Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« on: April 30, 2011, 02:06:04 pm »
I have sent this email to Dr. Craig because it personally lays out my case for why I have difficulty believing in Christianity and Judaism. I think this is the approach that most reasonable people would have, if they stopped to think as to why they really don't believe. I am posting it here below so that Christians can answer, but I would really like to know Dr. Craig's position on this. I expect this will probably start some serious debate, but keep in mind, we need to hold arguments on both sides to the same standard of reasoning as we would expect of our own. I think we can come up with the truth. I hope so.

Dear Dr. Craig,

   Please help me out.

   I have watched a couple of your debates and let me just say, you look very good with a beard -- I suggest you grow it out You have a very solid case for Christianity, and defend it well. However, I have been struggling with my faith (as a Jew, but also one who believes that Chritianity may very well be true), for reasons of common sense. I think the atheists are debating the wrong questions. It's not about finding out the truth of metaphysical questions, such as whether God exists or whether this world is basically good or everything is part of a plan. When it comes to things we can neither prove or disprove, belief is a matter of personal choice, and Christianity is as valid as any other philosophy.

   No, what it's about is the actual claims that every religion makes about historical events. Either they happened, or they didn't. Some adherents would claim infallibility of their books, others would admit that people might have made mistakes here and there. But including, for example, entire chapters devoted to describing fictional events would make one wonder how those chapters ended up in the Canon.

   What bothers me is that I think that science HAS uncovered a lot about what happened on Earth, and historians have likewise been able to piece together a consistent story through cross-referencing. And the pictures that result are as far from the Old Testament stories are they are from Greek mythology! (For example, both have a flood that is equally hard to believe.) This is what bothers me. As Karl Popper would say, a theory is scientific insofar as it makes non-obvious testable predictions, and I believe religions have managed to do that by their claims about what happened as well as their prophecies. And I believe that these claims have been amply falsified. This makes it extremely hard for me to remain in my faith.

   Can you please reply from your point of view how you would address this? I fully agree with you that if the Holy Spirit is working within a person, then nothing can get the person to lose their faith. This is by definition, but it is kind of a tautology also. Of course, if God wants something to happen, it will happen. But that having been said, it seems I am not at that level. My problems are NOT simply those of a skeptic. Being skeptical is almost never a way to convince someone else that their position is wrong. Rather, my problems are because I think the claims which most adherents believe as "gospel truth" have been disproven every which way by 20 independent scientific and historical endeavors. The key word is independent. If they were all part of some grand plan, then one might say that there was a bias. But they did not set out to disprove the stories, it just happened. And what do I do now?

   Finally, let me illustrate where my difficulty lies. All orthodox Judaism (read: not the reform movement, who are basically agnostics) believes that there was a real, global flood as described in Genesis. It had to be global because if it was local, no one would need to build an ark for 40 years and save all the earth's animals. In addition, the dry genealogical chapters after the flood record the passage of time and place the flood in the Jewish year 1656, which is around 2104 BC for us. This is a serious problem! Egyptians were building the pyramids before the flood (of Djoser and Cheops, for example) and smoothly transitioned into the middle kingdom. The earth is full of unsaved animals -- and in fact, hominids! -- in geological layers which indicate they have been evolving for millions of years. The Jews also believe the Tower of Babel story, which happened after the flood, and that Hebrew was the first language, but this is contradicted by the Law of Hamurrabi and the Egyptian tomb inscriptions, plus probably much more.

   Jesus himself understands the flood to be literal, or at least there is absolutely no evidence to think he does not. He mentions it as if he believes it was a historical fact! This is to be expected, as Jews at the time -- just as orthodox Jews do to day -- believed it to be historical fact, given to Moses by all-knowing God!

   I always tell my Jewish friends, that if you ignore the atheist problems with Judaism and make the leap, you might as well ignore the Jewish problems with Christianity and make the leap to that also. Because the problems in both cases are immense.

   Now you may have a position not to take these stories literally. Keep in mind that all true Orthodox Jewwish thought that I know DOES (I have asked a lot of rabbis, and they in fact affirm that they are not aware of anyone even in the Talmud suggesting the flood was not literal). One would also ask why entire chapters are devoted to a fictional story. Jesus himself mentioned the story as one mentions a historical fact, and uses it as a way to illustrate what will happen in the future with his very real return!

http://bible.cc/luke/17-27.htm
http://bible.cc/matthew/24-38.htm

This is what the Jews really believed happened during the flood:

http://www.tog.co.il/en/Article.aspx?id=483

The ancient israelites may have had a book with even more detail on the subject (including as I hear Noah's wives, etc.) called "the book of Jubilees". It may or may not have been Pseudepigrapha. But if they did have such a book, then they spent even more time writing about a story that seems to have been disproven by a bunch of independent disciplines!

   All this DISPROOF of FALSIFIABLE CLAIMS made by the old testament makes it hard to be a faithful follower of Judaism, or of Christianity or Islam for that matter, as they are both based on the veracity of the Old Testament. True, there are some views that Christianity is entirely separate from Judaism and that the god of the NT is in fact a completely different god than the one of the old testament, but the vast majority of Christians regard it as heretical (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_of_the_New_Testament_canon#Marcion_of_Sinope). The Jews should definitely reject this, due to Deuteronomy 13.

   Both Jews and Christians believe that God, the same God that Jesus calls "My Father", dictated the Torah to Moses ("face to face, as a man speaks with a friend", Exodus 33:11). And we believe that the Torah is indeed almost perfectly transcribed to us today in the form of the first five chapters of our modern Bible (or in the case of Jews, the Masoretic text of the Tanakh). As I said, this presents a significant problem for me. "Don't take the bible literally" does not seem to be an orthodox, or indeed a responsible view, for either Christians or Jewish teachers. For whatever it is that the people believed, they certainly believed their writings. As I said, Jesus himself did, but all the other faithful Jews did as well. I can prove it to you if you like.

   Thanks for your time. I would appreciate if you would share with me how you deal with these difficulties yourself.

Sincerely,
Greg Magarshak

PS:

   I also want to ask a side question. When someone witnesses a miracles in front of them, all that one can conclude is that a higher power is at work. Not that the ultimate creator of the universe, the highest power of all, is personally doing it. We know the universe is vast, and that earth is tiny in it. Even assuming Exodus is completely true, is just as probable that aliens with advanced technology came to earth and did all the plagues and landed on Mount Sinai as it is that the Creator of the Cosmos did it in a region of this planet, itself a tiny speck in the universe. Similarly, just because Jesus healed people or did other miracles like walking on water does not mean that the creator of the entire universe is the source of the power. In fact, ANY miracle that does not personally touch people and alter their brain to somehow believe unquestioningly that God did it, does not logically make one think that there is one God and He did it. In fact, the Torah specifically warns about it in Deuteronomy 13:1.

   So my question is, presumably the Holy Spirit was not around at the time of the Jews or Jesus, and certainly as I said many people today have not been accepted into Christianity and try to rely on reason or whatever else to guide them. So what if a person like that witnesses miracles -- how does that prove that an almighty God is directly causing those miracles to happen? It may be that aliens are doing it, who evolved naturally in an atheistic or deistic universe. It may be that God is at work in this universe, but allows others to deceive us. How do we know which higher power is responsible for doing something we see in front of us?

   For that matter, how do you know that Jesus was raised from the dead by God Himself?

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Greg Louque

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Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2011, 07:53:37 pm »
I don't know what Dr. Craig's response is but I can give you a quick view of mine .

Questions like the one you pose about the flood are very difficult to debate in a clear manner.  Neither side can really present facts as proof one way or another.
However, if God exists, the heart of many Craig debates, then a global flood is possible as anything is possible.  To a Being capable of creating the universe out of nothing, causing a world-wide flood would be child's play in comparison.

Personally, with non-believers, I avoid discussions like this most of the time because they are not interested in a logical discussion, but mockery (this isn't the case with your objection, obviously).  Discussions about Biblical infallibility and inerrancy with non-believers normally is a waste of time as you can never convince them on these things if they do not believe God exists.   Thus, for me, these are things normally I would only discuss with others who believe in God but just have questions about the Bible.  There is the possibility they could come to see the other side of the argument, that is not the case with an atheist.

I do disagree that the flood would have to be universal.  It may have been, but I have also heard very solid arguments that "world" meant the world inhabited by man.  In 2 Peter 3:6 for example Peter writes of the "known world" in regard to the flood.  An ark still would be necessary to save the animals indigenous to the area that was known, i.e. the world inhabited by man.  It would also be necessary to save Noah and his family since the flood was going to wipe out the known world.

As for dating the flood, I am not sure how you got 2104 BC.  Many YE Christians hold to this date, but that is from using the geneologies given.  But the thing is these could be skipping many, many people/generations in the geneologies.  It isn't clear that these are complete lines so dating from them isn't rock solid.

I don't know of much archaelogical evidence or geological evidence that disagrees with the Bible.  A lot of things in the Bible that were questioned have been found out to be true.  In the case of Luke, many minute details in his gospel and in Acts have been verified to be dead on and he is considered a first rate historian by most reasonable people given that what can be verified he has nailed.  It is also apparent he did a lot of interviews and research and in the case of the second half of Acts, was an eye witness.

As for aliens coming to earth, this is all but impossible and let me explain why.  Intelligent beings (even animal life) require the full suite of elements found on earth to exist.  The only way to get all of these elements is for both 1st and 2nd generation stars to have gone supernova in the area of the solar system to host this life.  2nd generation stars did not start going supernova until about 3.7 billion years ago, just as our solar system was forming.  Our solar system is among the first that could possibly host animal life.  Life on earth appears just after it cooled some 3.8 billion years ago and if you read Tipler and Barrow's (not Christian apologists at all) book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle you will see that at least 10 required steps of evolution were EACH not likely to happen during the normal life of our sun, much less before half its life span and all 10 of them happening.

What this all means is that it is as close to a mathematical lock as one could get that there are no intelligent beings out there more advanced technologically than we are.  Frankly, it is almost a lock there isn't even another planet capable of hosting animal life (see the book Rare Earth, Ward and Brownlee who are agnostic and atheist).

As for miracles, it is possible that other supernatural beings below God could do things perceived as miracles.  In regard to aliens, it is in my mind much more probable these are interdimensional beings beyond our perceived space-time manifold.

As for miracles, God used miracles sparingly in the Bible (between 250 and 300 recorded, depending on how you count them) in 3 time periods (Moses, Elijah/Elisha, Jesus and the Apostles) to confirm these special messengers of his.  These very rare miracles were recorded, it seems, to verify the veracity of these special messengers.  To be fair, Jesus more than likely did many more miracles not recorded (John 21:25) but the recording of miracles and use of them served a specific purpose and did not happen willy-nilly.

In regard to Jesus being raised by God, Jesus predicted the Resurrection and spoke of himself as the unique Son of God.  The purpose of this miracle was specifically to verify Jesus' claim.  It makes no other sense.
Greg Louque
Reasonable Faith, Westminster, MD

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Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2011, 06:55:47 pm »
Hi EGreg,

   You asked some interesting questions and I'd like to attempt to answer just a portion of one of them.  I have an undergraduate degree in history and so I think I can shed some light on the issue of historical claims and if, in fact, they are open to "ultimate proof".  In my opinion, they are not.
   In your reference to the alledged historical events of the OT, including that of a universal, or local flood, even if we had geological proof of such an event, it would not convice the ardent atheist.  Why?  They would simply have a fallback position and say somehting like this;  "...floods...*any* flood, is a *natural* event, and so does not require divine intervention.  So even IF there was a universal flood, that would in no way prove that a diety was invovlved or that said diety actually exists...".  And, I think they would be right.
   I once talked with an atheist and asked that if Noah's Ark was discovered, would he then become a believer?  His response was "no, all you would have discovered was a boat.  Period."
   Let's look at another widely disputed event from the OT, that of the Exodus.  The lack of evidence for this event, especially in the Egyptian records, leads many to say it didn't happen.  But even if it could be proven, the "fall back" position for the atheist would be "...so what?  Does the migration of hundreds of thousands of slaves require a diety?".
   The "unbelief" of the average atheist is not really about evidence at all, it's really about a built in bias, one that they want to protect at all costs.  I have had these conversations with atheists all to many times to believe that the verification of the historical events of the OT would make *any* difference at all.  If you don't believe me, just go to any atheist blog and pose the question.  The Red Sea may have parted, but surely it wasn't GOd that did it.  That would be a typical aresponse.
   Let me use two modern examples that will help illustrate this.  Show a skeptic a flight log by a military pilot that he visually spotted and chased a UFO.  The invariable first query will always be "...did they pick the UFO up on radar...?".  If you respond no, they will retort, "...see, if it was a solid, mechanical object, they would have picked it up on their radar...".  Now, when you point out a similar case, of a pilot who made a vivual ID and painted the target on radar, the response then becomes "...radar is unreliable...".  Tell them the UFO was "painted" by *five* seperate radar systems, including gound and air.  The response now becomes "...so what...".  But do you see what is happening here?
   I asked an atheist on another blog what proof he required for the ressurection and he said "...a time machine...".  Another said he would "...have to see it with his own eyes...".  Another said "...when God comes down from heaven and introduces himself to me then I will believe he exists...".
   No proof will be enough for the hardcore atheist....and *they* know this, they just refuse to admit it.



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Jeff Mitchell

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« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2011, 08:21:16 pm »
gleaner63 wrote:
   The "unbelief" of the average atheist is not really about evidence at all, it's really about a built in bias, one that they want to protect at all costs.  I have had these conversations with atheists all to many times to believe that the verification of the historical events of the OT would make *any* difference at all.  If you don't believe me, just go to any atheist blog and pose the question.  The Red Sea may have parted, but surely it wasn't GOd that did it.  That would be a typical aresponse.

Soooo... You ask a question about what can be inferred from certain evidence, and when you don't like the answer you just assume it's because of the other person's bias?  If a large boat (say, 300-ish cubits long, constructed of gopher wood...) dating back around 4000 years was discovered on the side of a mountain, what would that mean in your professional historical opinion?  If "God exists" is your answer, then you may want to re-examine your own personal biases.  The fact is, we found a boat.  Maybe if "Noah wuz here" was carved into a beam... no, it wouldn't mean nothing, but it wouldn't mean more than what the evidence presents.

If we could prove that Moses really did, with God's assistance, part the Red Sea (actually the reed sea), I think it would certainly prove God's existence.  But I don't see any way one could prove it.


Show a skeptic a flight log by a military pilot that he visually spotted and chased a UFO.  The invariable first query will always be "...did they pick the UFO up on radar...?".  If you respond no, they will retort, "...see, if it was a solid, mechanical object, they would have picked it up on their radar...".  Now, when you point out a similar case, of a pilot who made a vivual ID and painted the target on radar, the response then becomes "...radar is unreliable...".  Tell them the UFO was "painted" by *five* seperate radar systems, including gound and air.  The response now becomes "...so what...".  But do you see what is happening here?

I do believe there is much more evidence of and credible reports of UFOs- but the problem is we're relying on testimony and interpretations of others, for phenomena that defies normal experience for most of use.  And it's not something that can be reproduced and tested scientifically.  If your statements above are true, I believe that pilots believe they saw something flying and interacting with them that either was or was not picked up by radar.  The conclusion that there were alien life forms at the helm is a conclusion that just isn't supported.

   I asked an atheist on another blog what proof he required for the ressurection and he said "...a time machine...".  Another said he would "...have to see it with his own eyes...".  Another said "...when God comes down from heaven and introduces himself to me then I will believe he exists...".
   No proof will be enough for the hardcore atheist....and *they* know this, they just refuse to admit it.

It seems like there is proof that would be enough- traveling back in time and witnessing it themselves (although it still could be mass hallucinations...), and the personal introduction to God (which surely is within His powers to make happen).  I happily admit that there could be proof of God's existence- I just think it's highly improbable that it exists.


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Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2011, 08:47:07 pm »
ReasonableJeff wrote: Soooo... You ask a question about what can be inferred from certain evidence, and when you don't like the answer you just assume it's because of the other person's bias?


It's certainly has *something* to do with their bias.  I'm biased and have no problem to admitting it, do you?


 a large boat (say, 300-ish cubits long, constructed of gopher wood...) dating back around 4000 years was discovered on the side of a mountain, what would that mean in your professional historical opinion?


I would say, first of all, the find is certainly deserving of further investigation.  After the initial report was made, that's all I would say, nothing more.


If "God exists" is your answer, then you may want to re-examine your own personal biases.


That wouldn't be my response at all, and as I've already admitted, I'm biased.

The fact is, we found a boat.  Maybe if "Noah wuz here" was carved into a beam... no, it wouldn't mean nothing, but it wouldn't mean more than what the evidence presents.

I agree.

If we could prove that Moses really did, with God's assistance, part the Red Sea (actually the reed sea), I think it would certainly prove God's existence.  But I don't see any way one could prove it.


I don't see how we could prove it either.


I do believe there is much more evidence of and credible reports of UFOs- but the problem is we're relying on testimony and interpretations of others, for phenomena that defies normal experience for most of use.  And it's not something that can be reproduced and tested scientifically.


Some of the reports, in certain areas can be tested.  You can test radar after all.  You can take samples of the landing sites, you can test the photographs.

If your statements above are true, I believe that pilots believe they saw something flying and interacting with them that either was or was not picked up by radar.  The conclusion that there were alien life forms at the helm is a conclusion that just isn't supported.

I've certainly never concluded there were aliens aboard those craft, so I don't know where you're getting that from.

It seems like there is proof that would be enough- traveling back in time and witnessing it themselves (although it still could be mass hallucinations...), and the personal introduction to God (which surely is within His powers to make happen).  I happily admit that there could be proof of God's existence- I just think it's highly improbable that it exists.

The point is that everyone is requiring a different level of proof.  Do you not see a problem with that scenario?  What if, in a court of law, no one could degree on what constituted proof?  Do you not see an obvious problem with people who demand levels of proof (a time machine) that can't be met?



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Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2011, 09:06:33 pm »
ReasonableJeff wrote: It seems like there is proof that would be enough- traveling back in time and witnessing it themselves (although it still could be mass hallucinations...), and the personal introduction to God (which surely is within His powers to make happen).  I happily admit that there could be proof of God's existence- I just think it's highly improbable that it exists.

The underpinning of what you are saying, Jeff, is that all proof must come through *you*;  you've made yourself the final word in what burden of proof must be met.  No one can go back in a time machine, I'm sure even Professor Krauss would agree with me there.  Also, even if God came down and introduced himself to you, *NONE* of your atheist buddies would believe you .





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Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2011, 09:10:56 pm »
As I said, my problems are not those of a skeptic. It's not about you "proving" to me that the flood happened and I would say, "that's not enough proof." Rather, scientists are the ones proving to you that the flood didn't happen, that the earth was NOT created several thousand years ago, and so forth.

The question I have for you is ... what if someone would prove to you that there couldn't have been any flood that wiped out all animals and humans outside the ark? What if they used 10 independent lines of reasoning from history, geology, biology, etc.

Would you that be enough to overcome YOUR bias? What would you say if you found out there is no way the global flood could have occurred? Why are entire chapters in Genesis devoted to it? Why are genealogies of people we trust a great deal, such as Luke, containing Noah -- who if the flood didn't happen would have been a fictional character?

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Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2011, 09:11:37 pm »
A question for you Jeff:

   If you were a lawyer, trying to convince a juror that the accused actually murdered his client, and that juror actually said, "...the only way I would believe that, or could be convinced of that, would be for me to travel back in a time machine and see it with my own eyes...".  What would you say about that person's bias?  Would it be the normal run-of-the-mill bias?  Or would it be something far different?

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Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2011, 10:38:01 pm »
EGreg wrote: As I said, my problems are not those of a skeptic. It's not about you "proving" to me that the flood happened and I would say, "that's not enough proof." Rather, scientists are the ones proving to you that the flood didn't happen, that the earth was NOT created several thousand years ago, and so forth.


Okay.

The question I have for you is ... what if someone would prove to you that there couldn't have been any flood that wiped out all animals and humans outside the ark? What if they used 10 independent lines of reasoning from history, geology, biology, etc.


Then I'd be forced to accept it.  I wouldn't, for example, say the only way I would accept such a verdict is if I could get in a time machine and see it for myself.

Would you that be enough to overcome YOUR bias? What would you say if you found out there is no way the global flood could have occurred? Why are entire chapters in Genesis devoted to it? Why are genealogies of people we trust a great deal, such as Luke, containing Noah -- who if the flood didn't happen would have been a fictional character?


I've admitted my bias on here; several times in fact.  How about yours?  Are you just a really opened minded fellow with no biases at all?

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Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2011, 10:15:22 am »
I am of course biased as well. Although I would like to think that I am weighing the evidence based on its actual strength. I invite Christians to take a look with me at the evidence that there doesn't seem to have been any global flood.

I think the reason lots of people (skeptics, atheists) say "so what" is because they are convinced that these stories didn't happen, just like you are convinced that stories in Greek Mythology didn't happen. After all if you think there never was any titan Prometheus who gave fire to humans, how would finding a boat make you think that the greek stories are true?

That having been said, I want to point out something important. Sometimes science denies something is possible very strongly, and then we find out it is possible. It happened in the past, like 18th and 19th centuries. Today, many people are pretty sure that we have a good enough grasp of what happened in the last few thousand years to be able to say confidently that the flood and exodus didn't happen as described. And therefore, the "so what" reaction when you find one tiny piece of evidence SUGGESTING it MAY have happened -- while ignoring all the glaring reasons why it couldn't have happened.

For example: finding seashells on a mountain, while ignoring the fact that the amazon rainforest is a finely tuned ecosystem with predators and prey perfectly suited for each other, which could hardly have started with 2 predators and 2 prey of each kind (one or the other would go extinct in such a simplistic ecosystem, rather than develop into a full blown and intricate one with incredible genetic diversity in a mere 4 thousand years).

Many Christians deny evolution because it is viewed as a blind watchmaker, but on the other hand how do you explain the species in the amazon rainforest appearing in the last 4 thousand years?

I am saying, every person needs to view ALL the evidence and use consistent standards for the theory.

There will always be biases but you should consider arguments like that seriously. I think that subconsciously, most people don't see miracles today, AND they see lots of myths about magical stuff in the past which no one believes today, and they suspect that all supernatural accounts from the distant past are mistaken, no matter what culture they arose in or how much attention they were given. Couple this with actual evidence that this stuff probably never happened, and you have a strong presuppositional position. Is that bias? Yes, but it is grounded in evidence and reasoning. Had we been seeing miracles or had the flood story not have serious problems with its plausibility, things might have been different. But that's the way the world looks.

I have two links for ya:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMDTcMD6pOw

http://www.talkreason.org/articles/list.cfm
I am looking for answers from Christians.

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Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2011, 12:59:42 pm »
EGreg wrote: I am of course biased as well. Although I would like to think that I am weighing the evidence based on its actual strength. I invite Christians to take a look with me at the evidence that there doesn't seem to have been any global flood.


I agree

I think the reason lots of people (skeptics, atheists) say "so what" is because they are convinced that these stories didn't happen...


I'm sure they're "convinced' it didn't happen, just like theists are convinced it did happen.  But when a skeptic engages in the "fallback position" constantly, you know there's more to the story than that.  For example, how, in the face of all reasonable evidence, can there be Holocaust deniers?  How can there be skeptics of man-made global warming?  You give skeptics and atheists *far* to much credit.

just like you are convinced that stories in Greek Mythology didn't happen.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe even the Greeks themselves believed those stories were anything other than fables.  So, it's not a good comparison.  No one, to my knowledge, has ever tried to show the "historical Zeus", or searched for ruins on top of Mt. Olympus.

After all if you think there never was any titan Prometheus who gave fire to humans, how would finding a boat make you think that the greek stories are true?


The possible finding of Noah's Ark was simply meant to illustrate the idea that, when an atheist uses that objection, that the flood story is false, that it really wouldn't matter one way or the other, and I've found that to be true in many cases.

That having been said, I want to point out something important. Sometimes science denies something is possible very strongly, and then we find out it is possible. It happened in the past, like 18th and 19th centuries.


Check out the info on the scientific acceptance of the fall of meteorites.  Also, Plate Tectonics, which I believe wasn't promulgated until the early 20th century, and only accepted later.

Today, many people are pretty sure that we have a good enough grasp of what happened in the last few thousand years to be able to say confidently that the flood and exodus didn't happen as described. And therefore, the "so what" reaction when you find one tiny piece of evidence SUGGESTING it MAY have happened -- while ignoring all the glaring reasons why it couldn't have happened.


Okay.  But back to something I said earlier.  In the tradition of meteors and Plate Tectonics, let's say the flood story was proven.  There's no way it would make *any* difference to a skeptic or an atheist.  And there's a way to test this theory.  Go to any atheist blog and simply pose the question.  I can guarantee you the answer would be no, and I think you know that.  Then it would be on to the Exodus and the Garden of Eden.  This is similar to the "where did God come from meme".

For example: finding seashells on a mountain, while ignoring the fact that the amazon rain forest is a finely tuned ecosystem with predators and prey perfectly suited for each other, which could hardly have started with 2 predators and 2 prey of each kind (one or the other would go extinct in such a simplistic ecosystem, rather than develop into a full blown and intricate one with incredible genetic diversity in a mere 4 thousand years).


I agree, it's a problem for Christians.

Many Christians deny evolution because it is viewed as a blind watchmaker, but on the other hand how do you explain the species in the amazon rain forest appearing in the last 4 thousand years?


Many deny evolution because parts of the theory sound like stories; the giraffe who kept straining his neck to get from the higher branches and over the years their necks began to grow longer.

I am saying, every person needs to view ALL the evidence and use consistent standards for the theory.


I couldn't agree more.  In your experience, when you meet a skeptic or an atheist, what books are more prominent on their book shelf, Dawkins or Craig?  So many people say they are open minded and all about the evidence, but when you look deeper, that's not what you find.  Some of these garden-variety atheist blogs, when you look at their backgrounds...it's stunning.  Like The Rational Response Squad; three high school diplomas between them and one who worked as a...stripper.  And yet, the RRS was very popular amongst atheists.  Why would someone even go to a site, where no one had a college degree in the feild they were discussing? I mean, could you imagine going to a cancer doctor who had no degree and worked part time as a stripper?

There will always be biases but you should consider arguments like that seriously. I think that subconsciously, most people don't see miracles today, AND they see lots of myths about magical stuff in the past which no one believes today, and they suspect that all supernatural accounts from the distant past are mistaken, no matter what culture they arose in or how much attention they were given. Couple this with actual evidence that this stuff probably never happened, and you have a strong presuppositional position. Is that bias?


It depends on how well-grounded your biases are.  Take the case of the meteors.  No scientists had ever witnessed a meteor fall, although others had  ("I have to see it with my own eyes").  Scientists knew rocks didn't fall from the sky (bias), so therefore their had to be another (wrong conclusion based on a pre-existing bias) explanation.  Even when the ancient Chinese recorded such events in their records, and the records were known to exist, Western scientists rejected the notion (racism?).  Try a book called "Rain of Iron and Ice".  The author has a nice survey on the rejection of the idea of meteorites by Western scientists.

Yes, but it is grounded in evidence and reasoning. Had we been seeing miracles or had the flood story not have serious problems with its plausibility, things might have been different. But that's the way the world looks.

I have two links for ya:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMDTcMD6pOw

http://www.talkreason.org/articles/list.cfm
I am looking for answers from Christians.

11
Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2011, 02:22:06 pm »
I agree with you that there are tons of ridiculous and thoughtless atheists and skeptics. The rational response squad and commenters on youtube who write blasphemous nonsense come to mind.

But there are also thoughtful people. It's one thing to be a skeptic about something. It's another to have tons of evidence that it didn't happen. I think the Christian would have a huge problem with the link I posted. Another one is http://rejectionofpascalswager.com

I find sites like talkreason, talkorigins, and rejectionofpascalswager to be thoughtfully compiled and well researched in their respective areas. By contrast, for example, I think skepticsannotatedbible.com is full of red herrings and nonsense. Personally it appears to me that it is the Christian who prefers to ignore the problems with the Bible when they are pointed out. Of course it would make sense, since the Bible is claimed to be the unchanging and totally reliable word of God. But how do you know that? It is just a claim by the mainstream denominations of Christianity.

Consider this: certain books were kept and others thrown out. Some people who wrote about Jesus (Paul, the earliest writings) never even saw him teaching during his lifetime! Yet they expound his doctrine while openly admitting that they didn't meet his followers for many years. (After his experience on the road to Damascus, Paul chose to go to Arabia rather than meet with Jesus' main disciples.) A lot of what you find in Christian doctrine today was originally unique to Paul, and he even speaks about fighting with Cephas (the incident at antioch.) Where is Paul given authority by the students of Jesus? In his own writings. Later, Luke who studied with Paul also wrote Acts where he describes Paul's exploits much more, and sometimes in ways that seem to contradict Paul's letters. The only place I know where Paul is given support is in 2 Peter, but most experts today consider that book to be pseudepigraphical! Yet it is in the Bible.

So on the one hand you should examine what makes you think that just because a book is in the Bible, it is to be fully relied upon as a source of absolute truth and the doctrines within are authoritative. Why are they authoritative? By the proclamations of men -- e.g. the catholic Church -- which claims for itself authority based on apostolic succession and external to the Bible, and which Protestants reject? By that logic, authority should have rested in the hands of the Jewish leaders, regardless of what went on. The Catholic church wanted to kill Martin Luther, Michael Servetus and others because they had different views and didn't like its doctrines. Is this a Christian thing to do?

OK rant over

For me, the scientific and historical problems seem to indicate like come on, people are just trying to save the book from ultimately being treated as a book that contains legendary stories. I mean, someone just writes it and you believe it ... like Matthew (or was it Mark) says as an offhand comment that lots of famous holy people came out of their graves and walked around and "appeared to many". Or Paul says that 500 brethren witnessed Jesus' resurrection. Or how about this one: 3 million Jews came out of Egypt, wandered in the Sinai desert for 40 years, engaged in warfare with neighboring tribes, conquered the entire land of Israel and settled it. And yet somehow there isn't any external corroboration of any of these stories.

We believe the holocaust happened precisely because there is so much evidence for it in the stories of people who were there, and even of an American president who saw the concentration camps. What are the chances that 1000 years later, only Elie Wiesel's book "night" would tell of this event? Very small.

As far as what you said about greeks not believing in their own gods ... fine, I personally think the greeks were religious at some point (they executed Socrates on the charge of questioning the gods, subverting the youth, etc.) but there were plenty of atheists and skeptics among them and they were a really advanced society. How about the Mayans, and how about the Aztecs, who took their religions so seriously that they sacrificed to their war god to produce a never ending river of blood down their steps? How about all the caaninite tribes which the Bible rebukes, saying things like "do not give your children through the fire to Molech"and other crazy rituals? All those people believed in gods which didn't exist. The Bible says so!

I am saying there are skeptics who don't know anything, just like there are Christians who believe without questioning. But as for me, I read both Craig and Sam Harris and I try to figure out where the truth lies. If any Christians can address the above, I'd be glad.

Try these:

12
Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2011, 03:16:04 pm »
EGreg:

   Thanks for your very thoughtful and polite response.  I understand and agree with many of your points.  I will try to respond to some minor quibbles later on when I get time (wife, twins, yardwork, 12 hour work shifts!!!!)


13

Jeff Mitchell

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Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2011, 06:19:16 pm »
gleaner63 wrote:
Quote from: ReasonableJeff
Soooo... You ask a question about what can be inferred from certain evidence, and when you don't like the answer you just assume it's because of the other person's bias?


It's certainly has *something* to do with their bias.  I'm biased and have no problem to admitting it, do you?

Of course I have my own biases, and so do the people to whom you asked your questions.  However, their biases were not necessarily the reason they disagreed with you- it could be just because there was no evidence or rational reason to agree with you.  You implied that the only reason they didn't see things your way was that they want to "protect their bias at all cost."


Quote
 a large boat (say, 300-ish cubits long, constructed of gopher wood...) dating back around 4000 years was discovered on the side of a mountain, what would that mean in your professional historical opinion?


I would say, first of all, the find is certainly deserving of further investigation.  After the initial report was made, that's all I would say, nothing more.


If "God exists" is your answer, then you may want to re-examine your own personal biases.


That wouldn't be my response at all, and as I've already admitted, I'm biased.

The fact is, we found a boat.  Maybe if "Noah wuz here" was carved into a beam... no, it wouldn't mean nothing, but it wouldn't mean more than what the evidence presents.

I agree.

If we could prove that Moses really did, with God's assistance, part the Red Sea (actually the reed sea), I think it would certainly prove God's existence.  But I don't see any way one could prove it.


I don't see how we could prove it either.


I do believe there is much more evidence of and credible reports of UFOs- but the problem is we're relying on testimony and interpretations of others, for phenomena that defies normal experience for most of use.  And it's not something that can be reproduced and tested scientifically.


Some of the reports, in certain areas can be tested.  You can test radar after all.  You can take samples of the landing sites, you can test the photographs.

If your statements above are true, I believe that pilots believe they saw something flying and interacting with them that either was or was not picked up by radar.  The conclusion that there were alien life forms at the helm is a conclusion that just isn't supported.

I've certainly never concluded there were aliens aboard those craft, so I don't know where you're getting that from.

It seems like there is proof that would be enough- traveling back in time and witnessing it themselves (although it still could be mass hallucinations...), and the personal introduction to God (which surely is within His powers to make happen).  I happily admit that there could be proof of God's existence- I just think it's highly improbable that it exists.

The point is that everyone is requiring a different level of proof.  Do you not see a problem with that scenario?  What if, in a court of law, no one could degree on what constituted proof?  Do you not see an obvious problem with people who demand levels of proof (a time machine) that can't be met?

I guess we don't disagree as much as it seemed like we would, which is a bit surprising considering the tone of your post.  I'm actually a bit confused now, but I've been there before...

I don't see a problem with someone, tongue-in-cheek, giving you the only level of proof for a certain historical event that would be acceptable to them (time machine)- meaning, there is no "evidence" that would convince them.  I don't see a problem with that- what evidence for Jesus' resurrection could there be?  Different claims require different levels of proof, depending on the claim.

I think I may have misunderstood what you were trying to get at though- can you explain a little more what average atheists disagree with that they should agree with if they were open-minded and willing to accept evidence?  


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Jeff Mitchell

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Atheists are debating the wrong thing.
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2011, 06:28:34 pm »
gleaner63 wrote: A question for you Jeff:

   If you were a lawyer, trying to convince a juror that the accused actually murdered his client, and that juror actually said, "...the only way I would believe that, or could be convinced of that, would be for me to travel back in a time machine and see it with my own eyes...".  What would you say about that person's bias?  Would it be the normal run-of-the-mill bias?  Or would it be something far different?

If the juror had not heard anything about the case, and wasn't able to form an opinion about it previously, yes- I'd say it would be an example of extraordinary closed-mindedness, a complete refusal to consider evidence.  But that's not a very good analogy for people who might have good, rational reasons to not believe something.  I actually agree with you on the global warming deniers- most of them have been fed false information and may have formed their opinions based on biases against environmentalists.  But to just assume that anyone who finds the story of the flood a bit hard to swallow is just turning a blind eye to evidence... is a bit of a stretch.

However, there are of course closed minded people all over the place.  It's human nature, regardless of belief or unbelief in a deity.

Thanks for the comments.