some of us are lawyers, accountants, business people, engineers, and doctors. After all, "those who can, do; those who can't, teach," right?

So, keep up. We are not all college professors in the wishy washy humanities and social "sciences" disciplines. Some of us are actual scientists.

So, keep up. We are not all scientists. Some of us are physicists.

So, keep up. We are not all physicists. Some of us are mathematicians.

steve said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

"So, keep up. We are not all from an RTS school."

Avalos said this in reply to Billy Squibs. Why does he think Squibs is from an RTS school?

BTW, Avalos teaches at Iowa State U. Is that an Ivy League school?

steve said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

“You have provided no reason why anything God says should be regarded as right other than give us yet another circularity, such as: ‘Because he is a Supreme Being who makes the Rules’...or some other such nonsense that only reflects that YOU are the one making all the ultimate moral judgements about the standards you follow. You have NEVER been able to solve your circularity problem, and and so start there.”

i) That’s another example of your muddleheaded thinking. In addition to what I already said, there’s a basic difference between “making the rules” and making a moral judgment *based* on the rules. That’s not circular. Rather, that’s *applying* the rules rather than *making* them.

Likewise, you’re confounding the epistemology of ethics with the ontology of ethics. Even if (ex hypothesi) my regard for the rightness of what God says were a reflection of my making all the ultimate moral judgments about the standards I follow, that wouldn’t make me the source of the standards I follow. God can still be the source of my standards even if (ex hypothesi) God is not the source of the knowledge of my standards. So it’s not circular to ground my standards in God. Although appealing to epistemology to justify epistemology would be circular, appealing to metaphysics to justify epistemology (e.g. value theory) is not. Sorry if you can’t grasp those rudimentary distinctions.

ii) However, your imputation is false. I don’t defend Biblical ethics because it always jives with my preconceptions.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

RE: Aside from confusing me with Paul Manata, Avalos is the one who’s still smarting over that incident...."

No, you are whitewashing your role in his pranks, and you are also flat out lying about what your blog did.

It wasted professors' time, and at last one of them thought that what your blog was doing was stupid and unethical because they were not told what Manata's true intentions were, nor where they notified that any of their comments would be published. Nor were they examining my arguments, but rather my arguments as filtered through Manata.

When i explained it to them, at least one of them thought that Triablogue was not conducting itself well.

You were part of that blog, and so you saw what was happening, but YOUR THEISTIC ETHICS did not seem to be functioning at that point.

The proof is that YOUR BLOG TOOK IT DOWN. If your cause and motives were as you portray them, then you would not have done that.

Then, for your part, you gave one of most cowardly answers I've see on your blog when asked why it was taken down. Here is the relevant portion:

MICHAEL SAID:
Sorry, are we able to know why the post was taken down?
11/16/2010 6:16 AM
STEVE SAID:
Well, I didn't take it down, so that's not for me to say.
11/16/2010 8:18 AM

That is not for you to say? Could you not have asked Manata? Where were your ethics at that point? Why did you not give Michael the answers you gave me?

You clearly are not one who values "truth," and taking the post down confirms that. Period.

it is because of that incident, which showed your lack of scruples, that I don't much wish to interact with you or waste my time again on your 50-cent philosophical arguments that only seem to work at places like RTS.

BTW: Let's see how "truthful" and courageous you can be on this thread.

"Is Allah an appropriate name for God?"

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Dear Steve,
Don't confuse my lack of response to some triumph on your part. There are many reasons why people are not always willing or able to spend time educating you on the entire history of philosophy, theology, biblical studies, history, etc. We usually charge tuition for that kind of time.

RE: Avalos said this in reply to Billy Squibs. Why does he think Squibs is from an RTS school?

My comment about RTS was not aimed so much at Billy Squibs as it was a commentary on the type of mentality that is being witnessed on this thread, where going to an RTS school provides a different orientation on what academic studies means.

RTS franchises and like-minded vocational schools are confessional, with no tolerance for dissent or real academic freedom.

Try saying that you are an atheist there, and see what happens. RTS is a place where you go to hear echoes, not true debate.

That is why an education at such seminaries is not regarded very highly by many in the rest of the academic world.

So, as I've seen it with you many times, you start to think that what is taught at RTS and like-minded religious vocational schools represents academic scholarship on biblical studies or philosophy, etc., when it is merely representing a small sectarian mindset.

That is why you have trouble understanding what I am saying about the SBL, which had to do with measuring the beliefs of its members, and not with measuring the “truth” of those beliefs.

You can measure how many people may believe X without any necessary implications about whether those beliefs are true.

In the case of the SBL, I was calling attention to how some members were starting to challenge how we refer to the deities of different religions, and it really had nothing to do with the examination of “truth” in general.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Dear Steve,
RE: "Since you’re not quoting or citing anything I’ve written on the subject, you’re in no position to say I failed to provide a reason."

I have read enough of your blog posts to know your basic arguments. I have not seen your peer-reviewed academic publications by you on these issues, and so I may have missed your more serious arguments. Forgive me on that score.

You might have missed my own book, Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship (2011), which does deal with Christian ethics.
See: http://www.sheffieldphoenix.com/showbook.asp?bkid=181

RE: 

”You’re attacking a crude version of divine command theory...For instance, your attack disregards natural law theory. Moreover, divine command theory and natural law theory are not mutually exclusive. God commands us to act the way he designed us to act. The “rules” are grounded in the nature God gave us.”

This is just more nonsense, and I am quoting you here. Any statement you make about God is unverifiable to the rest of us, and so you are simply giving us YOUR version of what you call God does and does not do.

It is YOUR idea of how your deity conforms to what you call Natural Law, which is itself a contested and dubious concept.

It is YOUR Idea of what God commands, and it is YOUR idea of how your deity designed us. Thus, you end up with something like this:

“I believe God designed us for X purpose because I believe that God designed us for X purpose.”

Or “I believe that God has X moral attribute because I believe that God has X moral attribute.”

You have not demonstrated that what you say about God is anything other than your own opinion, which is relativistic because not everyone has the same idea about what God is or wants.

It is just YOUR opinion, but you just try to dress up with philosophical jargon. This type of sophistry can fool some people, but please don’t think it works on everyone.

The fact that you cannot see that your circularities are based on other circularities tells me all I need to know about your philosophical aptitude.

rockingwithhawking said...

A few points:

1. It's funny to see a self-avowed moral relativist like Avalos castigate others for what he perceives to be their moral deficiencies.

2. Did Avalos exercise "tolerance for dissent" or allow for "real academic freedom" when he played a role in denying Guillermo Gonzalez tenure at Iowa State? It's possible Gonzalez didn't merit tenure due to his publication record, lack of grants, etc. But were these Avalos' sole considerations? Did Avalos refuse to consider Gonzalez's ID when he went after him? He'll probably never admit it publicly, but I highly doubt it.

3. Try saying that you are a committed Christian who has no qualms against ID or who doubts the neo-Darwinian paradigm at Avalos' department at Iowa State, and see what happens. You might find yourself in the same position Gonzalez found himself.

4. Avalos drones on and on about academic regard and respectability. In fact, the way he talks, Avalos all but places academic respectability on a pedestal. However, there's a tremendous difference between academic respectability and academic responsibility.

Taken to an extreme, academic respectability is all about competence in a particular field with or without moral integrity. But confessions are meant in part to protect and ensure a modicum of moral integrity.

If push comes to shove, then there's far more integrity in choosing academic responsibility over academic respectability.

Of course, there are plenty of Christian scholars who have both. For example, D.A. Carson, N.T. Wright, William Lane Craig. These guys have worked for or currently work for seminaries or similar institutions.

5. Sure, it's possible to find atheists, Muslims, secular and religious Jews, liberal Christians, conservative Christians, and so on in the same department at a secular university. But say an atheist happens to be the chair of the department at the same time a conservative Christian is seeking appointment. It's possible the chair blocks the conservative Christian from appointment regardless of his or her publication record and so forth.

Similarly, if most the people in a department happen to be militant atheists, then they could unite to refuse a conservative Christian appointment.

In short, there might be no official "confession" such as at a confessional Christian institution, but the practice and results are hardly less "censorious".

6. Actually, several Christian institutions offer a better rounded and deeper education in biblical studies, theology, and the like than many secular religious studies or theology departments or schools. We'd have to get into the nitty gritty details, but speaking very broadly one reason for this is because such Christian institutions often study and interact with both conservative as well as liberal scholarship, whereas many secular religious studies departments don't study or interact with conservative Christian scholarship since they look down upon it like Avalos does here.

7. Avalos denigrates vocational schools in terms of academics. But many colleges and universities operate their own vocational schools or offer classes in various vocations.

Not to mention I know of working software engineers and other IT/computer professionals who never finished a university degree talking about and some perhaps planning to take MIT's new MITx degree or its related OpenCourseWare to fill in the gaps of their education. In this sense stuff like MITx could be regarded as vocational.

Careers like law, business, medicine, nursing, and engineering would fit one definition of vocational as well.

For what it's worth, if anything, many (at least originally) vocational schools are quite prestigious (e.g. Caltech, Carnegie Mellon).

Anyway, Avalos is the type who would probably think less of someone if he or she had a Harvard Extension School degree or certificate.

Paul said...

Oh, Hector Avalos is still around? I thought I sent him into hiding after I cited the world's leading ethicists mocking his arguments.

Let's see, he always provides so much fodder:

HECTOR: "This is just more nonsense, and I am quoting you here. Any statement you make about God is unverifiable to the rest of us, and so you are simply giving us YOUR version of what you call God does and does not do."

It's YOUR idea that it's just nonsense.

IOW, "I believe it's nonsense because I believe it's nonsense."

It's YOUR idea that 'any statement [Steve] makes about God is unverifiable.'

IOW, "I believe any statement about God is unverifiable because I believe any statement about God is unverifiable."

(Hint: that *universally quantified* claim *itself* is actually unverifiable.)

It's just YOUR idea that Steve is giving us just his version of what God says and does.

IOW, "I believe that Steve is just giving us his version of what God says and does because I believe Steve is just giving us his version of what God says and does."

You have not stepped outside our perspective and, from the 'view from nowhere' *demonstrated* any of your claims. It's all of this form: Well *IF* I'm right about such and such, *THEN* it follows that such and such. Of course, you can't *demonstrate* the antecedent is TRUE.

It is just YOUR opinion, but you just try to dress up with philosophical jargon. This type of sophistry can fool some people, but please don’t think it works on everyone.

Regards,
Achilles

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Dear friends,
I am going for some R&R for a few days,and so I will not be responding to your nifty posts. But here are a few things to occupy your time while I am away.

Here is my side of the controversy about Triablogue’s shameful post---Manata's Waterloo.

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2010/11/triablogue-caught-in-web-of-deception.html

Here is a fellow, also trained in a reformed seminary, who tried to use your theistic epistemological maneuvers in a debate with me. You can see how well he did here, and how well he was perceived by independent reviewers of the debate in the comments thread:


The main debate:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DIMWV1VSq8

The Q&A session

www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqbBixOsAbU


A review of the debate by a Reformed Christian blogger.

http://isuareopagus.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/hector-avalos-and-keith-darrell-is-the-bible-the-abosolute-source-of-moral-rules/


Cheers!!

David B Marshall said...

I wasn't anticipating this particular debate, and I'm not quite sure what to think of it. The tone of a conversation is often set by the OP, so I can't complain about that. And Dr. Avalos, whatever his virtues, does seem to get into a lot of scraps. But I will take this opportunity, for those who have mothers, to wish everyone a pleasant day.

rockingwithhawking said...

Here's a "nifty" section from the review of the debate that Avaolos himself cited:

"To be honest, going in I did not expect much from Keith Darrell and figured Hector Avalos would beat him rather badly. However, after the debate, I came away feeling better about Darrell and rather surprised at the poor arguments that Avalos used. What was most frustrating was that Avalos basically had his argument already decided and just went through it at each turn, never responding to challenges from Darrell or addressing legitimate questions. Darrell, while not answering every challenge, always addressed at least some. Avalos conducted himself with a rather confident air that he was the unquestioned right person in the debate and there was, therefore, really nothing to challenge him on."

(source)

steve said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

Before responding to Hector’s latest tirade, I’d like to point out that he’s resorting to a double diversionary tactic. To begin with, because he couldn’t refute my arguments in this thread, he tried to change the subject to deflect attention away from his intellectual failures.

In addition, his pride was wounded when prominent philosophers panned his argument for moral relativism. So he tries to distract the reader from registering that additional failure by concocting an imaginary ethic lapse on the part of Triablogue. Hector’s efforts to rehabilitate his tarnished image are remarkably clumsy.

“No, you are whitewashing your role in his pranks…”

Avalos is in no position to know what role, if any, I had in Manata’s decision.

Moreover, what Manata did was hardly a “prank.” Rather, he asked some philosophers to evaluate Hector’s argument for moral relativism. That’s not a prank.

“…and you are also flat out lying about what your blog did.”

i) Notice that Avalos hasn’t documented a lie.

ii) It’s not “my blog.” It’s a collaborative blog. I’m not even the site owner.

iii) Assuming, for the sake of argument, that I “flat out lied,” Avalos is a moral relativist, so, from his standpoint, lying is never wrong.

“It wasted professors' time.”

i) The fact that professors took the time to answer Manata’s inquires demonstrates that it wasn’t a waste of time from their viewpoint. They were under no compulsion to answer his questiond if they thought it would be a waste of time to do so.

ii) Even if, for the sake of argument, it was a waste of their time, since Avalos is a moral relativist, he can’t say it’s wrong for Manata to waste their time.

iii) Since Avalos is an atheist, human activity has no objective purpose. A human can’t waste time, for nothing he does with his time has any intrinsic significance. To “waste time” presumes a standard which atheism denies.

Once again, Avalos constantly reminds us that he’s a conflicted atheist. He keeps forgetting the implications of atheism.

“And at last one of them thought that what your blog was doing was stupid…”

Actually, what bothers Avalos is that it made *him* look stupid.

“And unethical…”

“Unethical”? But Avalos denies moral realism. So, by his lights, nothing is unethical.

“Because they were not told what Manata's true intentions were…”

Manata’s “true intention” in asking what they thought of Hector’s argument was to find out what they thought of Hector’s argument. Is there some reason to think that wasn’t Manta’s true intention?

Perhaps Avalos is trying to say, however maladroitly, that Manata had an additional intention which he did not disclose to his respondents.

Is Avalos taking the position that’s always unethical to request information unless the inquirer tells the respondent what he plans to do with that information?

Certainly there are situations in which that might be unethical, but that’s hardly a universal norm. Suppose an atheist corresponds with a seminary prof. to learn more about Christianity. Suppose the atheist intends to use that information to attack Christianity. Is that unethical?

“…nor where they notified that any of their comments would be published.”

What does Avalos feel about sting operations with hidden camera to expose a fraudulent business practice. Is that unethical?

“Nor were they examining my arguments, but rather my arguments as filtered through Manata.”

Can Avalos document that allegation?

“When i explained it to them, at least one of them thought that Triablogue was not conducting itself well.”

What does it mean for a moral relativist (Avalos) to accuse Triablogue of misconduct?

steve said...

cont. “You were part of that blog, and so you saw what was happening, but YOUR THEISTIC ETHICS did not seem to be functioning at that point.”

What I saw happening was Manata quoting philosophers who, in their professional judgment, deemed Hector’s argument for moral relativism to be inept. How is that contrary to theistic ethics?

“The proof is that YOUR BLOG TOOK IT DOWN. If your cause and motives were as you portray them, then you would not have done that.”

I didn’t delete the post. I didn’t object to the post in the first place.

“Then, for your part, you gave one of most cowardly answers I've see on your blog when asked why it was taken down.”

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that my answer was “cowardly,” since Avalos is a moral relativist, he doesn’t consider cowardice to be morally deficient.

Avalos is an intellectual fraud. He claims to be a moral relativist, yet he works himself into chronic fits of indignation.

“Could you not have asked Manata?”

It was Manata’s prerogative to post it, and his prerogative to delete it.

“Where were your ethics at that point?”

I’m under no obligation to ask Manata why he took it down. He can make adult decisions–which is more than I can say for Avalos.

“Why did you not give Michael the answers you gave me?”

Different questions, different answers.

“You clearly are not one who values ‘truth,’ and taking the post down confirms that. Period.”

Manata’s post truly quoted philosophers who panned your argument.

“It is because of that incident, which showed your lack of scruples…”

Why is a moral relativist (Avalos) so concerned about scrupulosity?

“Is Allah an appropriate name for God?”

It’s appropriate for Arab Christians who use an Arabic designation to denote the God of the Bible.

steve said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

“Don't confuse my lack of response to some triumph on your part. There are many reasons why people are not always willing or able to spend time educating you on the entire history of philosophy, theology, biblical studies, history, etc. We usually charge tuition for that kind of time.”

An obvious smoke screen. Avalos spends loads of time picking fights. He’s not responding to some of my arguments because he has no counterargument.

“RTS franchises and like-minded vocational schools are confessional, with no tolerance for dissent or real academic freedom.”

Avalos is a secular confessionalist. He had no tolerance for his erstwhile colleague, Guillermo Gonzalez. Avalos redefines “real academic freedom” as the freedom to agree with Avalos. Dissenting from methodological naturalism is intolerable.

“Try saying that you are an atheist there, and see what happens. RTS is a place where you go to hear echoes, not true debate.”

Try saying that you are an intelligent design theorist there, and see what happens. Iowa State U is a place where you go to hear echoes, not true debate.

“That is why an education at such seminaries is not regarded very highly by many in the rest of the academic world.”

Avalos is a slave of social approval.

“So, as I've seen it with you many times, you start to think that what is taught at RTS and like-minded religious vocational schools represents academic scholarship on biblical studies or philosophy, etc., when it is merely representing a small sectarian mindset.”

Notice how Avalos always frames the issue. But what counts is not whether it represents “academic scholarship,” but whether it represents truth.

“That is why you have trouble understanding what I am saying about the SBL, which had to do with measuring the beliefs of its members, and not with measuring the “truth” of those beliefs. You can measure how many people may believe X without any necessary implications about whether those beliefs are true.”

You keep highlighting your anti-intellectual priorities.

Arizona Atheist said...

Hi David,

I happened to wander over here this afternoon and I got a kick out of your “review” of Grayling's newest book The God Argument and this post in particular, especially when you reference me. I'm dumbfounded why you continually mention me but fail -always- to seriously address my responses to your arguments. Yes, you've made several half-assed attempts (such as here and here) but you always fail to do your homework and when I point out your errors you deny them, run off, and declare yourself the victor in said debate. Very strange behavior if you ask me. I would appreciate a serious, thought out response at some point if you ever feel you're capable. It would be interesting reading.

Maybe I can explain something to you. The reason there is a “thought out there” that I've refuted your book is because I have. I have quoted you accurately and explained your arguments accurately, and I have offered detailed reasons why your arguments fail. I'm sorry, but the reason so many believe I've refuted your book is plainly because I have. You just refuse to acknowledge it.

Thanks.

@ Billy,

I've read most of that blog post (http://davidmarshallandlyingforjesus.blogspot.ie/). I think it's interesting and I agree with much of it, but the author nit-picked too much for my taste and I think that badly harmed his case. When someone does something like that, to me, it demonstrates that the author doesn't have much knowledge about the subject matter so they have to find smaller things to point out, rather than going after the meat of the book. Had he only thrown a few of those minor points in and focused mainly on the major ones it would have been much better. It's not bad, but I've seen better critiques (like my own, if I may).

steve said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

“I have read enough of your blog posts to know your basic arguments.”

In other words, you can’t back up your specific allegations.

“I have not seen your peer-reviewed academic publications by you on these issues, and so I may have missed your more serious arguments. Forgive me on that score.”

Let’s see: you contributed to two books edited by John Loftus: Were the Christian Delusion and The End of Christianity peer-reviewed academic publications?

You also contribute to the Debunking Christianity blog. Is that academically peer-reviewed?

“Any statement you make about God is unverifiable to the rest of us, and so you are simply giving us YOUR version of what you call God does and does not do.”

“The rest of us”? You mean your coterie of atheists? That’s hardly the rest of us.

“Thus, you end up with something like this: ‘I believe God designed us for X purpose because I believe that God designed us for X purpose.’”

Do you apply that reasoning design claims generally?

Thus, Avalos ends up with something like this: ‘I believe Ettore Maserati designed cars for X purpose because I believe that Ettore Maserati designed cars for X purpose.”

“You have not demonstrated that what you say about God is anything other than your own opinion, which is relativistic because not everyone has the same idea about what God is or wants.”

Avalos hasn’t demonstrated that what he says about the Bible is anything other than his own opinion, which is relativistic because not everyone has the same idea about what the Bible is.

steve said...

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

“Dear friends, I am going for some R&R for a few days,and so I will not be responding to your nifty posts. But here are a few things to occupy your time while I am away.”

Avalos covers his ignominious retreat in a hail of decoys.

“Here is a fellow, also trained in a reformed seminary, who tried to use your theistic epistemological maneuvers in a debate with me. You can see how well he did here, and how well he was perceived by independent reviewers of the debate in the comments thread.”

He’s not me. That’s no substitute for your performance on this thread.

David B Marshall said...

Ken: I don't know why you find my mentioning you "strange behavior." You're probably written more words in response to this book, than are contained in the book itself. And you've posted them all over heaven.

I mention several of my more extreme and silly critics in the OP. You're kind of on the edge of that pack -- not as vitriolic as Beazley, for instance. But I also explain why I have only rarely responded to your many arguments:

"When I read AA's arguments, I seldom find even an accurate summary of my arguments, let alone anything resembling good reasons for rejecting them."

Which is also why I have only read a small fraction of them.

Also, there's your ridiculous conceit that I'm the one "campaigning" against you, as if a few mentions here and there were the cause, and your actual campaign against me - which started earlier, and involved maybe 50 times as much typing -- were the effect.

And finally, you almost never seem to admit even the most blatant error. Readers can scan my previous post rebutting your patently false claims about Justin Martyr on this site:

http://christthetao.blogspot.com/2011/07/arizona-atheist-richard-carrier-and.html

Note the accurate comments of JS Allen:

"I have to say, this is pretty surreal. David just gave comprehensive evidence that Christians (including Justin) rely on many other sources besides blind faith. Additionally, David conclusively shows that Justin relies on sources other than scripture.

"You have a really weird style of apologetic. If you were just going to ignore the facts, and accuse him of being "crazy" and "deluded", why did you even bother writing your 44,000 rambling and semi-coherent words in the first place?"

Despite the patently obvious fact that Justin Martyr does in fact appeal to many forms of evidence besides Scripture -- to the extent that he appeals to that at all -- you declare total victory and stalk off, saying you won't debate the point any more.

Well why should I want to? I only enjoy talking with people who care about truth. If you insist on standing by such nonsense (and Tim McGrew and I will be publishing more on Justin shortly), then what's there to talk about? Whether the moon is made of blue cheese or cheddar?

Arizona Atheist said...

Hi David,

Interesting response.... It appears your reading comprehension has once again failed you (just as it has with your quoting of various Christians about faith and regarding Richard Dawkins). Let me see what I have to correct here...

Ken: I don't know why you find my mentioning you "strange behavior." You're probably written more words in response to this book, than are contained in the book itself. And you've posted them all over heaven.

Sorry, but you misread me. The fact that you mentioned me isn't what made me scratch my head. It's what you said. As I said in my previous comment: “you always fail to do your homework and when I point out your errors you deny them, run off, and declare yourself the victor in said debate. Very strange behavior if you ask me.” I don't understand your unwillingness or your strange inability (I'm not sure which it is) to admit when you've been proven wrong. Really, it's the only way people learn and there's no shame in it. But, despite this unforgiving denial of your wrongness, you continue to claim that neither I, or anyone else, has successfully responded to your points. Then, despite being proven wrong you write on your blog and around the web how you were somehow victorious, when it was clear that wasn't the case, like your debate with Carrier for instance (or me on I don't know how many occasions).

"When I read AA's arguments, I seldom find even an accurate summary of my arguments, let alone anything resembling good reasons for rejecting them."

Which is also why I have only read a small fraction of them.


This is an interesting ploy you have, but not uncommon among the less talented debaters. When shown wrong, rather than admit your error, you play the following game: you claim (against all rationality) that you've somehow been taken out of context. I'm sorry, but I've quoted you extensively and I know your arguments probably better than anyone, having read your book numerous times, debatedwith you on several occasions, and written and thought a lot about your arguments. Even more than that, you have failed to demonstrate that I don't understand. You never point to any examples, which makes it obvious what your plan really is. Avoid the discussion and move on to something else out of fear that your argument will be found out to be fallacious.

Also, there's your ridiculous conceit that I'm the one "campaigning" against you, as if a few mentions here and there were the cause, and your actual campaign against me - which started earlier, and involved maybe 50 times as much typing -- were the effect.

I never started a campaign against you. All I ever asked was for a straight up, honest debate without any of your snarky comments and insults and discrediting campaigns. I never got one. After taking such abuse, I did eventually write a lot exposing your behavior to clear my name of your bogus charges, but that happened much later, after I was on the receiving end of your personal attacks. I'd rather not rehash old nonsense though. I know what happened, and I'd rather put that behind us and stick to the discussion at hand.

And finally, you almost never seem to admit even the most blatant error. Readers can scan my previous post rebutting your patently false claims about Justin Martyr on this site:

Cont.

Arizona Atheist said...

http://christthetao.blogspot.com/2011/07/arizona-atheist-richard-carrier-and.html

I'm sorry, but it is you who is in error, which I tried in vein to convince you, but once again, either you are being willfully ignorant or you don't understand the passages that you're reading and the arguments of the New Atheists.

Note the accurate comments of JS Allen:

"I have to say, this is pretty surreal. David just gave comprehensive evidence that Christians (including Justin) rely on many other sources besides blind faith. Additionally, David conclusively shows that Justin relies on sources other than scripture.

"You have a really weird style of apologetic. If you were just going to ignore the facts, and accuse him of being "crazy" and "deluded", why did you even bother writing your 44,000 rambling and semi-coherent words in the first place?"


This is hilarious. Neither you or Allan seemed to understand anything in that discussion and it was clearly you who were in error. Allow me to quote my response to Allan's nonsense. I said, “Let’s try this again shall we?

JS,

I didn’t agree with David in the least. Like him, you also don’t understand the New Atheists’ argument about faith. It’s not that Christians never rely on evidence in their daily lives, but do not rely on evidence for their religious beliefs. Even Sam Harris says exactly this:

“Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.”

Therefore, I’m not wrong in the slightest. You and Marshall are. Just as Harris stated, Christians do often demand evidence in their daily lives just as Justin demanded evidence for crimes of Christians but didn’t cite anything except the bible when referencing his religious beliefs. Got it? I hope so...”

What's surreal is this odd disconnect of so many Christians.

Despite the patently obvious fact that Justin Martyr does in fact appeal to many forms of evidence besides Scripture -- to the extent that he appeals to that at all -- you declare total victory and stalk off, saying you won't debate the point any more.

Sorry, no. It's actually the other way around. I left simply because I was unable to stand the insanity any longer.

Well why should I want to? I only enjoy talking with people who care about truth. If you insist on standing by such nonsense (and Tim McGrew and I will be publishing more on Justin shortly), then what's there to talk about? Whether the moon is made of blue cheese or cheddar?

Truth? Truth??? I think you really need to think hard about that word. Truth means corresponding to reality. Most of your views (about Justin Martyr for example) definitely do not correspond to reality.

Maybe I can try one more time.

Cont.

Arizona Atheist said...

You appealed to Justin Martyr as a man who admitted of relying on evidence for his religious beliefs. Correct? Yes or no? This argument was brought out against Richard Dawkins' and the New Atheists' claim that Christians have “blind faith,” that they don't bother with evidence. Is this accurate?

Here is your argument for Justin verbatim:

“Here's the bit I cited:

"Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love only what is true, declining to follow traditional opinions."

What is he talking about? What methodology is he pushing, here? Read the Bible, and see? No:

"For we have come, not to flatter you by this writing, nor please you by our address, but to beg that you pass judgement, after an accurate and searching investigation, not flattered by prejudice or by a desire of pleasing superstitious men, nor induced by irrational impulse or evil rumors which have long been prevalent, to give a decision which will prove to be against yourselves. For as for us, we reckon that no evil can be done us, unless we be convicted as evil-doers or be proved to be wicked men; and you, you can kill, but not hurt us."

The inquiry here is judicial and historical. The question is whether Christians are "evil men," whether they in fact commit the crimes they are accused of. (Much like the claim that a certain Norwegian mass-murderer really was a "fundamentalist Christian," as often alleged.)

"Do the investigation!" Justin is saying. His address is to the emperor (chapter 1), and he is asking for a JUDICIAL review, not a Bible study. In fact, he has not even mentioned the Bible, yet.

In the next chapter, he makes the nature of the inquiry, and of Christian reason, even more clear:

"We demand that the charges against the Christians be investigated, and that, if these be substantiated, they be punished as they deserve . . . But if no one can convict us of anything, true reason forbids you, for the sake of a wicked rumor, to wrong blameless men, and indeed rather yourselves, who think fit to direct affairs, not by judgement, but by passion."


This is a direct quote from your response to my blog post. Now, what's wrong with this argument? First, what do the New Atheists argue? Allow me to quote Sam Harris.

He's written, “Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.”

Cont.

Arizona Atheist said...

What is he talking about here? He is referring specifically to religious beliefs. He's arguing that in every day life Christians do often utilize evidence in their own lives. However, they often do not do this when it comes to their religious beliefs. How is this relevant to your argument? It's very simple.

What evidence did you cite that Justin used? Let me quote you so I'm not once again falsely accused of not understanding your arguments. You said, “What is he talking about? What methodology is he pushing, here? Read the Bible, and see? No:

"For we have come, not to flatter you by this writing, nor please you by our address, but to beg that you pass judgement, after an accurate and searching investigation, not flattered by prejudice or by a desire of pleasing superstitious men, nor induced by irrational impulse or evil rumors which have long been prevalent, to give a decision which will prove to be against yourselves. For as for us, we reckon that no evil can be done us, unless we be convicted as evil-doers or be proved to be wicked men; and you, you can kill, but not hurt us."

The inquiry here is judicial and historical. The question is whether Christians are "evil men," whether they in fact commit the crimes they are accused of. (Much like the claim that a certain Norwegian mass-murderer really was a "fundamentalist Christian," as often alleged.)”


You're appealing to Justin's letter to Emperor Antoninus Pius asking that Christians not be persecuted solely for their faith. He was asking them to appeal to reason and evidence and see that what they were doing was wrong. Would you agree this is what the passage you cited is discussing? Yes or no?

Why is this not an argument against the charge of blind faith? Because, Justin isn't even discussing his religious beliefs! He's discussing issues that are pertaining to the real world, in society. This has nothing to do with providing or demanding evidence for his religious beliefs, which is the issue under discussion by you and the New Atheists. Do you not understand this? Am I getting through this time? I don't know how much clearer I have to be. Maybe I can use pictures next time?

As I've demonstrated (hopefully for the last time), you have horribly taken Justin out of context.

But, alas, I'm still waiting for that knock-down response Marshall has been telling me he's going to write about my review for the last several years. The only response I've received so far is a critique of about 3 or 4 pages, and that wasn't even the slightest bit factual.

David B Marshall said...

Ken: We've NEVER "debated," in any meaningful sense of the word. I've taken time to correct a few of your errors, and you often repaid me with curses and silly insults. It is not a chore I much enjoy, so you could be right about me not reading your remarks all that carefully.

Here's your claim about Justin Martyr, again:

"Throughout his Apology the only 'proof' he cites is scripture. Justin Martyr's argument summed up is not one of inquiry and evidence, but one of blind faith that the scriptures are true, and that's what he used as 'evidence,' when he never checked the reliability of such writings to begin with. According to Richard Carrier:

"You can read Justin's two apologies back to front and never once find any other methodological principle or source of his faith [other than the scripture]."

This is manifest nonsense, as I showed.

Your answer? Justin was not appealing to evidence for his "religious beliefs," just for daily matters.

Even if that were true, so what? You said the only proof Justin cited was Scripture -- you didn't say, the only proof for religious beliefs. Carrier said, read Justin back to front, and you find no other methological principle OR source of faith (than scripture)."

The word "or" here indicates that one only has to find EITHER such a principle, OR such a source of faith, to falsify the claim.

Clearly, then, it is falsified. One finds other "methodological principles" all through the book, as proven by my quotes.

If you were wise, you would at least admit sloppy wording, here. It is obviously far easier to read your claim in this broader sense: that's all you say in the paragraph's thesis sentence, most of its other sentences, and is implied by the Carrier quote.

Nor is the other side of the "or" accurate. In fact, Justin does not always or even usually argue FROM Scripture, assuming in blind faith that it is true. In fact, he argues TO Scripture, on grounds assumed to be held in common with his audience.

There is hardly a scrap of anything that can sensibly be called "blind faith" in the entire book. Your interpretation, egged on by Carrier, is complete baloney.

David B Marshall said...

For instance: “It is yours to make accurate inquiry, and ascertain up to whose time the Jews had a lawgiver and king of their own.” (First Apology 32)

And again:

"And the prophecy, “He shall be the expectation of the nations,” signified that there would be some of all nations who should look for Him to come again. And this indeed you can see for yourselves, and be convinced of by fact. For of all races of men there are some who look for Him who was crucified in Judaea, and after whose crucifixion the land was straightway surrendered to you as spoil of war." (First Apology 32)

What methodological principle is Justin appealing to here to support Christian faith? History. Sociological survey. Look around, pagans, and see if this has come to pass.

Anyone who can't see this, doesn't read well.

In chapter 47 he quotes Isaiah 1:7 as a prophecy of the future desolation of Judea, then reminds his Roman readers that they fulfilled that prophecy: “And that it is guarded by you lest any one dwell in it, and that death is decreed against a Jew apprehended entering it, you know very well.”

What principle, again? "Read the Bible and accept it by blind faith?" Baloney. History. Demographic research.

If you can't admit such an obvious error, what's the point of chatting? I have better things to do with my breath.

Arizona Atheist said...

David,

Ken: We've NEVER "debated," in any meaningful sense of the word. I've taken time to correct a few of your errors, and you often repaid me with curses and silly insults. It is not a chore I much enjoy, so you could be right about me not reading your remarks all that carefully.

I'm sorry but the fact is it is you who began with the petty insults.

Here's your claim about Justin Martyr, again:

"Throughout his Apology the only 'proof' he cites is scripture. Justin Martyr's argument summed up is not one of inquiry and evidence, but one of blind faith that the scriptures are true, and that's what he used as 'evidence,' when he never checked the reliability of such writings to begin with. According to Richard Carrier:

"You can read Justin's two apologies back to front and never once find any other methodological principle or source of his faith [other than the scripture]."

This is manifest nonsense, as I showed.

Your answer? Justin was not appealing to evidence for his "religious beliefs," just for daily matters.

Even if that were true, so what? You said the only proof Justin cited was Scripture -- you didn't say, the only proof for religious beliefs. Carrier said, read Justin back to front, and you find no other methological principle OR source of faith (than scripture).”


So what??? It makes a huge amount of difference what Justin is referring to since there is a specific subject that demands evidence for it, namely the religious beliefs of Christians (which is also what Carrier was discussing). Anything else is pointless.

This is the entire point. You have failed to demonstrate that Justin utilized anything but the bible in support of his religious beliefs. I should note too that you never quoted the passages below. I can only argue against what you give me and your argument made no sense for the reason I've explained in great detail.

Now, let's take a look at your “new” quotes:

“It is yours to make accurate inquiry, and ascertain up to whose time the Jews had a lawgiver and king of their own.” (First Apology 32)

You've once again taken Justin out of context. What does he use for his source for this statement? The bible! He's citing what he learned from scripture about what Moses allegedly said abut Jesus.

"And the prophecy, “He shall be the expectation of the nations,” signified that there would be some of all nations who should look for Him to come again. And this indeed you can see for yourselves, and be convinced of by fact. For of all races of men there are some who look for Him who was crucified in Judaea, and after whose crucifixion the land was straightway surrendered to you as spoil of war." (First Apology 32)

Once again Justin is citing the bible, just as Carrier said. Thus far, the only quotes of Justin you've been able to provide are 1) a quote about legal matters that have nothing to do with his religious beliefs, and 2) quotes from the bible. Now, where were those principles of “History” and “Demographic research” again? Prophesy isn't history. You do realize that no prophesy from the bible was ever fulfilled right? And the fact that you believe prophesy is a form of evidence amazes me. I'm sorry, but it's not in the least. And you've once again failed to prove your case. If only you could see that.

David B Marshall said...

Ken: There are so many layers of folly and error in your read of Justin Martyr (and in Richard Carrier's original comments), that I find I can't get them all into one little comment on this thread. Against my better judgement, looks like I'll have to put this in a full and probably long post.

Of course, any readers who doubt the issue, need only read your comments about Justin carefully, then google "First Apology of Justin Martyr" and see for themselves how he actually argues. It is, to me, a great wonder that either of you can manage to brainwash yourselves so thoroughly, and probably my explanation will do nothing to change either of your minds. But Justin is one of my favorites, and he deserves not to have such manifest and pluriform poppycock written about him.

This will probably take a little while; I have other work to do, that has priority.

Arizona Atheist said...

David,

It looks to me that should this discussion continue we need to take a step back and discuss what we both view as good evidence. Obviously, you believe that Justin's reliance on the bible (and it's “human testimony” to use your words) are a reliable form of evidence. I think the opposite, which is why we're looking at the same words and coming to opposing conclusions. Would you say this is accurate?

Let me explain why I don't view the bible as a reliable form of evidence (of course, had you ever read my review of your book I cover this topic in some detail). First, let's define what evidence is. My dictionary defines evidence as “something that is a sign or proof of the existence or truth of something.” I think that's pretty straight forward.

Why don't I believe that the bible is a a reliable form of proof of the stories it tells? I think it's pretty simple. The fact is, the bible isn't the most reliable document as archeology and science have shown us. So many stories in the bible have been found to be at the least exaggerations and at most complete fabrications. Because of this, I think it's a good idea to hold judgment about the validity of any story in the bible that hasn't been at least partially verified through archeology or logic. For instance, it's well known that the Exodus never happened and that many of the people in the bible are just figments of the writers' imaginations.

Had Justin cited certain historical documents, letters, etc. that we have reason to believe are real (or even better we've found them through archeological digs) then I'd say that's a good form of evidence that what he said actually happened. Unfortunately, he does nothing like this. He only cites the bible. That's it. So, why should I view this as a form of seeking evidence for his faith, when it's not? He's simply reading his bible and taking it at face value without doing any real digging to find out whether or not it's true. All ancient Christians did this (unlike what you commonly argue).

To put another way, let me use the example of the resurrection of Jesus. Why do Christians believe it? Because it's reported in the bible, but there isn't a shred of evidence this ever happened, and this is besides the fact that it's an extremely improbable event and I think doubt should be the preferred attitude until we see an man rise from being dead as a door nail. But I don't see that happening. Therefore, it's highly doubtful anything like that happened in the past either.

Yes, my bar for the evidence I will accept is set much, much (!) higher than yours, but when we're dealing with texts that have such problems I think it's the best course of action. That's what skepticism is all about. Have doubt until proven otherwise. Sadly, no Christians do this.

David B Marshall said...

Ken: You're imagining things. I have pointed out repeatedly, quoting Justin directly, that Justin does NOT just "rely on Scripture," either to argue in general, or to argue for faith, as you and Carrier so sweepingly claim. That is not just false, it is manifestly false, on many counts.

Also, it would be irrelevant even if it were true. The issue isn't what your premises are, or whether Justin is right to rely on the Bible when he does, it is what Justin's premises are, and whether relying on the Bible would be "blind faith" from his perspective. Whether grounds are given for faith, and whether those grounds are solid, are two completely different questions. Until you grasp and take account of that difference, you are going to continue making the same stupid mistake Gnus almost always make.

You will, in fact, continue to "believe not only without evidence, but against the evidence."

As for why I believe, that's another issue again. Where do you get off claiming that I believe in Christianity by blind trust in the Bible? That is moronic, for someone who has supposedly spent so much time reading my arguments. In fact, I not only do not usually argue that way, so far as I can recall, I NEVER argue from an assumed trust in the Bible to the truth of Christianity. Nor do I think that way. Considering how much time you've spent pouring over at least one of my books, and some of my on-line stuff, the fact that you misrepresent my thinking so badly, represents a remarkable victory over a priori dogma over evident reality, and shows why your "critique" of my book is not very valuable, even after all the work you've put into it. You really don't seem to understand my arguments very well.

Arizona Atheist said...

David,

I understand your arguments just fine, thank you. Justin doesn't “just” rely on scripture??? Of course he does! As I noted earlier what were his sources of information that you've so far cited? A letter for legal redress (which doesn't even address the issue at hand, which is justifications for Christian belief) and two appeals to stories from the bible. I think it's you who is imagining things.

I believe you're very wrong. It does matter what your premises are because those premises can either lead you closer to the truth, or farther from it. One set of premises is based on reality, another on falsehood. If I began with a premise for an daily regimen of eating with the premise that saturated fats are good for me, I'm going to be in big trouble. I've got to base my premises on facts, which is that saturated fats cause arteries to clog, which is obviously bad. This same idea applies to all other areas of life, including philosophy and religion.

You say, “it is what Justin's premises are, and whether relying on the Bible would be "blind faith" from his perspective.”

I'm sorry but this is very wrong-headed. As I just explained, it doesn't matter what a person believes to be true. What matters is what the facts are, and Justin did not appeal to any form of empirical evidence for his faith whatsoever. On the contrary, I understand the different perfectly, but it's a very faulty form of reasoning as I just explained.

As for your final paragraph I was not speaking about you. I was using the issue of the resurrection to make a point, which obviously went way over your head.

Until you rethink your premises I'm afraid you're going to be stuck in this bubble of delusion. Like I said, premises matter. A lot.

David B Marshall said...

Ken: Let me explain this yet again. Lord knows I've tried already.

(a) One of the chief premises of the New Atheists is that by "faith," Christians mean "believing not only without evidence, but in the teeth of the evidence."

(b) That premise is distinct from the claim that the grounds for faith are in fact not intellectually viable.

I agree that (b) is more important than (a). But New Atheists claim (a), as have you, and as does Carrier. And (a) is the issue we were arguing about Justin Martyr over, not (b).

If you can't separate these two issues in your mind and argue about (a) without confusing it with (b), you'd probably be better not trying to discuss ultimate issues in public, frankly.

Arizona Atheist said...

David,

Rather than these cheap evasions I think it would be helpful for you to stay on the topic at hand. Yes, I'm perfectly aware of these distinctions. I'm also aware that this rhetorical game of yours is pointless, because as I've said already, it doesn't matter what someone believes regarding their premises, what matters is whether or not the facts justify those premises. You would rather argue “Well, that's not what Christians mean by faith!” than argue about premises because I think you know you'll lose that debate.

Would you like to know why the New Atheists make this argument? Because they, like myself, also dismiss claims of the supernatural and biblical verses being given as evidence for the reasons I've already discussed. I'm simply taking the discussion back a few steps because 1) it's a logical starting point and 2) I know you can't argue for your premises so you are desperately trying to shift the topic of the discussion, which I believe is intellectually dishonest.

It does not matter what Christians mean by faith, what matters are their starting premises they bring to the table and the facts they use to support said premises. This is what the debate is really about. And you say I don't understand your arguments. I know you better than you think. You’re a slick apologist, but you're incapable of creating a logical argument because you always fail to start from a solid premise. If you worked at it, maybe your debating skills would also improve. Just a little tip there.

Arizona Atheist said...

Allow me to clarify. The reason I think discussing premises is the most reasonable course is because we were both going back and forth arguing about Justin, “Yes he does point to evidence!” “No, he doesn't.”
“Yes he does!” “No he doesn't!” with no end in sight. Therefore I decided to shift the discussion in an attempt to resolve the debate and get to the heart of the matter and why the New Atheists say what they do about faith. But it seems to me that you'd rather continue going around in a circle because then you don't have to face the elephant sitting in the room: Christians have nothing they can point to; no facts they can legitimately point to, and say, “Here, god exists.” “Jesus rose from the dead.” Therefore, if this discussion is to move forward it must start here, discussing premises.

Paul said...

Hector,

Pay attention

"Paul Manata of Triablogue tried to supposedly expose my non-expertise in epistemology and metaethics. But Triablogue had to take the post down due to flagrant ethical violations brought to their attention by the persons they were quoting in the post."

1. I *did* expose your non-expertise.

2. I did not *have* to take the post down.

3. trivially it follows, I did not *have* to take the post down for "flagrant ethical violations." One of them noted that he would not have responded if he knew I was going to post it on a blog; presumably, he didn't want to have his name involved with blog discussions.

Why did I take it down? Simple: they asked if I would.

4. There were ZERO "ethical violations" pointed out to me by the two (out of 8, or so) philosophers who emailed me. They simply *asked* if I would take the post down. Not a one cited an ethical violation.

5. "The persons" seems to designate *all* of them; but as I said, it was only two.

6. I had further conversations with one of the two. He still thought your arguments were bunk (presumably after you "corrected" my presentation of them). He told me that he thought your tactic of playing the "expert" card and using that as a *reason* to dismiss arguments against your view, was childish and not intellectually virtuous.

This was your Waterloo. That you still bring this up shows how bad I got to you. I own you.

rockingwithhawking said...

Hm, I don't know if it was Avalos' Waterloo since the idea might imply Avalos may have had previous successes until then. Rather I think each time Avalos faced Manata, Manata gave Avalos a sound whooping. It's just that this whooping was the whooping to end all whoopings as far as Avalos was concerned. Of course, this doesn't stop Avalos from attempting to re-write history or otherwise rehabilitate his image.

Paul said...

Rocking,

Yes, that analogy is more apt.

And, we all know the truth here. Hector is not as morally outraged as he's pretending to be. It's a cover. It gives him an excuse to doge all of my arguments. It's a better justification than his previous method of avoidance: "You're not an expert! I'm a Haaaaavard man." Now he can say, "You're a moral wretch! In the interests of morality and virtue, I will not interact with you; you must be sanctioned!" But he's still in the same place: just as his expertise has *nothing* to do with the quality of my arguments, my (alleged) moral failing have *nothing* to do with my arguments.

David B Marshall said...

Paul: I have no troubling buying the claim that you had the better of Dr. Avalos in a debate, or that Avalos appealed to his credentials. If you read our discussions on this site, you'll find rich precedent.

But "I own you" seems a little childish, in and of itself. The issue is not "who is smarter?" it's "what (or Who) is truth?" At least, that's the focus of this forum. So please, as a welcome guest (and I do welcome your visit), direct your comments towards that bigger issue. That's the local culture I would like to encourage here. Thanks.

David B Marshall said...

Ken: Sorry, changing the subject does not help. If you can't admit the most obvious fact about Justin Martyr's arguments -- that he appeals to other lines of reasoning besides "the Bible says it, and I believe it for no rational reason!", in fact that he does not say that at all -- there is no sense in "debating" any other issue with you.

Having denied manifestly evident reality in one case, you are certain to do so in other cases, as well. And I think that's already been shown. Zebras don't easily change their stripes, but until they do, they can't enter the Kentucky Derby.

Billy Squibs said...

Well said regarding the "I own you" remark, David. I can't help but think that this type of language is counter-productive. We aren't just trying to convince our opponent, other people are reading as well.

I'm in two minds when it comes to entering into discussions with people who are I think are needlessly difficult. On one hand, there is the gentleness and respect part of 1 Peter 3:15 to consider. On the other, Jesus wasn't above telling like it was.

Arizona Atheist said...

David,

I see you're bowing out of discussions. Pity. But I don't blame you. Given your lack of factual premises upon which your views about Justin and his faith are based, I can see why you wouldn't want to open that can of worms. The fact is that Justin only appeals to the bible when it comes to his religious beliefs, as I've noted several times. You've been unable to distinguish between asking for evidence for his religious beliefs, versus asking for evidence in other matters. You've also badly distorted the meaning of evidence by placing the bible in the same category as any other historical document that has been confirmed. As I also explained, the bible should be treated with skepticism due to its lack of factual information. Therefore, it's only logical to be weary in believing everything the bible says until other forms of evidence can corroborate a certain passage.

Reality? I'm sorry, but until you reexamine your premises you are stuck denying reality, just as I've been trying to explain to you.

Thanks.

David B Marshall said...

I have now shown why Hector Avalos misses his targets again in his recent criticisms of the Theistic Argument from Cultural Transcendence.

I have also restated the argument in what I trust readers will find a clearer and more complete form.

See "Avalos attacks TACT (and me, and yes Christianity)" and "Theistic Argument from Cultural Transcendence (TACT): does it work?" from the tab to right.

I also plan to let Richard Carrier know about these. Any serious critic is welcome to try to show why the argument fails.

David B Marshall said...

Ken: The person who failed to distinguish clearly between those two claims was you. (And Richard Carrier.) I can only reply to what you write, which was in places quite sweeping.

But your amended claim is still wrong. Justin clearly did not just assume the Bible by "faith," then argue to the truth of Christianity on that ground, at least not when he was trying to persuade Greeks. (Talking with a Jew, he did assume what the two men shared in common, as is the rational way to persuade someone.)

Instances are not hard to find. Why don't you read Justin again for yourself, look a little harder, and save me the trouble of pointing them out?

And be careful to distinguish between arguing FROM the Bible, and arguing TO it. You seem to be conflating the two.

seeker said...

David,

Thanks for your response to my “Lying for Jesus” post last week. My first reaction was amazement at its length, over 6,200 words! Wow! In fact, your bloated response is about 4 times longer than the part of my post you respond to. Again, wow! Perhaps you should read Matt. 6:7 again.

And despite your many words, you still skipped a full third of my post’s 33 allegations. So your response wasn’t exhaustive, just exhausting!

In your response, you claim to be a “lover of truth” in your “heart of hearts,” but you’d never know it from all the falsehoods in your response.

In a nutshell:

a. You did catch me on two allegations. Thanks for your input. I’ll correct both allegations shortly. See, unlike you, I do value constructive criticism.

b. You also, grudgingly admitted a few errors of your own, but usually berated me for pointing them out. I don’t think that demonstrates a genuine “love of truth”!

c. Much more frequently, however, you not only defended your original falsehoods, you actually fabricated many more falsehoods and other highly deceptive arguments in the process. “Lover of truth”??? I don’t think so!

d. Finally, since you do concede some errors, I thought it interesting that you say you have me on “ignore.” A self-proclaimed “lover of truth” who ignores someone who obviously can help him identify and, presumably, correct his errors? That’s pretty sad too, but seems to give some insight into your ethics. Apparently you want to be respected but won’t do the work necessary to earn that respect.

That’s your response in a nutshell. As for the individual nuts in your nutty response, I’ll use the same numbering as in the OP. And don’t worry, I’m not as undisciplined as you. I’ll be *much* briefer!

David B Marshall said...

"Seeker:"

I have removed most of your posts. You will tell yourself (and probably other people) that this is because I am unable to answer your arguments. Feel free. The truth is, I haven't even scanned any but the first, yet.

But since you have publicly accused me of "lying," by name, I think it would be inappropriate to allow you to use a pseudonym here, without putting any skin in the game, yourself.

Because truth really does matter.

I have copied your posts and e-mailed them to myself, just in case you didn't back them up. If that is the case, give me your e-mail address, and I'll send them to you. Use your real name, and I suppose I'll feel obligated to repost your screeds, maybe even bother dismantling them, if I have time.

Not incidentally, in the process of copying those e-mails, my eye happened to alight on what I hope (but rather doubt) was a particularly stupid set of comments:

"Before making a fool of yourself about the Gulag again, you might want to read Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.” You seem to have just made up this stuff about communism, just as Hector Avalos said you made stuff up about slavery. Making stuff up is not scholarly. You’d think a Ph.D. would know that."

Actually, my BA was in "The Chinese and Russian Languages and Marxism." I have read Ivan Denisovich repeatedly (my Amazon review was posted 13 years ago, but I probably first read it 30+ years ago), along with August, 1914, First Circle (my review of which leads reviews on Amazon), Gulag Archipelago, Cancer Ward, the Oak and the Calf, and other writings.

I have no idea what you think I got wrong that Ivan Denisovich sets right. I cite Solzhenitsyn, who affirms much of what I say about communism, frequently. His character Alyosha the Baptist in Ivan Denisovich typifies Soviet treatment of believers, and the heroism that impressed Solzhenitsyn when he met them in the Gulag. But it is palpably absurd to throw the great writer's most popular book at me, as if this somehow buttressed your credentials and undermined mine, on the subject.

Of course I didn't "make anything up" about slavery, either.

Arizona Atheist said...

David,

You once again are deflecting from the issues I raised. I understand the differences you mention just fine, that's just not the issue. The issue I raised was whether or not the bible was a reliable form of evidence, as are other historical documents. You have still refused to engage my argument.

David B Marshall said...

Ken: (a) The claim I sought to disprove in Chapter One of The Truth Behind the New Atheism was that made by Richard Dawkins, and many others, that Christian faith means believing "not only in the absence of evidence, but in the teeth of evidence."

Justin argues for the Christian faith on many grounds, both scriptural and extra-scriptural. What I have never seen him do, is tell people to believe "in the absence of or teeth of the evidence." So his works do not support, but undermine, Dawkins' definition, and any attempt to discredit my general argument.

(b) Carrier was also wrong in claiming that Justin never appealed to anything but Scripture to make arguments in general, and you were misleading, in citing that claim approvingly. (Though admittedly, you appear to have had a narrower claim in mind from the beginning.)

(c) But neither is your narrower claim, that Justin never cites any way of knowing but reading Scripture to support Christian faith, correct. That is also contradicted by many passages.

Until you admit those clear facts, why should I want to hop over to this other massive issue, whether or not the Bible is "a reliable form of evidence," and discuss that with you? That's an enormous subject, not the subject of that chapter, and not one I think I would much enjoy discussing with someone who has no credentials in the field.

No doubt you consider yourself an honest person. But from my point of view, I feel that anyway, you need to prove that honesty, by admitting plain facts already demonstrated, before moving on to any new topics.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

R: Marshall's comments to Manata: "But 'I own you"' seems a little childish, in and of itself...That's the local culture I would like to encourage here. Thanks."

I have been away for a while, but I hope to address some of your responses on TACT and Australian aborigines soon.

For the moment, I do want to show my appreciation for your call to more civility. However, this is very standard type of rhetoric for Manata. He apparently believes that he is involved in some sort of mixed martial arts contest, instead of in an intellectual discussion.

Thanks again for calling his attention to this sort of behavior that will not help his cause.

Dr. Hector Avalos said...

RE: Manata "3. trivially it follows, I did not *have* to take the post down for "flagrant ethical violations." One of them noted that he would not have responded if he knew I was going to post it on a blog; presumably, he didn't want to have his name involved with blog discussions."

I don't want to take more of this thread on Manata's claims, but let me just say here that Manata is not telling the whole truth.

One of the philosophers he contacted explicitly told me that he was led to believe that he was just helping out a student with a school assignment, and Manata did not tell him he intended for that philosopher's comments to be posted from the start. Manata also never mentioned that he was writing for Triablogue.

So Manata ended up taking the time, under false pretenses, of a lot of busy people because he could not argue his case on his own.

The fact that Manata took it down indicates already that he posted something that he should not have posted.

Manata's other arguments make little sense because if his reasons were as good as he portrays them, then there was no reason to remove that post.

Moreover, everything he is saying about what those philosophers say or did not say COMES FROM MANATA.

Manata's claims would be more credible if those philosophers published their own comments confirming his impressions.

They haven't so far.

Paul said...

Chris, I own you and Hector. (I owned you on the Plantinga EAAN debate on facebook :).

I "own you" was *meant* to be childish. It's being all things to all men, so I'm a Hector to Hector.

Now, for Hector:

I've corrected you multiple times about this. But alas, I'll try again:

HA: One of the philosophers he contacted explicitly told me that he was led to believe that he was just helping out a student with a school assignment, and Manata did not tell him he intended for that philosopher's comments to be posted from the start. Manata also never mentioned that he was writing for Triablogue.

PM: This is entirely that philosopher's fault. I never mentioned that I was writing a school assignment. I never implied that I was writing a school assignment. I never said I was working on a paper. I never said I was assigned your chapter for a class. In fact, I never said I was taking any class.

Second, I did not "intend to post the philosopher's comment from the start." I only intended to post it if they corroborated that your argument was bunk. It is a credit to my knowledge of the field that I anticipated correctly 100% of the time. Moreover, there is ZERO legal or ethical issues here.


HA: So Manata ended up taking the time, under false pretenses, of a lot of busy people because he could not argue his case on his own.

PM: LOL. I *did* argue the case on my own. You simply refused to engage my argument and dismissed me because I wasn't an "expert." So I beat you at your own game. I contacted *real* experts and had them *corroborate* my argument. Moreover, one of the philosophers told me that you were portraying horrible epistemological virtues by dismissing my arguments because I was not an "expert," and he told me a *real* philosopher would never do that.

HA: "The fact that Manata took it down indicates already that he posted something that he should not have posted."

PM: LOL, does it? If it does "indicate" that, it does so *weakly*, and there are other, better explanations, such as the one I said was my reason: THEY ASKED ME TO. Simple as that. For such a "skeptic" and "critical thinker," you're prone to believing in conspiracy theories and interpreting things in the worst light if it doesn't suit your pre-conceived *agenda*. "Scholar" indeed.


HA: Manata's other arguments make little sense because if his reasons were as good as he portrays them, then there was no reason to remove that post.

PM: Boy, you are slow. There was a reason, in fact, the reasons I cited are called "second-personal" reasons.

HA: Moreover, everything he is saying about what those philosophers say or did not say COMES FROM MANATA.

PM: And everything you're saying about what those philosophers say or did not say COMES FROM AVALOS.

You're such an easy mark, Hector. Or in other words, "I own you." ;-)

David B Marshall said...

Paul: If you own something, it might be a good idea for you to take a look at what it is you allegedly own. My name is David, not Chris.

Shouldn't part of being "all things to all people" involve playing by my (reasonable) rules, on my turf? And, maybe, a glance at the topic under discussion, where you're at, what's gone before, or a "by your leave?" And I believe the phrase ends, "So that I may win some."

I don't object to responding to fire with fire, within reason, but let's not be too blatantly egotistical about it. The goal is truth, or better yet, "winning some," not victory notches on one's bayonet.

As for Plantinga's argument, I can't find what you're referring to. I think Plantinga is wrong in this case, but I am open to being persuaded otherwise.