Creationism/Evolution Debate

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Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby Sun Fin » Thu Feb 05, 2015 9:12 am

James wrote:
Sun Fin wrote:I just want to add to that that Dawkins is a world recognised Biologist and as I understand it very accomplished in that field and I wouldn't attempt to debate with him in that area. However he seems to spend a lot of time writing about Theology these days which is something that he has never studied academically. Yet people seem to defer to him as if he was a Phd in that field as well despite the fact that he is regularly out of his depth.

I imagine people defer to him because they agree with his arguments.

And you don't need a degree in theology to argue an evidence-based position on this subject. There's something to be said for being too aggressive, negative, or any mischaracterization—those are individual subjects of interest and anyone taking such a public stance in opposition to some mainstream views can be expected to be wrong or controversial—but fundamentally he's just advocating against religion from an evidence-based perspective.

More to the point, I'm not terribly surprised. While I disagree with some of these methods, and think there are unintended consequences involved, some of this scientific backlash is, in part, a response to religious views interfering with scientific progress. Examples include vaccination, climate change, evolution, stem-cell research. And for many a great deal of this frustration has to do with religious ideals being impressed upon society, such as is the case with opposing same-sex marriage or pushing for religious involvement in government and education on a public level.


WWD did a good job of addressing it and I of course wasn't implying that you need to have a Phd in Theology in order to take part in a discussion. However what I was saying was that people presume that he is an expert about Christianity because he is an expert in Biology and so they don't even take time to explore whether what he is saying is factual and as WWD has already evidenced he is very often wide of the mark. I know of a great number of atheist Scientists who are scathing about 'The God Delusion'. In the words of Michael Ruse 'The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist'.
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Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby James » Thu Feb 05, 2015 6:10 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:And a total headcase.

Eh, that's opinion. I doubt anyone can be consistently public with a controversial subject such as atheism without occasionally slipping up and giving out ammunition to be used against them. On the contrary, he seems to be a smart man who typically speaks and thinks clearly. Unsurprisingly, he's slipped up and had some views which are rubbish.

WeiWenDi wrote:Did I ever say he hadn't? I believe I have only been exercising my own right to express my criticism of those beliefs.

No, but you seem to be quite upset that he does.

WeiWenDi wrote:In your attempt at Dawkins apologetics you're reading into his Twitter comment something that wasn't there to begin with. He was talking about 'mild paedophilia' and 'mild date rape' - even though he claimed he wasn't defending either one and proceeded to get into a tizzy over formal logic, his use of the modifier 'mild' itself was incredibly defensive to begin with. Besides, I feel the broader point he was making itself is ridiculous. Slavery was no more morally excusable in 1800 than it was in 1600, than it was in 1400, or than it is now. The only difference is that the perpetrators and defenders of slavery are no longer held to be respectable. And Dawkins was ultimately trying to defend the privileged position of his schoolmasters in the same way people still try to defend the privileged position of Thomas Jefferson in light of the horrific things he did to his slaves.

The Twitter commentary, as best I can see, was in follow up to the article where he made initial mention and drew so much criticism. The rape argument, while I see what he was trying to say, was boneheaded. Nonetheless, you're latching onto it as a primary example of his character when he's clearly not pressed that belief. And Twitter isn't exactly a medium known for helping one to express themselves eloquently.

To call it 'Dawkins apologetics', especially after I agreed with you on several points, is just immature.

You're wrong about his point regarding slavery. It was no more morally excusable then than it is now by using today's logic. When you have people in government leadership entertaining slavery, and widespread acceptance and supporting laws, especially on a regional basis, of course the social norm of the time holds different standards of ethics and acceptance. The same applies to Irish slavery before the African American boom, women's rights (then and today, e.g. Gamer Gate), acceptance and opinion of homosexuality, or even far more measurable misconceptions such as acceptance of smoking (in an era where doctors were advertised to have been supporting it, or advertising was targeted to children) or association of autism and vaccination (in an era where the relevant fraudulent study hadn't been thoroughly debunked as opposed to today).

WeiWenDi wrote:Dawkins never mentioned al-Ghazali, which makes his position infinitely less reasonable than your sanitisation of it.

My point was not that Islam doesn't have problems. My point is that Dawkins's preening on Twitter does nothing to address any of the real problems that Islam faces. It's an egotistical and self-congratulatory pose.

But that's what he's referencing, which you would know if you'd seen more of his talks and videos. I only watched a moderate batch of videos, read through a moderate batch of content, but it was enough to clearly draw that association. It is exactly what he's referencing when he makes those statements, and they're lamentations common among other scientists as well.

WeiWenDi wrote:Really? You didn't find anything unseemly in it at all?

Eh... without watching that two-hour video and spending another hour reading into this, it strikes me as you making a mountain out of a molehill, and more to the point, it just speaks to character we can establish in other areas of what he's done, such as what he prompted of people in that other video you shared. If your point is that he can be pretty aggressive about the subject, we agree. But to the extent it is so noteworthy? I don't know...

And the community exclusion/disassociation discussed is not a unique subject.

WeiWenDi wrote:He didn't 'suggest' it - he claimed it was a moral imperative to abort a baby with Down's syndrome.

Did it sound as though I disagreed? You're just arguing semantics because you feel strongly about his argument. Regardless, all he can do is pass on his suggestion with his argument, and that's what he did. That he argued it to be morally sound does not change the fact that his response was still a suggestion.

WeiWenDi wrote:On the one hand, academic theology is valuable but remarkably overrated.

On the other hand, people can be remarkably ignorant about what Christians actually believe. We don't believe in a 'sky-fairy'. We don't believe in magical wish-fulfilment through prayer. We don't believe that our actions in this life don't matter, because afterlife. Generally, the atheists who claim these things, as though Christians are childish in their beliefs, are being ignorant and buffoonish, and Dawkins is no exception. If you ridicule Christian theology without ever cracking open a book by someone as basic and accessible as CS Lewis, you're doing it wrong.

Maybe you don't believe these things, but others do. Maybe you characterize God as something substantiated on evidence but it is not—we had that discussion earlier when I talked about piling assumptions upon an unknown. And the atheist argument is not that Christians believe their actions in this life do not matter—if Dawkins made that generalization he was wrong to do so, but that's not the argument I've seen from him either. It is that actions of good are best informed exclusively by the consequences to others and one's self in this world, whether choosing who to harm, offend, or how to approach the final years of life.

When you draw summary conclusion of atheist arguments such as this—especially to an extreme—you're perpetrating the same sort of misunderstanding and dismissal that an atheist might in saying these principles are to be expected of a Christian.

WeiWenDi wrote:Even in other areas Dawkins is completely out of his field of competence, and actually comes off like a total tinfoil hat-wearing lunatic, completely impervious to anything resembling empirical evidence. When Dawkins hints that Jesus never historically existed, he quite simply has no idea what he's talking about. (Because even in secular historical studies, Dawkins's position simply isn't respectable. At all.) It's the functional equivalent of denying the existence of William Shakespeare - which a few deluded nutcases still unfortunately do.

You've mischaracterized Dawkins' argument about Jesus' existence.

Wikipedia wrote: As for a historical Jesus, Dawkins wrote "It is even possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, historical case that Jesus never lived at all". Despite his noted inaccuracies and discrepancies in the gospels, he stated in the 2006 book that Jesus "probably existed",[179] but did not offer any explanation or evidence. In an interview in 2012, Dawkins stated that "the evidence (Jesus) existed is surprisingly shaky."

But I agree with you fundamentally. To argue that he didn't exist requires discarding worthwhile evidence.

Much of his other criticisms are based on credible or factual arguments, however. He's just demonstrating bias in favor of the extreme he wants to envision, which is not scientific to say the least.

As to your ongoing argument, it expands upon your initial mischaracterization. What you have here are other atheists sources calling him out on the biased reading into evidence and subsequent suggestion, which they were right to do.

But you know what else is a biased reading into evidence? An argument that everything in the New Testament attributed to Jesus was Jesus, and I doubt I'll ever see someone so furious with Dawkins extend a fraction of that dislike to Christian scholars who accept the bible's representation wholeheartedly.
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Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby Shikanosuke » Fri Feb 06, 2015 1:05 am

WeiWenDi wrote:On the other hand, people can be remarkably ignorant about what Christians actually believe.


I'm not wading too far into this far discussion. I respect Hawkins for what he's worth and I do believe he is very intelligent. He's also said things I dont' disagree with either. But I don't understand a few of your statements. The converse of this statement is obviously that many Christians are remarkably ignorant about what they believe, or what they purport to believe.

We don't believe in a 'sky-fairy'. We don't believe in magical wish-fulfilment through prayer. We don't believe that our actions in this life don't matter, because afterlife. Generally, the atheists who claim these things, as though Christians are childish in their beliefs, are being ignorant and buffoonish, and Dawkins is no exception.


I think this is a little bit unfairly biased. We Christians aren't unanimous, we aren't to to be generalized either for good or ill. You don't speak for Christians anymore than I or Sun Fin does. Many Christians do believe in wish-fulfillment through prayer. Many actions in this life are merely important..because afterlife. And many atheists wishing to take aim at such happenings are not all bafoonish nor ignorant. They react to the largely hypocritical lives (i'd argue) Christians live. They react to the unexplored concepts of Christianity most Christians don't explore, don't ponder, or don't educate inquire upon. And I say most, because I'm not including individuals like yourself.

If you ridicule Christian theology without ever cracking open a book by someone as basic and accessible as CS Lewis, you're doing it wrong.


Unless we're using the term theology to mean only the study of religion, then I think that is kind of insane. To walk around with two core books which we hold up as infallible works of God that theoretically can bestow grace upon anyone able to read..but simultaneously those who don't read other fallible and likely biased books examining said texts are not free to criticize such tenants seems odd. To me thats like saying 'this is truth, this is everything' and then saying 'now read these supplementary books so you can begin to understand...influenced of course by those authors..what the original books mean to intend'. Thats a joke, and you may as well supplant the original texts with the collective wisdom of the authors you reference.
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Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Fri Feb 06, 2015 1:18 am

Just going to ignore all the ad-homs thrown my way just now. I'm flattered that I'm considered important enough to insult, though. Particularly over my views on Dawkins.

James wrote:On the contrary, he seems to be a smart man who typically speaks and thinks clearly.


My point was not that he is unintelligent. It's just that intelligent people are still capable of being horrifically wrong.

James wrote:The Twitter commentary, as best I can see, was in follow up to the article where he made initial mention and drew so much criticism. The rape argument, while I see what he was trying to say, was boneheaded. Nonetheless, you're latching onto it as a primary example of his character when he's clearly not pressed that belief. And Twitter isn't exactly a medium known for helping one to express themselves eloquently.


That's part of my point, actually. Why is a man of science wasting so much of his time making inflammatory and, as you say, 'boneheaded' commentary on Twitter, rather than doing something which resembles research?

James wrote:You're wrong about his point regarding slavery. It was no more morally excusable then than it is now by using today's logic. When you have people in government leadership entertaining slavery, and widespread acceptance and supporting laws, especially on a regional basis, of course the social norm of the time holds different standards of ethics and acceptance. The same applies to Irish slavery before the African American boom, women's rights (then and today, e.g. Gamer Gate), acceptance and opinion of homosexuality, or even far more measurable misconceptions such as acceptance of smoking (in an era where doctors were advertised to have been supporting it, or advertising was targeted to children) or association of autism and vaccination (in an era where the relevant fraudulent study hadn't been thoroughly debunked as opposed to today).


If I argue that slavery is wrong, or that child molestation is wrong, or that stalking and threatening women on social media is wrong, 'because it's Thursday' is not a valid counter-argument.

Try again.

James wrote:But that's what he's referencing, which you would know if you'd seen more of his talks and videos. I only watched a moderate batch of videos, read through a moderate batch of content, but it was enough to clearly draw that association. It is exactly what he's referencing when he makes those statements, and they're lamentations common among other scientists as well.


Again, not many people do watch Dawkins's videos, for reasons which you yourself state below ('eh... without watching that two-hour video and spending another hour reading into this...'). They see what he posts in the most public forums. And quite frankly, in the absence of context, I can't blame people for not wanting to follow up with him after they see him post something as context-free and bigoted as that.

James wrote:You're just arguing semantics because you feel strongly about his argument.


No, you're the one arguing semantics. I'm posting direct quotes. He said it was 'immoral' for a woman to make a certain choice. Would you say that pro-life groups which give free ultrasounds outside abortion clinics are also only offering 'suggestions', for making a moral statement in the other direction? If not, why not?

James wrote:Maybe you characterize God as something substantiated on evidence but it is not—we had that discussion earlier when I talked about piling assumptions upon an unknown.


I don't.

And if you'd paid any attention to my arguments over in the thread you mention rather than just pontificating on the subject yourself, you would understand perfectly well why I don't.

James wrote:You've mischaracterized Dawkins' argument about Jesus' existence.


No, I don't think I have.

What would you say to a legislator who said 'it is even possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, climatological case that global warming doesn't exist', but then goes on to say that 'the evidence global warming exists is surprisingly shaky'? Or if that legislator said 'it is possible to mount a serious case that vaccines are ineffective' and 'the evidence that vaccines work is surprisingly shaky'? You'd say he's an ignoramus. Not only that, you'd be right to do so. And I know you would because you have said so elsewhere. So when you say that 'he's just demonstrating bias in favor of the extreme he wants to envision', I agree in the narrow sense, but that doesn't make his argument any less ignorant or himself less culpable for making it.

James wrote:But you know what else is a biased reading into evidence? An argument that everything in the New Testament attributed to Jesus was Jesus, and I doubt I'll ever see someone so furious with Dawkins extend a fraction of that dislike to Christian scholars who accept the bible's representation wholeheartedly.


And your logical fallacies are: appeal to relative privation and red herring!

Everything in the New Testament is nowadays attributed by most reasonable scholars to the four historical evangelists, S. Paul and S. John of Patmos, though there is of course disagreement on when they lived and when they wrote. There are scholars who still hold to the Q hypothesis, but they are now considered a minority. Personally I do favour a traditional interpretation. But we are not talking about these scholars, we are talking about a fringe view held by someone who does not have any expertise in the subject, but is declaiming on it as though he does. Dawkins is essentially the equivalent in this case of James Inhofe talking about the merits of the climate change debate.

That view is not - I repeat, not - justified by some other unnamed scholars holding to some other fringe view.

Shikanosuke wrote:The converse of this statement is obviously that many Christians are remarkably ignorant about what they believe, or what they purport to believe.


:lol: Not going to disagree there.

Shikanosuke wrote:I think this is a little bit unfairly biased. We Christians aren't unanimous, we aren't to to be generalized either for good or ill. You don't speak for Christians anymore than I or Sun Fin does. Many Christians do believe in wish-fulfillment through prayer. Many actions in this life are merely important..because afterlife. And many atheists wishing to take aim at such happenings are not all bafoonish nor ignorant. They react to the largely hypocritical lives (i'd argue) Christians live. They react to the unexplored concepts of Christianity most Christians don't explore, don't ponder, or don't educate inquire upon. And I say most, because I'm not including individuals like yourself.


Here's the thing.

If you - as many of the Ditchkins clique do - set yourself up as the champion of empiricism, logic and reasoned debate, you are rather honour-bound to the rules of that debate. That includes approaching any counter-argument to your own at its strongest, not at its weakest. I hold - and this is in spite of the Christians who may still believe these - that ridiculing the weakest possible arguments for Christianity, rather than engaging with the more subtle and profound defenders of the tradition (like S. Augustine, S. John Damascene, Thomas Aquinas, or even secular contemporaries like Bill Egginton and Jack David Eller) is an act of intellectual cowardice.

Just as I don't dismiss atheism merely by resorting to the straw-man that they must be proponents of ex nihilo creationism, even though some of them are. I am more interested in refuting atheism at its most subtle and intellectually-keen - for example, the thought of Nietzsche that purports to see in Christianity a morality forged in the resentment of the weak against the strong, or the actually somewhat-interesting question of how surd evil can exist within a world created by a loving God (though I will question it if the argument is put forward in an emotivist way). I think any respectable Christian who wants to understand atheism owes it to herself at least to read Zur Genealogie der Moral by Nietzsche, and Die deutsche Ideologie by Marx and Engels.

Shikanosuke wrote:To walk around with two core books which we hold up as infallible works of God that theoretically can bestow grace upon anyone able to read..but simultaneously those who don't read other fallible and likely biased books examining said texts are not free to criticize such tenants seems odd.


:lol: Who is making generalisations about what all Christians believe now?

I don't believe there is such a thing as 'the Bible' per se, but that's because of the way in which I have come to understand the history of how it was adopted through the Early Church Councils. And it's never been considered by the Orthodox 'infallible' in the way that Protestant fundamentalists say it is; only that it has been inspired by God and that it is the text of the Church. It's also highly dangerous to say that it is the text itself which 'can bestow grace upon anyone able to read', because we have examples within Scripture of the Devil using quotes from it to tempt Jesus into committing sins.

It's perfectly admissible to refer, especially to the Early Church Fathers, but also to the contemporary classicists and scholars who have taken what they say to heart.
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Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby James » Fri Feb 13, 2015 11:52 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:Just going to ignore all the ad-homs thrown my way just now. I'm flattered that I'm considered important enough to insult, though. Particularly over my views on Dawkins.

And you'll get another one if you generalize my mixed defense of something as being an apologist again. :P

WeiWenDi wrote:My point was not that he is unintelligent. It's just that intelligent people are still capable of being horrifically wrong.

Oh, they certainly are. In fact, virtually everyone who spends their time in a limelight speaking in terms of advocacy blunders badly on occasion. I think it's more a product of being human and speaking views on the public stage. Except Pope Francis. Somehow he manages to be consistently awesome, who somehow manages to still be awesome even when he slips up.

My other point is that it's not appropriate to lean too heavily on those mistakes a person makes to dismiss their other views. Frequency of those mistakes and the extent to which they are repeated should be the concerning factor.

WeiWenDi wrote:That's part of my point, actually. Why is a man of science wasting so much of his time making inflammatory and, as you say, 'boneheaded' commentary on Twitter, rather than doing something which resembles research?

Why is Neal deGrasse Tyson devoting most of his effort to advocacy of science and public education? Why did Carl Sagan do so before him? I would argue these two people have made/are making some of the most valuable contributions to science most any individual can make. They are educating the population as a whole and helping many in the next generation of science into the field. Dr. Tyson attributes his own career to Carl Sagan. In my eyes, these two people deserve some of the highest accolades we could extend to a scientist—or, indeed, most anyone.

That said, I don't hold Dr. Dawkins on the same pedestal because his contribution has been more negative and because, as I suggested earlier, I believe (don't know—just believe) that some aspects of his approach produce unintended consequences. But his message is not entirely wrong in my opinion. People, in my view—and I know we may disagree here—should not believe in anything without some real evidence to inform their position. And that goes just as surely for the things our parents taught us while growing up, the biases and habits we learned from society, culture, and the people we've interacted with, and the indoctrination many of us received in church. And among those who do believe—they should be open to have their views challenged as well.

WeiWenDi wrote:If I argue that slavery is wrong, or that child molestation is wrong, or that stalking and threatening women on social media is wrong, 'because it's Thursday' is not a valid counter-argument.

Try again.

You're either misunderstanding Dawkins' argument or my own response here. My point is not that it is any less wrong today than it was in the past, but rather that when you examine the past you need to examine it in context to be even remotely honest about the subject. I can carry the example into today. I grew up listening to Talk Radio and absorbed a lot of hate along the way. Because that was the environment I grew up in it was the information I took to heart. Later in my life I learned how wrong some of those views were and challenged them. The same applies to history. When you grow up in a culture which consistently believes a thing, are indoctrinated to that point of view especially during your formative years where you define the world, you're going to be highly likely to form opinions and beliefs on that basis.

You can say it is wrong from today's perspective and you're right. But you're completely dismissing the point made in doing so. Gay marriage and gay rights are going to be another such example (yes, it is its own thing and not the same thing as other events before it) some decades from now. There's a very good reason why support/opposition scales sharply along with age, and why it has done so with these other subjects discussed above.

WeiWenDi wrote:Again, not many people do watch Dawkins's videos, for reasons which you yourself state below ('eh... without watching that two-hour video and spending another hour reading into this...'). They see what he posts in the most public forums. And quite frankly, in the absence of context, I can't blame people for not wanting to follow up with him after they see him post something as context-free and bigoted as that.

And that's fine. Without context the intent of that argument loses meaning. And I don't expect everyone to go out and listen to some hours of Dawkins as I've done here to figure out where you were coming from just to better understand his perspective. Not that it's a bad thing to do—rather that not every subject deserves the effort.

I do think, though, that people ought to avoid forming strong opinions about someone they haven't extended an effort to understand and that (or at least that such a position ought to temper what we say to others), and that when someone does find out that they've misunderstood someone they haven't tried to understand they should be open to that possibility.

But yeah, I don't expect you to deem it worth your time to watch some hours of Dawkins just to get a better feel for where he's coming from. Just that it ought to inform a position we choose to speak on, just as surely as someone assertively dismissing FOX News or Rush Limbaugh ought to spend some time seeing what they really are. Or on the flip-side, someone ought to read/watch some Al Jazeera before they make generalizations about it, or do some research about Muslims/Islam before they decide to repeat nuggets such as 'every Muslim believes in death for apostasy', or 'the Quran outlines death as a punishment for apostasy'. Intellectually, there's reason to extend some of that time.

WeiWenDi wrote:No, you're the one arguing semantics. I'm posting direct quotes. He said it was 'immoral' for a woman to make a certain choice. Would you say that pro-life groups which give free ultrasounds outside abortion clinics are also only offering 'suggestions', for making a moral statement in the other direction? If not, why not?

False equivalence. The proper comparison would be a pro-life individual making the same response on Twitter to a similarly solicited question. Your response would be appropriate to Dawkins going, himself, to abortion clinics to hand out manipulative documents outlining why they should abort the fetus in their body. I draw the line, here, in the pro-life individual willfully asserting themselves, through physical presence, invoke mental struggle in the mind of someone who is likely already agonizing over their decision.

If that same person were to respond on Twitter that it [would be morally wrong, and here's why], then my opinion remains the same as I applied it to Dr. Dawkins.

WeiWenDi wrote:I don't.

And if you'd paid any attention to my arguments over in the thread you mention rather than just pontificating on the subject yourself, you would understand perfectly well why I don't.

Maybe I've misunderstood some of your perspective there, but you outlined your reasoning for why God is as you described, and the role God plays in humanity as you outlined, and that was the reasoning to which I spoke.

WeiWenDi wrote:
James wrote:You've mischaracterized Dawkins' argument about Jesus' existence.

No, I don't think I have.

What would you say to a legislator who said 'it is even possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, climatological case that global warming doesn't exist', but then goes on to say that 'the evidence global warming exists is surprisingly shaky'? Or if that legislator said 'it is possible to mount a serious case that vaccines are ineffective' and 'the evidence that vaccines work is surprisingly shaky'? You'd say he's an ignoramus. Not only that, you'd be right to do so. And I know you would because you have said so elsewhere. So when you say that 'he's just demonstrating bias in favor of the extreme he wants to envision', I agree in the narrow sense, but that doesn't make his argument any less ignorant or himself less culpable for making it.

I'd say the two aren't equivalent at all—much of what we have attributed to Jesus was passed down by one person after the next and cannot be compared to objectively verifiable evidence in the world around us today—but I get your point insofar as that was presented as an example.

Dr. Dawkins' position has largely been that Jesus existed/that evidence suggests he existed, but it struck me as a misread to latch on to the more extreme position that an argument could be created that he doesn't. If you were simply being critical that he's made the suggestion in the first place it looks like a misread on my part. I'd only point out that relying on only that position does not do justice to his actual view on the subject.

WeiWenDi wrote:And your logical fallacies are: appeal to relative privation and red herring!

Everything in the New Testament is nowadays attributed by most reasonable scholars to the four historical evangelists, S. Paul and S. John of Patmos, though there is of course disagreement on when they lived and when they wrote. There are scholars who still hold to the Q hypothesis, but they are now considered a minority. Personally I do favour a traditional interpretation. But we are not talking about these scholars, we are talking about a fringe view held by someone who does not have any expertise in the subject, but is declaiming on it as though he does. Dawkins is essentially the equivalent in this case of James Inhofe talking about the merits of the climate change debate.

That view is not - I repeat, not - justified by some other unnamed scholars holding to some other fringe view.

Ah, sure. It's fair to call that out (up until 'intent' implied in red herring).

The consensus you present on sourcing the material of the New Testament overlooks some of what I've read or what we know through older versions of the bible we have today, but that's another discussion. And one probably not terribly worth having as I believe the book was written in its entirety by mankind and that the extent to which some information was passed down and edited through earlier centuries (a problem speaking to the above) and translation decisions (impacting different languages) have impacted a fair amount of the book's content.

I'll just accept the point I was aiming to illustrate was lost.

WeiWenDi wrote:If you - as many of the Ditchkins clique do - set yourself up as the champion of empiricism, logic and reasoned debate, you are rather honour-bound to the rules of that debate. That includes approaching any counter-argument to your own at its strongest, not at its weakest. I hold - and this is in spite of the Christians who may still believe these - that ridiculing the weakest possible arguments for Christianity, rather than engaging with the more subtle and profound defenders of the tradition (like S. Augustine, S. John Damascene, Thomas Aquinas, or even secular contemporaries like Bill Egginton and Jack David Eller) is an act of intellectual cowardice.

Just as I don't dismiss atheism merely by resorting to the straw-man that they must be proponents of ex nihilo creationism, even though some of them are. I am more interested in refuting atheism at its most subtle and intellectually-keen - for example, the thought of Nietzsche that purports to see in Christianity a morality forged in the resentment of the weak against the strong, or the actually somewhat-interesting question of how surd evil can exist within a world created by a loving God (though I will question it if the argument is put forward in an emotivist way). I think any respectable Christian who wants to understand atheism owes it to herself at least to read Zur Genealogie der Moral by Nietzsche, and Die deutsche Ideologie by Marx and Engels.

Fundamentals need to be settled before you work on nuance. If you want to ever get through to an atheist you're going to need to first address the fundamental questions pertaining to God himself. If the fundamentals cannot be addressed, the rest is just an interesting theological debate. Which is fine, but the most fundamental tenants of Christianity—the tenants fundamental to Creationism—are absurd to someone who wants to see some evidence to support such remarkable beliefs.

At least if the truth of the whole is to be addressed. A question such as 'did Jesus exist' does not require the same fundamentals to be resolved as does 'did God exist', at least until the argument carries into 'Jesus is the son of god' or 'Jesus was resurrected'. Maybe you were talking about some other nuanced positions there.

Atheism presents a similar (but far less specific/far more probable) fallacy in concluding that there is no god. It's still a position not based on evidence. I agree with Carl Sagan that being agnostic is the proper evidence-based position to take.
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Re: Creationism/Evolution Debate

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sat Feb 14, 2015 7:01 am

James wrote:And you'll get another one if you generalize my mixed defense of something as being an apologist again. :P


:D Fair enough.

James wrote:Oh, they certainly are. In fact, virtually everyone who spends their time in a limelight speaking in terms of advocacy blunders badly on occasion. I think it's more a product of being human and speaking views on the public stage. Except Pope Francis. Somehow he manages to be consistently awesome, who somehow manages to still be awesome even when he slips up.

My other point is that it's not appropriate to lean too heavily on those mistakes a person makes to dismiss their other views. Frequency of those mistakes and the extent to which they are repeated should be the concerning factor.


Pope Francis himself is plenty controversial in certain fora, I should say. I personally like the man a great deal, but I know many people, particularly on the American Catholic right, view him with distinct discomfort. (Though the American Catholic right deserves to be made distinctly uncomfortable upon occasion, in my own view. :) )

The problem with the Ditchkins clique, though, is that the mistakes they make very much reflect the other views that they hold. Even if the Tea Party is not itself racist and does not see itself as oriented toward racist goals, still it cannot be denied that in the id of the people they presented themselves to most attractively, there is a certain animus and resentment that crops up, against black people particularly. Likewise, I think the Ditchkins clique has limited patience with women and with ethnic minorities, as is evidenced by the demographics of the movement they spearhead, which is mostly white, mostly male and mostly from privileged economic backgrounds.

James wrote:I would argue these two people have made/are making some of the most valuable contributions to science most any individual can make. They are educating the population as a whole and helping many in the next generation of science into the field. Dr. Tyson attributes his own career to Carl Sagan. In my eyes, these two people deserve some of the highest accolades we could extend to a scientist—or, indeed, most anyone.


... Ehh.

I can't say I disagree with any of this, except perhaps with the last paragraph. Science popularisers have their uses. I'm as big a fan of Bill Nye as anyone; the man was a huge part of my childhood.

But celebrity scientists make me uncomfortable for other unrelated reasons, like when people who do the gruntwork of actual science get the spotlight and they aren't prepared for it, but are expected to be as camera-savvy as a Neil deGrasse Tyson or a Bill Nye. But that's another topic entirely.

James wrote:You're either misunderstanding Dawkins' argument or my own response here. My point is not that it is any less wrong today than it was in the past, but rather that when you examine the past you need to examine it in context to be even remotely honest about the subject.


Alright, two separate arguments here. What you said before was that a different logic applies.

But what you're talking about here has nothing to do with the moral logic and everything to do with the relative power and status of the people involved. You may well argue that Dr. Samuel Johnson said something quite shocking to people's sensibilities when he toasted the next slave rebellion in the West Indies, even though nowadays most people would agree with him. Back then, there were powerful people in the sugar lobby and in the cotton lobby in the British Parliament, and Johnson's comment very certainly would have rubbed them the wrong way if they had known about it. If you had argued against the people around you who were listening to talk radio, I can imagine there would have been serious social consequences for you.

That's fine. I agree with you there. That's not the part I take issue with.

It's that the logic Samuel Johnson used against slavery - that was the exact same moral logic that we use today. He didn't argue against slavery because it was inefficient, or because it was inconvenient. He saw black people as human beings, made in the image of God the same way the rest of humanity is, and therefore every bit as deserving of the basic standards of human dignity as white people are. The standards of moral logic don't change over time.

James wrote:Just that it ought to inform a position we choose to speak on, just as surely as someone assertively dismissing FOX News or Rush Limbaugh ought to spend some time seeing what they really are. Or on the flip-side, someone ought to read/watch some Al Jazeera before they make generalizations about it, or do some research about Muslims/Islam before they decide to repeat nuggets such as 'every Muslim believes in death for apostasy', or 'the Quran outlines death as a punishment for apostasy'. Intellectually, there's reason to extend some of that time.


:lol:

Just strikes me that this would be an article you might enjoy. He makes much the same point you're making here.

But basically, yeah. I've seen enough of Fox News to know that it's essentially neoconservative propaganda. Al-Jazeera has some good articles on occasion, but unfortunately it also serves as the propaganda arm of the Qatari state, and therefore much of what they publish with regard to the context and present situation of the conflict with Daesh can be (at the very least) biased, or sometimes flat-out wrong. With regard to Dawkins, on the subjects he knows best he can be very convincing. On other topics... not so much.

James wrote:Maybe I've misunderstood some of your perspective there, but you outlined your reasoning for why God is as you described, and the role God plays in humanity as you outlined, and that was the reasoning to which I spoke.


My position is that God is not, ultimately, an empirical question.

By basing all of your inquiries on the assumption that God is an empirical question, you were deliberately not speaking to my reasoning but to some straw-man of it.

James wrote:I'd say the two aren't equivalent at all—much of what we have attributed to Jesus was passed down by one person after the next and cannot be compared to objectively verifiable evidence in the world around us today—but I get your point insofar as that was presented as an example.


We can say with some certainty that S. Paul did actually the bulk of the text of the letters that are credited to him. Just as we can say with some certainty that S. Mark did actually write the Gospel that is credited to him, sometime around 68 to 70 CE (and this is not merely conservative authors who do so; Protestant liberation theologian Ched Myers with his political account of the text of the Gospel of S. Mark also makes an early attribution, to before the fall of the Temple, which is scholarly and well-reasoned). There is no 'passing down by one person after the next'. There are the texts - in Greek - and its translators. You can believe them, or you can disbelieve them.

Likewise, I'm guessing that you don't go straight to the UEA climatology databases, re-run the regressions and extrapolations by yourself, and yourself come to the conclusion that climate change is real. I'm guessing that you have a scientific author or two (or more) that you deeply trust, whose modelling and argumentation you find persuasive, and make your own conclusions which rest upon their logic.

By doing this, you are not drawing your conclusions based on first-hand empirical verification, but rather on the authority of people who make that first-hand empirical verification, or at least run studies on empirical data that they themselves trust was accurately gathered.

And that's fine. Everyone who is sane should accept some level of authority, particularly with regard to science. Trust is important - trusting our own senses is important, and trusting other people who have shown themselves worthy of that trust is important. But the fact of the matter is, the people who trust their priests and who trust the saints of the Church, and the people who trust scientists to tell the truth and represent their findings honestly - they aren't that different. One group of people isn't somehow less logical or less reasonable than the other.

James wrote:Fundamentals need to be settled before you work on nuance. If you want to ever get through to an atheist you're going to need to first address the fundamental questions pertaining to God himself.


It's precisely the fundamentals that the atheists are addressing wrongly, by approaching fundamentalists who don't understand them. It's all too easy for the New Atheists and fundamentalist Christians to throw barbs at each other, in fact, because they share a common, reductively-materialist and -constative ontological approach to the universe which has been rejected by the bulk of mainline Christian believers going all the way back to the Early Church Fathers, who have found such an approach wanting. (This is indeed the point that Bill Egginton makes.)

Like I said: God is not an empirical question. Since reading Kierkegaard I have never held God to be an empirical question. Not even S. Thomas Aquinas treats God as an empirical question, but rather as a rational one. S. John Damascene doesn't even dare do that, except to say (essentially) that one can reason things about God, but never reason ourselves to God directly.

The theism that the Ditchkins clique attack, is in fact a straw-theism, and not the theism held by the bulk of Christian believers, either historical or contemporary.
Some more blood, Chekov. The needle won't hurt, Chekov. Take off your shirt, Chekov. Roll over, Chekov. Breathe deeply, Chekov. Blood sample, Chekov! Marrow sample, Chekov! Skin sample, Chekov! If I live long enough... I'm going to run out of samples.
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WeiWenDi
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