A Response to Paulogia on Divine Hiddenness

Average Reading Time: 21 Minutes

It is always good to get a response from someone who I have mutual respect for. Paulogia (Paul) recently did a video response to my video on divine hiddenness and is very respectful in his approach, which I greatly appreciate. It is good to know we can respectfully disagree (I cannot say the same for the trolls that showed up on my channel after the video went up) without insulting one another’s intelligence.

 

With that said, I find writing this reply to him to be fairly easy, mainly because most of his objections can be addressed by simply reminding him of something I already said in the video, or clarifying misconceptions. His response seems to mostly ignore the holistic approach of my video and instead focuses on certain parts, which divorces what I said from its context. So much of what I say here has already been said in my original video. 

 

There is not much to respond to in the beginning, but then at 3:36 Paul says, “if reasonable non-belief is a category, then unreasonable non-belief must also be a category.” Paul makes these distinctions throughout the video so I want to begin by addressing this because this is my primary disagreement with him. I don’t think such a hard-line distinction is fair on Paul’s part. Technically speaking, I don’t think either category exists (reasonable or unreasonable non-belief), which is why I really didn’t make the distinction in my video or ever admit either group exists. The truth is beliefs are formed from a plethora of inputs, some emotional motivations, reasons, experiences, etc. I don’t think there are reasonable non-believers, for the same reason I don’t think there are reasonable believers (in that particular sense). Humans are not reason-machines, which is why I opened my original video with studies that show motivations play a strong role in belief-forming factors for all humans. Paul seems to have misunderstood why I brought these studies up. I am not saying the studies I cited show there is a category of unreasonable non-believers. I am citing them to show that all humans are not reason-machines. There aren’t people who just believe because of the right information and people who reject Christianity because of insufficient information. So I reject early on one of Paul’s main premises, which (as you will see) is where a lot of the confusion and disagreement will come from.

 

This is an important fact going forward because I reject the existence of reasonable humans in general. We are emotional beings who reason, not reasonable believers, or reasonable non-believers, or unreasonable non-believers, etc. So to answer Paul, why did I spend most of the time addressing what he calls the category of unreasonable believers? Simply put, the categories probably do not exist. If they do, I did have a caveat later in my video to address that. 

 

At 4:55, Paul says, “The distinction between a reasonable and unreasonable believer is for some reason inconsequential.” To respond, well yeah, because I don’t think either category really does exist. I thought I made that clear when I cited the studies on how motivations play a role in how we form beliefs. The studies do not say there are categories or people to whom this does not apply – the implications are it applies to us all. So I am trying to follow the science as best as I can, and so I would deny his claim that there are reasonable non-believers.

 

Off topic, but at 5:05, Paul says, “…having good reasons to believe isn’t required for the plan of salvation.” I actually do not agree with this and will openly scold Christians for just believing without reason. I have a video on what faith is and I explain that Christians are called to believe because of good evidence and reasons. 

 

Building on this, at about 6:00, Paul reveals one of his basic premises, that there are unreasonable non-believers, reasonable non-believers, unsaved believers and saved believers. Again, I reject this premise that these groups exist and I also have argued in my video on hell that who goes to heaven is not as clear cut as this. Jesus said Himself (John 9:41, 15:22) ignorance doesn’t mean one is guilty (more on this later). In Romans 5:13, Paul directly says, “sin is not counted where there is no law.” The question of what heaven and hell are and who goes to each place is much more complicated than this, which is why I did a video on heaven and one on hell before I thought I could even do one on divine hiddenness. I realize the issues of heaven and hell needed to be dealt with first, so I will refer people to those two videos for a more nuanced approach, but simply put, no I don’t think only the saved believers go to heaven. It is much more complicated, which is why I think the Bible is intellectually superior. It recognizes that reality is not always clear cut and circumstances play a role. 

 

After this, Paul says that the only category that matters for the sake of divine hiddenness is the category of reasonable non-believers. But with all due respect, do we have any evidence such a category even exists? Throughout his video, Paul just assumes such a thing is possible and he doesn’t address the claim in my video that such people do not exist. Again, I have already given over the category of reasonable believers, and they don’t exist either. There are no humans in either category. My original video opens with studies to back this point up, which the rest of the video is contingent upon. Paul brushes over these studies and doesn’t go back to them, which I would say is the main fault in his response.

 

After this Paul draws a distinction between ‘being convinced’ and something ‘being reasonable to believe in.’ I bring up the studies I cited up again because they play another role here. Paul says at 7:40, “Unfortunately, one cannot merely choose what one is convinced of.”

 

Again, this might be what we want to think (I certainly want it to be true), but the data doesn’t support this.” Art Markman, Ph.D., writing for Psychology Today says, “…these results suggest that people are biased to interpret the evidence in ways that are consistent with their desires. That means that people may ultimately come to believe that the weight of evidence supports the position that they already wanted to believe was true.  And they will believe this without recognizing that their own desires influenced the evaluation of the evidence.”

 

Again, there was a reason I began my video by noting these studies and it wasn’t to designate a category of unreasonable non-believers. It was to say there are no purely reasonable people, so there are no reasonable non-believers. 

 

After this Paul cites a bunch of arbitrary facts, like the belief, “Barack Obama was once president,” and asks if you can simply choose not to believe it. The main problem is these do not compare, as there are no desires or personal motivations to deny these basic facts. These do not compare to more deeply held beliefs connected with theism, or any other motivated belief for that matter. You don’t have to take my word for it, you can look at the studies and articles that show motivations play a heavy role in what we believe. Citing a bunch of arbitrary facts about reality and asking people to stop believing them is really missing the point about the studies on deeply held beliefs within psychology. 

 

I remember when I was a guest on “Dogma Debates.” David Smalley (host) was debating with me on the reliability of the New Testament and went on about how we have to judge the New Testament by a higher standard because it would have serious implications if it were true. The underlying message (as supported by the studies) is that we are not judging the New Testament simply based on the evidence, but by how it would personally affect him, which implies motivations for rejecting it. Personal motivations are connected with beliefs about Christianity (or any religion) for all people (myself and Paul included). This doesn’t at all compare to arbitrary propositional knowledge about past presidents that affects no one’s desires or motivations.

 

Second, building on the studies, I would argue people do will themselves to believe unreasonable things. One example we can all agree on would be flat-earthers. After watching the documentary “Behind the Curve,” I think it is likely many people join such an absurd movement because it is fun and exciting to think you are part of a minority group exposing a vast government conspiracy. So I would argue they will themselves to reject basic and obvious science about the shape of the earth. As you can see with this example, we can identify the motivation for denying the shape of the earth. If you could find motivation for someone to deny Obama was ever president (given the research into how beliefs are formed), I suspect you could find someone who would deny it (perhaps a radical Mandela Effect advocate). Again, you don’t have to take my word for it that we end up believing what we desire – this is why I backed it up with research. 

 

After this, Paul kind of admits to this point. At 8:50, he says, “When we are talking about individuals… how could it not be subjective? If there were such a thing as an objective standard of evidence then we wouldn’t need 12 jurors. Any trial could be settled with just one juror upholding this objective evidence standard.” 

 

Yeah, exactly! So if this is the case and subjectivity plays a major role, why is Paul suggesting there is a category of reasonable non-believers? By Paul admitting this fact, he is only saying what I was trying to say. More evidence doesn’t convince people to accept cognitively robust theism. So the issue is not that God is hidden. It is that subjectively, people convince themselves that God is hidden or probably does not exist. Again, you end up believing what you want and we all have to fight every day to rise above that.

 

After this, Paul cites me admitting to this in my own words at 9:12. I am not sure if he thinks this is ‘gotcha moment.’ If he is accepting that what constitutes ‘enough evidence’ varies from person to person, he is supporting my case that there are not reasonable non-believers. In fact, that was one of my points and it undermines his response.

 

After this, at 9:35, Paul says, “Why must salvation be a two-step process? First, belief and then a chosen relationship?” Again, I go back to the point that all these other arguments are contingent upon the studies I opened with. I never said salvation was a step-process because I don’t think you get to cognitively robust theism from basic propositional knowledge of theism. In fact, I argued that in my original video. The studies demonstrate that you end up believing what you desire anyway. So if you reject cognitively robust theism, you are likely to desire the falsity of basic theism as well. However, we should both agree that beliefs are formed in much more complicated ways for each person. This is not always the same from person to person, and a plethora of facts and desires will factor into each belief. However, you cannot just assume reasonable non-believers exist without evidence they do exist (Paul provided no evidence they do), and if they do, again, there was a caveat in my video.

Here, I’ll just quote from my original script for my video, “If honest rejection of Christ exists, then as CS Lewis said, “Honest rejection of Christ, however mistaken, will be forgiven and healed.” No one is condemned for ignorance. God knows the hearts of all and knows all who will freely surrender.”

 

At 10:45, Paul says, “Okay, so we know that God can reveal Himself directly to people convincing them without a doubt he exists, without removing their free will to choose. The Bible itself refutes this free will objection with story after story of people who reject God after definitive encounters.” 

 

I am not sure what Paul is trying to say here because I agree with this and it wasn’t my point in bringing up free will. Remember I said, “So the obvious objection is why doesn’t God simply remove our subjective desires and give everyone a basic sense of His existence they cannot deny. The response is that removes too much freedom and forces people in the direction God wants them to go, instead of letting them choose for themselves. As we discussed in our video on the problem of evil, God wants free creatures to earnestly seek him because they want to. He doesn’t want a world of Stepford wives or Pleasantville humans following a script. If someone doesn’t want to seek God and desires to be their own Lord, then God allows them to seek the evidence to fit what they originally desired to begin with.”

 

As you can see, what I was responding to was the objection that God just removes all subjective desires and essentially turns us into robots, forcing us to go into the direction he wants. This wasn’t a section of my video addressing the objection, “Why doesn’t God reveal himself to everyone and give basic propositional knowledge?” Unfortunately, Paul has taken my words out of context and I have to call him out.

 

At 12:50, “…if there are any people at all who could be the right kind of believer. If only they were shown enough evidence to believe God exists, then a fully revealed God would increase the number of saved believers, and therefore be a more loving God than the hidden one.” 

 

This is an odd claim by Paul. How does he know God has not already done this? Is Paul omniscient and knows this has not been done, so an all-loving God cannot exist? This doesn’t make sense because it assumes an omniscient God would not already know how to save everyone who could be saved regardless of the circumstances (see my video on omniscience for more). It assumes more propositional knowledge would lead to salvation when there is no way (given what the studies show in how beliefs are formed) to show that would make a difference. Paul just seems to assume this would help or that God is not revealed enough already. He even admitted earlier in his video (citing the example of jurors) that evidence can be subjective and personal. So an omniscient God would know if this would help or not, and we cannot assume it would help, or if God has not already been revealed enough to save everyone who can be saved. Therefore, it cannot be used as an argument that God does not exist. This is the main problem with the argument from divine hiddenness. It assumes the skeptic has an omniscient standpoint on what God ought to do, and that because God is not doing what they think He ought to do, therefore God likely does not exist. The entire argument is built on a false premise that you somehow know what would help make more believers, but a simple analysis shows there is not enough knowledge in the human mind to make such an inference.

 

At 13:48, Paul says, “This proposed Christian God already individualizes revelation levels. So that could just continue, but raise the level to what it takes for the individual person to be convinced.” 

This misses the point of my video. It assumes any amount would convince some. I argued that some will never be convinced regardless of how much evidence they are given. I cited people in my video on hell who admitted to this (Dan Barker and Christopher Hitchens). I also stated this in my original video on divine hiddenness already, “Given God’s omniscient, He can accurately judge when an attempt to change someone will work and how much influence they need, and He knows who will change and who will not. Given that we are not omniscient like God, we cannot assume the system truly is unfair. See my video on the omniscience paradox for more on this.” Just after this, Paul even cites another section of my video that says the same thing in so many words.

 

But Paul’s next response to this is, “Yes, yes, Mike continues to malign the unreasonable non-believers who in turn continue to be irrelevant to the divine hiddenness argument.” That is not what I said whatsoever. I am surprised I have to explain this again. I don’t think such categories even exist. I am not saying there is a distinct category of unreasonable non-believers, just like I do not think there are reasonable non-believers (or reasonable believers). My argument was to point out you cannot assume more evidence just makes more cognitively robust theists. Paul just seems to keep directing my argument as if they are only talking made-up category called unreasonable non-believers, which I never implied because I am talking about all humans. As I said before, this is his biggest misunderstanding.

 

After this, Paul builds on a lot of the misconceptions I already addressed about the existence of chosen beliefs, who goes to heaven and hell, or reasonable non-believers. So there is not much more to address here and I’ll skip ahead to any more points that need to be addressed. I am not going to address the points any more when Paul brings them up in his video.

 

At 18:22, Paul challenges my citation of John 9:41 and John 15:22 and questions if Jesus really said people are not condemned for lack of information. He doesn’t offer a different interpretation to the passages. Instead, he appeals to the apostle Paul in Romans 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

First, I already cited Romans 5:13 above where the apostle Paul agrees with Jesus in saying there is no sin where there is no law. Second, Paulogia needs to cite the context of Romans 1, because the following verses clear this up, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” The apostle Paul is attacking people who willingly rejected God. Even verse 21 says “although they knew God, they did not honor him as God.” These are not people who just have not been given enough evidence yet, so these are a different category of who Jesus is talking about in the Gospel of John. Paulogia is quoting-mining Romans 1.

 

After this, he appeals to Hebrews 9:27 to argue that people cannot get out of hell after death, which I will admit is something I think is possible but probably rarely happens, if at all (see my video on hell). The verse reads, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” The problem is that this verse is kind of vague. It doesn’t say there are no more chances. The entirety of the passage is talking about how Christ only had to die once for all time, and then makes a comparison to how men only die once. The aspect of Judgement coming later seems to be in reference to a future event of judgement, known as the day of judgement. Even if that is wrong, J.P. Moreland explains why people do not get out of hell after death. 

 

The last thing to address is at 19:59. Paul says, “Mike has fully conceded Schellenberg’s third premise, reasonable non-belief occurs.” I’m sorry, but where on earth did he see that? He doesn’t quote me saying this, he doesn’t show a timestamp, so he has no evidence for his claim. What is his reason to put these words in my mouth? I can only assume (as studies show) Paul has ended up believing what he desires to be true, when in fact, I never conceded this. This was the point of citing the studies in the beginning (that I did not concede this point), and then I elaborated on this in the rest of my whole video. 

 

I’m not going to address Paul’s personal testimony of atheism at the end because I cannot psychoanalysis people, and quite frankly, I don’t care much for personal testimonies from either side. Likewise, Paul cannot know the psychology of anyone and know that some just need more evidence to accept cognitively robust theism, which is the main reason the argument from divine hiddenness fails.

All in all, the main problem with Paul’s response is that he ignores the holistic approach of my video, which is why in this response I just had to refer him to other sections of my video. I appreciate the constructive criticism, but I don’t think his video sufficiently addressed the problem, because he assumes reasonable non-belief occurs, and never once did he give evidence that is does occur. He assumes more evidence will convince this alleged category of reasonable non-believers, but I argued extensively that they do not exist. He also probably did not see my videos on heaven and hell, so he doesn’t have that context either, meaning he did not fully grasp the entirely of the argument. This video on divine hiddenness was part of a series with each building on the other. The order goes as they were uploaded: 

 

Omnipotence Paradox Debunked

Omniscience Paradox Debunked

Does God Send People to Hell?

What is Heaven?

The Problem of Evil: A Christian Response

Divine Hiddenness: A Christian Response

 

It is also important to remember even for people who are philosophically minded and have some sort of epistemology to justify their beliefs on, ultimately their reasoning will be emotionally based, as people will generally be emotionally-oriented, and therefore ultimately believe in what they want. This is probably why God tries not to focus on the purely reasonable aspect of humanity. Rather, he probably focuses on the emotional aspect, since we are emotional beings. Building a relationship with God requires hiddenness for us to realize the implications of life without God (this was explained in more detail in my video and Paul did not address it). Thus, our response to the problem of evil is similar to the hiddenness argument because it is due to mankind’s nature and God would know full well what would happen in a world of forced belief. Furthermore, Paul does not distinguish between general hiddenness (objective reality hiddenness)  and subjective hiddenness, because, for believers, God is not hidden, whereas for the unbeliever he is hidden, but I would argue this is more subjective and which is why one cannot use such an argument to objectively argue God probably does not exist. Your subjective desires or experience does not indicate an objective fact.

Paul might actually  admit this in his video description, where he says, “Unfortunately, Mike’s answers don’t align well with the kind of personal divine hiddenness that affects me and many of my fellow Christians.” With all due respect Paul, but if it is personal then it is based on subjective preferences and not objective facts about the world. It is the equivalent to when a Christian argues God exists because they have personally felt his presence. The argument from divine hiddenness seems to just be the atheist version of this and is equally weak evidence. Let’s try to set aside our personal feelings and look at the evidence as best as we possibly can.

Last, I want to reiterate that several times during Paul’s video, he circles back to the problem of hell, which is expected, and why I did a video on hell before I tackled divine hiddenness. I admit this can be a lot of videos for someone to go through, but I think it is necessary to elaborate on these topics. It is not like these issues can be quickly and simply answered, as numerous concepts and psychological issues need to be addressed. The series is meant for someone who is open to the idea and who wants to know how these issues can be addressed. If someone has this mindset, I believe they are genuinely interested in these topics and would actually want to sit through all the videos. So with that clarified, I’ll conclude. If Paul responds, I may add an update to this blog later on. 

 

A Defense of Libertarian Free Will

By: Kyle Alander of Christian Idealism

Introduction

The primary objective of this essay is to investigate the extent to which human beings generally have the ability to freely choose their choices and actions without any prior causes on one hand or human beings’ choices and actions are generally predetermined by prior causes that are outside of the human being’s control on the other. This former option will be referred to throughout this essay as the “Free Will Thesis” and the latter option the “Determinism Thesis”. For the reasons that will become clear my task will require me to consider recent discoveries in many disciplines including physics and neuroscience as well as areas in philosophy dealing with the reasons for our actions. I wish to defend the “Free Will Thesis” which goes like this: Human beings generally have the free will to freely choose their actions without any prior causes and human beings are the originator and first cause of their actions which sets off a chain of events that take place due to that choice. Philosophers have called this chain of causation “agent causation” as it is the free agent (human mind) that is the final decider in its actions and choices and therefore are fully responsible for their actions and choices. I will attempt to show that it is most likely the case that this free will thesis is true and that it is the most philosophically probable position to hold to when it comes to human choices. 

Before we dive into what positions will be in the determinism thesis, we must clear up a few misconceptions. First, free will is not about making choices. There are no philosophers who deny that humans make choices rather the real disagreement stems from how much control over our choices we do have. People that hold to free will believe humans generally have control over their choices and the human being was the originator and real first cause of their own choice. Those that hold to determinism on the other hand generally view choices as outside the humans’ control since the real cause of the choice was some predetermined and prior cause that is outside the human beings’ control. So obviously just making a choice itself is not enough to justify the free-will thesis or the determinism thesis. The second misconception of free will is its alleged similarity with maximal autonomy. I want to point this out to respond to Sam Harris on his misunderstanding of free will. Just because we cannot pick out genes, our past, our abilities, etc. It doesn’t mean we don’t have free will. As Alvin Plantinga says: “Harris’ notion of freedom is really an idea of what we might call maximal autonomy. It’s obvious that we don’t have maximal autonomy; we aren’t free in that sense. Indeed, it isn’t so much as possible that we be free in that sense. That is because, as he thinks of it, I act freely on a given occasion only if I myself freely choose to have the desires and affections I then act on, and furthermore I myself freely bring it about that I do have them. But note that the action by which I bring about that I have those desires and affections must itself be free. That means that I must have freely brought it about that I had the desires and affections out of which I acted in bringing it about that I have the desires and affections I presently have. You can see where this is going: for every occasion on which I act freely, there must have been an earlier occasion in which I acted freely. This clearly involves an infinite regress (to use the charming phrase philosophers like): if Harris is right, it is possible that I act freely only if it is possible that I perform an infinite number of actions, each one a matter of bringing it about that I have a certain set of desires and affections. Clearly no one has time, these busy days, for that. Harris is certainly right that we don’t have that maximal autonomy; but nothing follows about our having freedom, i.e., the sort of freedom we ordinarily think we have, the sort required for moral responsibility.”

We do not have the freedom to choose to not be a human we JUST are humans. We don’t have the freedom to choose to exist we JUST exist. While one can freely choose to kill themselves, they could not have freely chosen to never be born or never exist in the first place, it’s because that is maximal autonomy and NOT free will. So with this cleared up, we see that maximal autonomy is NOT part of the free-will thesis and is therefore not what I will be defending.

Constitutes of the determinism thesis

We now get into what constitutes the determinism thesis and will try to break down the categories which are part of the determinism thesis. 

  1. The first is perhaps the extreme radical group of Newtonian determinism which is the extreme form of hard determinism. This position states that absolutely everything is predetermined and that therefore absolutely everything is inevitable. This position states that all our actions are predetermined and are inevitable so our choices are outside our control. 
  2. The second is a little less extreme but still falls into hard determinism. It says that not all things are inevitable as it accepts the reality of there being randomness in nature however human beings’ choices are still predetermined by prior causes. Whether these causes are random or not it doesn’t matter as you still don’t have humans in control of their choices. 
  3. The third moves a little away and accepts that humans may have a limited sense of free choices but that those choices are still determined by someone’s character which itself was predetermined. This position is known as soft determinism or compatibilism as it says that both determinism and free will are compatible with each other in some way. It says how someone’s character will govern their choices and that it can lead one to a specific choice itself. This position is compatible with some idea of their being free will but NOT of the libertarian type that is present in the free will thesis. 

Constitutes of the free will thesis

We now get into what constitutes the free-will thesis and will try to break down the categories which are part of the free-will thesis. 

  1. The first is the extreme version of libertarianism or hard libertarianism which states that in order for a person to be free he must always have the ability to choose the contrary, or must be free from external influences. This view does not accept any external influences on one’s choice and therefore one would be in total control of their choices in the libertarian sense. 
  2. The second is the one that is more common among libertarian philosophers is called soft libertarianism. It accepts that humans are generally in control of their choices but that there is a limited sense of external influences. It recognizes the influence of external events that can have an effect on an agent’s choice but that ultimately the agent makes the final decision. So, then someone’s character determines a range of choices rather than a specific choice itself. And that someone’s choices can influence their character and vice versa. A good way to think of it would be to see how the holy character of God determines his set of possible options within his free will in that God chooses to reject evil since it’s against his nature. In fact, soft libertarianism is the perfect description of most religious descriptions of human free will in that due to our fallen nature we have the free will to sin and we need sanctification so that one day we will have the nature and character to reject sin. So, I admit for the sake of clarity that I myself personally hold this position of free will but in this essay, I will be defending the broad free-will thesis and not just this particular part of it. 

Now that we have broken down the determinism thesis and the free will thesis, I hope that my readers understand the position I will be defending. Like I’ve mentioned before the objective of this essay is to defend the various forms of the free-will thesis over and against the various forms of the determinism thesis. 

The Case for the Determinism Thesis

It’s now time to make the cumulative case that can be made for the determinism thesis and offer the best arguments in support of the broad view. There are 7 primary arguments that make up the cumulative case for the determinism thesis. 

  1. Physical determinism: The first piece of evidence has to do with the fact that we live in a deterministic universe. We have many precise mathematical equations that can describe and predict the motion of particles before we see them move and therefore particles would be determined to move in specific areas. This makes evidence for at least some things in nature being predetermined by prior causes and therefore works to support the case for determinism. This is even true for the randomness in nature as humans have no control over this randomness. 
  2. Reductionism: The second and more significant evidence for determinism is the claim that mental states simply just are brain states. If mental states can be reduced to physical states and if physical states are deterministic then it follows that mental states and also deterministic and thus free will does not exist. This argument builds up from the last one in that it puts mental states as part of the deterministic universe and thus human beings lack control over their choices as their choices are totally controlled by external factors which is the physical deterministic universe.   
  3. Libet type arguments: The third is perhaps the most famous argument for determinism that comes from neuroscience. The reason this is the case is due to the fact that in the experiment a scientist would put subjects on an EEG machine that records brain patterns and ask the subjects to consciously make hand movements and press buttons then record the exact moment they made that conscious decision. Libet found that the onset of brain activity clearly preceded by at least several hundred milliseconds the reported time of a conscious act (this is called the brains’ readiness potential). Critics at the time objected that this experiment doesn’t refute free will due to the fact that it is only by a few milliseconds factor which is not enough time for conscious choices and it didn’t predict a specific outcome of a choice. However, these criticisms are addressed when we consider Soon and his colleagues found that the readiness potential (the brain activity before conscious choices) determined someone’s specific choice. They found how the outcome of a decision can be encoded in brain activity up to 10 seconds before it enters awareness. This delay presumably reflects the operation of a network of high-level control areas that begin to prepare an upcoming decision long before it enters awareness. In other words, one was able to predict someone’s free choice a full 10 seconds before they actually consciously made that choice and this poses a serious challenge to any notion of free will. Thus, this is strong evidence for the determinism thesis
  4. Strawson type arguments: The fourth argument for the determinism thesis has to do with the reason for our choices and that since our reasons are external to us and since they largely determine our choices then free will does not exist. The Basic Argument has various expressions in the literature of free will, and its central idea can be quickly conveyed.

(1) Nothing can be causa sui – nothing can be the cause of itself.

(2) In order to be truly morally responsible for one’s actions, one would have to be causa sui, at least in certain crucial mental respects.

(3) Therefore, nothing can be truly morally responsible.

This is a philosophical argument for determinism based on how our choices are largely shaped by our reasons and since we can’t determine our own reasons then we are not in control of our choices. 

5. Principle of sufficient reason: The fifth argument for determinism is the PSR which is argued by determinist that since every fact of the world has an explanation then every choice and action has an explanation. The core of this argument has to do with metaphysical necessity in that the PSR proves that there can be no contingent facts but only necessary facts.  The argument goes like this 

  1. There is an explanation of why every fact is so and not otherwise (PSR)
  2. Therefore, there are no facts that are so and can be otherwise 
  3. But if there are contingent facts, then there are facts that are so and can be otherwise 
  4. Therefore, there are no contingent facts under the PSR, only necessary facts 

Furthermore, it has been argued that since there are only necessary facts then this proves a strong form of determinism which is necessitarianism (that every fact is metaphysically necessary). If necessitarianism is true it’s argued that its always necessary for someone to make a specific choice and therefore by necessity they could never have chosen something else and thus free will is refuted. 

  1. Only necessary facts exist 
  2. The ability to choose otherwise in a free-will decision is not a necessary fact 
  3. Therefore, free will is not a fact 
  4. Therefore, free will doesn’t exist

So, these two arguments put together show that the determinism thesis is true if the PSR is true. 

6. Omniscience argument: The sixth argument is somewhat different in that it argues for determinism from a theistic perspective. The basic argument is that if God knows everything then he also knows our free choices before we ever make a free choice and thus, we could never have the ability to choose something else. This means that if God is omniscient then determinism is true as God’s knowledge of all events means it determined those events. 

7. Incoherence of free will. The Burden of Proof and beyond: The final argument has to do with the burden of proof as well as the incoherence of free will. Many determinists argue that any definition of free will is incoherent or lacks definite clarity. That comparing two identical twins it would be impossible to tell if one has free will and the other lacks free will on top of the fact that we cannot empirically verify whether free will exists and therefore free will is meaningless. Furthermore these types of arguments take together the cumulative case for determinism and argue that given the reasons mentioned above that the burden of proof goes on the libertarian to properly define and show that free will exist but since this has not been done then the default option is simply to accept determinism until some good evidence for free will shows up. 

Moving forward

Now that we have reviewed and presented the best cumulative case for determinism the majority of this essay will be to show the various flaws in the case for determinism presented above. After the critique, we shall present the case for the free will thesis then wrap up with our cumulative case for free will

A critique of the case for determinism

Critique: Physical determinism 

The determinist argues that we live in a deterministic universe and therefore we know of things that are predetermined by prior causes. While this may be true for inanimate objects this doesn’t say anything about the choices of human beings and therefore this alone is not sufficient to justify the determinism thesis. Furthermore, the core of the free will debate has to do with whether there is agent causation in the universe or whether consciousness is an active force in nature that has causal powers of its own. So those that hold to free will do not deny determinism in the broad sense rather they say things are determined by the choices of agents. The determinist, on the other hand, denies agent causation and thus doesn’t think humans can have a say in nature. Things being described by mathematical equations that predict the motion of particles does not predict the choices of agents. According to the free will thesis the two main types of causes that exist is both event causation (causation of inanimate objects) and agent causation (causation of free agents) Therefore physical determinism itself is not evidence for the determinism thesis as the free will thesis would simply add that on top of their being event causation there is also agent causation. But since the case for determinism is cumulative the determinist would simply object that reductionism is enough to prove their thesis. We will now proceed to that. 

Critique: Reductionism:

The more significant argument for determinism is the claim that mental states simply just are brain states. If mental states can be reduced to physical states and if physical states are deterministic then it follows that mental states and also deterministic and thus free will does not exist. However, while it may be true that if reductionism is true then the determinism thesis is true the burden would be on the determinist to actually show that reductionism is true. Simply saying that it’s true is an obvious example of begging the question. There are serious problems with reductionism when we look at it more closely. Reductionism is the view that our mental states or our consciousness can be fully reduced to neurons in the brain. In other words, physicalist reductionism says that all experience is reduced to something that is not itself an experience in and of itself. However, the biggest problem with this is what’s termed the “hard problem of consciousness”. 

The hard problem distinguishes itself from the easy problems as any easy problems will include information processing in cognition, the focus of attention, the deliberate control of behavior (free will), the ability of a system to access its own mental states, etc. If this was all consciousness was then there wouldn’t be a hard problem. While we may not know yet how these things are fully explained with current neuroscience, we can certainly explain them in the future. The issue, however, is that all models of the brain already assume experience accompanies these processes without explaining experience itself which brings us to the hard problem. The hard problem is about experience itself. When we think and perceive the world there is information processing but there is also a subjective aspect. An organism is conscious if there is something it is like to be that organism. 

In other words, it is the subjective experience itself that is the problem and not just the knowledge that an organism has or it’s complex information processing no matter how complex it actually is. This is why adding complexity to a human brain will never explain the experience itself. One cannot simply just explain it in terms of functions. To explain things, we simply need to only look at its mechanism and its environment and how it operates in nature. But with consciousness or experience, it’s about why are these functions accompanied by experience. Furthermore, functions can go in the dark in which they happen without an experience being accompanied by them in which case there is no thing in which there is something it is like to be that thing rather that thing is only having functions and lacking experience. And this leads us to the crux of the problem. 

Reductionism requires that at the fundamental bottom level of our brains there is no thing that it’s like to be our brains so then if our brains do in fact produce experience in this sort of reductionistic way in which our experiences in and of itself reduce to something that is not an experience in and of itself (if experience is not fundamental to the brain but rather the brain produces experience) then it necessarily leads to an “experience” being itself non-experiential and thus your left with a contradiction. 

Any conceivable solution to this problem that attempts to save physicalist reductionism will necessarily contain a contradiction within itself and therefore won’t be a solution at all. This is why the hard problem of consciousness can only be solved if we reject physicalist reductionism. Because of the hard problem our experience is fundamental to the brain rather than produced by the brain. Our brain simply correlates with our experience in its fundamental way it is not that consciousness or experience is a byproduct of the brain. 

So, once we take into account this hard problem of consciousness, we can see that the determinant cannot use reductionism as evidence for determinism if reductionism is false. The most likely scenario is that consciousness is simply fundamental and that mental states are not reducible to brain states. Therefore, with showing reductionism to be highly unlikely we have refuted the first 2 lines of evidence for the determinism thesis.

Critique: Libet type arguments

The most famous argument against free will in neuroscience comes from the Libet experiments and similar experiments that use the same methodology. Basically, researchers found that through brain scans they were able to predict someone’s choice a full 10 seconds before they consciously made that choice (brain’s readiness potential). This is more significant as this has to do specifically with human choices and not just inanimate objects and therefore the determinist says that since researchers found no evidence for agent causation in these experiments rather it contradicted agent causation then human choices are in fact predetermined. However, there are several problems which I will highlight that show why these experiments cannot be used for the determinism thesis. 

Methodological problems

The first problem has to do with the choices people are making in the experiments. The experiment was simply about pressing buttons and not about any moral decisions or decisions that are more deliberate and take time to think on. When we make deliberate free decisions, we will always take morality into account, like when we are deciding between right and wrong. In these types of experiments, the subject is asked to press a button arbitrarily and no deliberation is involved. The primary intention has been completed before the experiment which was to push pointless buttons in some arbitrary time. We know of many actions that are arbitrary like breathing or eating that are virtually automatic in nature so it is hardly surprising that someone’s mind automatically presses buttons in these experiments and therefore a readiness potential would be involved. The point is that they are abstract real-life situations as the experiment is about pressing random buttons and not something more serious like deciding if you’re going to kill someone. So, while these experiments do give us insight into how automatic processes work (processes that we already knew about before the experiment) this says nothing about human freedom. 

The main methodological problem is that none of these experiments deal with more serious decisions like moral decisions or deliberate ones rather they are focused on what we would already expect to be automatic processes going on in the human brain. This holds true for any experiment involving the pressing of buttons so with this methodological problem in place this gives us our first reason to doubt that these experiments provide good evidence for the determinism thesis. 

Scientific problems

We shall now dive into the various scientific problems with any Libet type argument against free will. There are several considerations to take into account. The first has to do with the fact that several studies show the readiness potential is present even when there are no conscious decisions being made. This provides us with good reasons that the readiness potential cannot be the cause of conscious decisions. In one 2008 study subjects were told they had to press a button when they saw a cube, among many other shapes. So the neural activity is present well before the presentation of a stimulus. The observed activity could not have been regarded as a specific preparation to press one of the buttons rather than the other.

“We performed an experiment where participants observed a stimulus on a computer monitor and were instructed to press one of two buttons, depending on the presented stimulus. We found neural activity preceding the motor response, similar to Libet’s experiments. However, this activity was already present prior to stimulus presentation, and thus before participants could decide which button to press. Therefore, we argue that this activity does not specifically determine behaviour. Instead, it may reflect a general expectation. This interpretation would not interfere with the notion of free will.”

 This leaves the room open to various free will interpretations in how the Libet experiment should be seen.  

The second problem is that later researchers demonstrated the existence of a veto in the readiness potential. This means that the readiness potential can build up overtime but the intentional mind has the ability to veto the readiness potential from carrying out a decision. In 2015 one study said this 

“In humans, spontaneous movements are often preceded by early brain signals. One such signal is the readiness potential (RP) that gradually arises within the last second preceding a movement. An important question is whether people are able to cancel movements after the elicitation of such RPs, and if so until which point in time. Here, subjects played a game where they tried to press a button to earn points in a challenge with a brain–computer interface (BCI) that had been trained to detect their RPs in real time and to emit stop signals. Our data suggest that subjects can still veto a movement even after the onset of the RP. Cancellation of movements was possible if stop signals occurred earlier than 200 ms before movement onset, thus constituting a point of no return.” 

The significance of this study is mentioned in the study itself 

“Significance: Many studies have shown that movements are preceded by early brain signals. There has been a debate as to whether subjects can still cancel a movement after onset of these early signals. We tested whether subjects can win a “duel” against a brain–computer interface designed to predict their movements in real time from observations of their EEG activity. Our findings suggest that subjects can exert a “veto” even after onset of this process. However, the veto has to occur before a point of no return is reached after which participants cannot avoid moving.” -The point of no return in vetoing self-initiated movements” 

This means that we can have libertarian free will that is compatible with the Libet experiments and therefore this provides us with another reason that we should doubt these experiments provide good evidence for the determinism thesis. 

The third problem is a much more serious and fatal objection that can be raised against any Libet type arguments against free will and this is due to the fact that there is evidence that the readiness potential itself is absent when one is making deliberate choices. In early 2018 researcher, Maoz discovered that there are different neural mechanisms in the brain’s decision making.

“The onset of the readiness potential (RP)—a key neural correlate of upcoming action—was repeatedly found to precede subjects’ reports of having made an internal decision. This has been taken by some as evidence against a causal role for consciousness in human decision-making and thus as a denial of free-will. Yet those studies focused on purposeless, unreasoned, arbitrary decisions…It remains unknown to what degree these specific neural precursors of action generalize to deliberate decisions, which are more ecological and relevant to real life. We therefore directly compared the neural correlates of deliberate and arbitrary decision making during a $1000-donation task to non-profit organizations. While we found the expected RPs for arbitrary decisions, they were strikingly absent for deliberate ones. Our results are congruent with the RP representing the accumulation of noisy, random fluctuations, which drive arbitrary—but not deliberate—decisions. The absence of RPs in deliberate decisions further points to different neural mechanisms underlying deliberate and arbitrary decisions and thus challenges the generalizability of studies that argue for no causal role for consciousness in decision making from arbitrary to deliberate, real-life decisions.”-Neural precursors of decisions that matter—an ERP study of deliberate and arbitrary choice

This implies that when making more moral choices that the brain is not running on automatic processes but rather free will is involved. This will lead us to the cumulative case against all Libet type arguments 

 

The death of Libet type arguments

To summarize we took into account the argument that human’s decisions can be predicted up to 10 seconds before they made a decision and therefore free will is an illusion. However, there are 5 major problems with taking Libet type experiments as evidence for the determinism thesis. 

  1. The main methodological problem is that none of these experiments deal with more serious decisions like moral decisions or deliberate ones rather they are focused on what we would already expect to be automatic processes going on in the human brain. 
  2. The fact that the readiness potential is present even when there are no conscious decisions being made. This provides us with good reasons that the readiness potential cannot be the cause of conscious decisions.
  3. Readiness potential activity was already present prior to stimulus presentation, and thus before participants could decide which button to press. Therefore, this activity does not specifically determine behavior. Instead, it may reflect a general expectation and it leaves room open for free will. 
  4. Researchers have identified a point of no return in self-initiated movement which supports the interpretation that the mind has the ability to veto the readiness potential so that free will may take place in decision making
  5. Maoz has discovered that the readiness potential is absent when a subject makes a deliberate rather than arbitrary choice. The experiments involving arbitrary choices therefore cannot be counted as evidence against free will due to the fact that the subjects were making arbitrary rather than deliberate choices and therefore any previous studies that involved arbitrary choices cannot be counted as evidence against free will.  

These 5 reasons give us good grounds to doubt that Libet type arguments are successful in supporting the determinism thesis and therefore this takes down the 3rd line of evidence for the determinism thesis. 

Critique: Strawson type arguments 

The fourth line of evidence for the determinism thesis comes from the Strawson type arguments. These mainly have to do with the idea that since we have reasons for our choices then we lack free will. There are various versions of the argument but the most basic one that is central to all of them comes from this syllogism.

(1) Nothing can be causa sui – nothing can be the cause of itself.

(2) In order to be truly morally responsible for one’s actions, one would have to be causa sui, at least in certain crucial mental respects.

(3) Therefore, nothing can be truly morally responsible.

However, there are some problems with these type of argument where I wish to highlight. 

Models of free will based on criteria causation

The first major problem is that it ignores models of free will in which there can be reasons that shape our free will decision processes. The “criteria” or “reasons/reasoning” is the weighting, values, goals, and past outcomes that the brain uses in order to choose for future outcomes. During deliberation, the brain will test the various options producing a pathway of events along with that choice, much like an imaginary “worldline”. New criteria will lie along these optional future paths (navigations). This can be imagining what meal might taste best comparing the satisfaction levels to past similar meals or this may be imagining being married to several different partners producing multiple decades of events. This set of various paths being testing and predicting in memory are called a cognitive phase space as the agent chooses particular “paths”, a particular set of criteria will be gathered. Just the same rejecting some paths, particular criteria will not be attained. IF the agent chooses a path due TO the criteria that can be gathered, that agent is now “cultivating criteria”. 

Peter Tse describes this as the second order free will or meta-free will

“Finally, it is not enough to simply have the ‘first-order free will’ afforded by the above kind of nervous system that can choose actions freely. Only if present choices can ultimately lead to a chooser becoming a new kind of chooser — that is, only if there is second-order free will or metafree will — do brains have the capacity to both have chosen otherwise, and to have meta-chosen otherwise. Only such a metafree will allows a brain to not only choose among options available now, but to cultivate and create new types of options for itself in the future that are not presently open to it . Only then can there be responsibility for having chosen to become a certain kind of person who chooses from among actions consistent with being that kind of person.” Dr. Peter Tse

So, the brain is preparing future states during which new criteria is the goal of the choice the chooser is now “choosing what kind of chooser he wishes to become”. This leap frog’s causa sui because the chooser is “getting ahead” of every oncoming T=0 of the moment of the decision is executed (real time, post deliberation).

It’s important to understand there are two flavors of determinism.

1) Independent determinism – this is natural forces; we can call this the LaPlacian domain

2) Dependent determinism (criteria) – this is when the once independent forces are exploited for informational or criterial causation and this type of determinism would be agent causation. 

Analogy 

To understand criteria causation or agent causation and its relation to our reasons there is a simply analogy one can make with falling rocks. Independent would be like water falling down rocks. The rocks are not placing filtered constraints on the water. The system could be described as Laplacian. a + b = c. Dependent would be as if the water’s input had decoding filters placed on it in a broader system. The water’s input’s future is modified via filters from the “rocks”. The a + b = c stops when both physical AND informational pathways are required. Changes in the physical system’s criteria (volitional attention aka consciousness) limits firing in light that they must be met by future inputs to continue on “falling down these rocks” but guided by criteria.

So ultimately free will is completely logical IF you approach it from the top down macrostate perspective which is the brain’s preparing and testing the long-term future tensed pathways. In such a model neither natural forces or the linear philosophy of causation is a potent rebuttal. This refutes the first premise of the argument since things can be the cause of themselves if you take into account something like metafree. Therefore, with understanding criteria causation and its relation to free will we see that no Strawson type argument is successful in supporting the determinism thesis thus the fourth line of evidence is refuted. 

Critique: Principle of sufficient reason 

The fifth argument for determinism comes from the PSR. Now I do not intend to dispute the PSR in this essay I want to argue that the PSR does not conflict with free will. The argument I intend to refute would be this one 

  1. Only necessary facts exist 
  2. The ability to choose otherwise in a free will decision is not a necessary fact 
  3. Therefore, free will is not a fact 
  4. Therefore, free will doesn’t exist

The first thing to point out is that facts in and of themselves are not deterministic they are just simply part of reality. As mentioned before under certain models of free will, there is a criterion that needs to be met in order for a choice to be made. While it’s true this kind of free will works better with soft libertarianism than hard libertarianism it is still free will but it takes into account external influences. This way free will is explainable and that is all that the PSR requires. 

Furthermore, as demonstrated in the previous model brain sets up multiple possibilities which are real physical necessary states “IN the world”. The state that brings the agent the desired self-cultivation will be the path chosen converting one of the possible into the actual. So undetermined facts (free will facts) can still be necessary facts which refutes P2 of the above argument

The fundamental problem with this argument is that a “necessary fact” doesn’t have to be determined fact it’s only a fact of the world. The final decision in human choices is the byproduct of criteria that guided it. This criterion is a necessary fact of the world but it’s still dependent determinism which are independent forces are exploited for informational or criterial causation. 

So, the refutation of this line of evidence for determinism is similar to the refutation of Strawson arguments. This takes down the fifth line of evidence for the determinism thesis. 

Critique: Omniscience argument

The sixth line of evidence is a little unique in that it argues against free will from a theistic perspective. It argues that God’s knowledge of choices is what determines choices and therefore free will doesn’t exist. To be honest, out of all the arguments for determinism this is perhaps the weakest as it ignores the fact that omniscience is not the same as meticulous providence (the view that God directly causes all events). Rather God would be outside of time and actualize all things at once so then the free choices of creates is what determines Gods knowledge not the other way around. 

Furthermore, having knowledge of something doesn’t mean your knowledge determined it rather it was the thing that you already know about that determined your knowledge. In other words, the free will of creates is what determines God’s knowledge of those choices. Since if there are no choices to be made, then God would not know them since those choices do not exist. Free will has to exist for God to know about it otherwise he wouldn’t have the knowledge of free choices in the first place. This idea does not in any way provide evidence for determinism so not much more can be said on it. 

Critique: Incoherence of free will. The Burden of Proof and beyond

The final argument for determinism simply has to do with the lack of a clear definition for free will. Its argued that if we were to take two identical twins it would be impossible to tell if one has free will and the other does not on top of the fact that free will is not empirically verifiable and therefore is meaningless to talk about. The issue however is that free will is similar to consciousness in that it is irreducibly subjective. When we borrow from the concept of philosophical zombies for example, we see that comparing two identical twins (one of them a p-zombie) you cannot tell if one person is conscious and the other is not. This means that free will just like consciousness can only be known from the subjective aspect of the human mind. Furthermore, something doesn’t need a definition for it to be coherent. You cannot define colors like blue since you have to experience it and must be intuitive it’s not limited to definitions. Additionally, making the argument that since free will is not empirically verifiable then its meaningless is question begging positivist epistemology which ignores the subjective and intuitive aspects of the human mind. We can make reasonable inferences to free will from intuition, even if we can’t absolutely prove that it exists empirically. Any definition of free will can and will depend on your particular constitute of libertarianism but if we take the criteria causation version of free will then free will is simply: The ability overtime for an individual to navigate to a type of chooser as a down operation. 

Language will always be limited to describe complex ideas and our categories of language are never really perfect. This is why we must be careful with how we define complex ideas like free will, especially if there is a lot that goes into it. However, given that free will is subjective then it is no surprise that a 3rd person methodology which is science cannot empirically prove that something 1st person like consciousness or free will exist rather it can only make inferences that those things exist.

Moving forward

We have presented our critique of the case for the determinism thesis and have found major flaws in all of the lines of evidence for determinism. Since we have addressed and critiqued the main arguments for determinism, we will now consider the cumulative case for the free will thesis and provide some good reasons to think that free will exist. 

The Case for the Free Will Thesis

In our investigation, we have found no good reasons to hold to determinism so the job now will be to address whether there can be made a good case for libertarian free will. As will be shown there are plenty of good reasons to think free will exist and we shall now begin our cumulative case. 

Intuition

The first line of evidence is simply our intuition of free will. While its true that intuitions can be wrong if we have no good reasons to doubt our intuitions then we should believe our intuitions to be true. This is because intuition is a good starting point when addressing whether a position is correct. If something is intuitively obvious then it is on the burden to show the intuition is wrong not on the one to show the intuition is correct. Since we have given our critique of the main lines of evidence for determinism then there’s simply no good reason as far as we know to doubt our intuition of free will. This serves as the first line of evidence for free will. 

Simplicity and prior probability

Building up from the last line of evidence libertarian free will is a much simpler explanation of human choices than determinism. It is simpler to say our choices are the result of our own mind controlling itself rather than some external cause outside our mind. While it may be true that we can never prove free will since we can’t go outside our experiences to see if our experiences are self-caused or external it is rational to simply take our choices as they are and accept that we are the ultimate cause of our own choices. Therefore, the prior probability of free will is higher than that of determinism and so determinism once again carries a higher burden of proof at least initially. 

The evidence and mechanism for agent causation in physics 

The third line of evidence comes from recent studies in quantum physics. To clarify quantum physics is about subatomic particles in nature that we can’t see with the naked eye. There is also lots of randomness in quantum physics so one cannot predict an event like one can in classical physics. A recent theorem in physics called “The free will theorem” is the main line of evidence for free will in quantum physics. It was developed by physicist John H. Conway and Simon Kochen:

 “It assets roughly that if indeed we humans have free will, then elementary particles already have their own small share of this valuable commodity. More precisely, if the experimenter can freely choose the direction in which to orient his apparatus in a certain measurement, then the particle’s response is NOT determined by the entire history of the universe”

To put it more simply, it would mean that the agents first cause would be the particles collapsing into a definite state to start a chain of events that initially started with that agent’s choice. Now a determinist may object that this assumes standard quantum physics and that other deterministic interpretations like hidden variable theories get around this issue. However, if we build up from our last pieces of evidence, we see the burden is on the determinist to show that hidden variables exist so that the free will theorem is falsified not for the libertarian to demonstrate the free will theorem is true as the math works out. We can reject the free will theorem by denying its axioms but one must show the axioms to be false by providing evidence for hidden variables. So, this does leave us with evidence for agent causation in physics and when we accept the basic facts of quantum physics without adding additional deterministic hidden variable theories then its most likely that humans have free will. 

Another objection is that this does not show free will to exist because Schrödinger’s equation is deterministic and thus quantum theory is deterministic however as Henry Stapp says: 

“The Schroedinger equation, like Newton’s and Maxwell’s equations, is deterministic: given the motion of the quantum state for all times prior to the present, the motion for all future time is fixed, insofar as the Schroedinger equation is satisfied for all times. However, the Schroedinger equation fails when an increment of knowledge occurs: then there is a sudden jump to a ‘reduced’ state, which represents the new state of knowledge. This jump involves the well-known element of quantum randomness.” 

Furthermore, once we understand how free will may have its own mechanism in nature then we get a much better understanding. There is a way in which our mind and brain are integrated together to have agent causation in quantum theory.

“The observer in quantum theory does more than just read the recordings. He also chooses which question will be put to Nature: which aspect of nature his inquiry will probe. I call this important function of the observer ‘The Heisenberg Choice’, to contrast it with the ‘Dirac Choice’, which is the random choice on the part of Nature that Dirac emphasized. According to quantum theory, the Dirac Choice is a choice between alternatives that are specified by the Heisenberg Choice: the observer must first specify what aspect of the system he intends to measure or probe, and then put in place an instrument that will probe that aspect. In quantum theory it is the observer who both poses the question, and recognizes the answer. Without some way of specifying what the question is, the quantum rules will not work: the quantum process grinds to a halt…This all works well at the pragmatic Copenhagen level, where the observer stands outside the quantum system, and is simply accepted for what he empirically is and does. But what happens when we pass to the vN/W ontology? The observer then no longer stands outside the quantum system: he becomes a dynamical body/brain/mind system that is an integral dynamical part of the quantum universe…Putting the observer inside the system does not, by itself, resolve this basic problem: the Schroedinger evolution alone remains unable to specify what the question is. Indeed, this bringing of the human observer into the quantum system intensifies the problem, because there is no longer the option of shifting the problem away, to some outside agent. Rather, the problem is brought to a head, because the human agent is precisely the quantum system that is under investigation. In the Copenhagen formulation the Heisenberg choice was made by the mind of the external human observer. I call this process of choosing the question the Heisenberg process. In the vN/W formulation this choice is not made by the local deterministic Schroedinger process and the global stochastic Dirac process. So there is still an essential need for a third process, the Heisenberg process. Thus the agent’s mind can continue to play its key role. But the mind of the human agent is now an integral part of the dynamical body/brain/mind. We therefore have, now, an intrinsically more complex dynamical situation, one in which a person’s conscious thoughts can — and evidently must, if no new element is brought in, — play a role that is not reducible to the combination of the Schroedinger and Dirac processes.”-Henry P. Stapp, Attention, Intention, and Will in Quantum Physics  

With a mechanism in place for how agent causation exists in our universe and thus a free will mechanism we now move into the neurological mechanisms underpinning free will.

Evidence for free will from neuroscience

The fourth line of evidence will make up the bulk of the case for the free will thesis as it has to do with evidence for free will from the study of recent neuroscience. Much of this is complex and difficult since this type of research is still in its infancy stages. I should warn my readers that this part of the essay will be a very advanced and technical read so readers are free to skip over some parts if they don’t understand the material but for those interested, there are several pieces of evidence for free will we will go over that come from neuroscience

The first thing to consider is that a lot of the research has moved on from Libet type methodology and now many researchers have developed different models of free will based on neuroscientific data. In a recent 2019 study researcher Thomas Hills came up with a neurological mechanism for free will. 

“Free will is an apparent paradox because it requires a historical identity to escape its history in a self-guided fashion. Philosophers have itemized design features necessary for this escape, scaling from action to agency and vice versa. These can be organized into a coherent framework that neurocognitive capacities provide and that form a basis for neurocognitive free will. These capacities include (1) adaptive access to unpredictability, (2) tuning of this unpredictability in the service of hierarchical goal structures, (3) goal-directed deliberation via search over internal cognitive representations, and (4) a role for conscious construction of the self in the generation and choice of alternatives. This frames free will as a process of generative self-construction, by which an iterative search process samples from experience in an adaptively exploratory fashion, allowing the agent to explore itself in the construction of alternative futures. This provides an explanation of how effortful conscious control modulates adaptive access to unpredictability and resolves one of free will’s key conceptual problems: how randomness is used in the service of the will. The implications provide a contemporary neurocognitive grounding to compatibilist and libertarian positions on free will, and demonstrate how neurocognitive understanding can contribute to this debate by presenting free will as an interaction between our freedom and our will.”

Studies like this demonstrate that the brain is able to have a system capable of free will. There are plenty of studies that discuss this in detail, some of which will be cited so those more interested in the subject can read it at their own time. Furthermore, they help to explain deliberation and the main difference between arbitrary and deliberate decision making. When it comes to making value judgements there are different mechanisms that are being studied in the field. Since the current evidence supports the idea that there are many different neurological mechanisms underlying decision making (more than just the readiness potential) then through these ideas one can have evidence for free will. As one study says 

“Rational, value-based decision-making mandates selecting the option with highest subjective expected value after appropriate deliberation. We examined activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and striatum of monkeys deciding between smaller, immediate rewards and larger, delayed ones. We previously found neurons that modulated their activity in this task according to the animal’s choice, while it deliberated (choice neurons). Here we found neurons whose spiking activities were predictive of the spatial location of the selected target (spatial-bias neurons) or the size of the chosen reward (reward-bias neurons) before the onset of the cue presenting the decision-alternatives, and thus before rational deliberation could begin. Their predictive power increased as the values the animals associated with the two decision alternatives became more similar. The ventral striatum (VS) preferentially contained spatial-bias neurons; the caudate nucleus (CD) preferentially contained choice neurons. In contrast, the DLPFC contained significant numbers of all three neuron types, but choice neurons were not preferentially also bias neurons of either kind there, nor were spatial-bias neurons preferentially also choice neurons, and vice versa. We suggest a simple winner-take-all (WTA) circuit model to account for the dissociation of choice and bias neurons. The model reproduced our results and made additional predictions that were borne out empirically. Our data are compatible with the hypothesis that the DLPFC and striatum harbor dissociated neural populations that represent choices and predeliberation biases that are combined after cue onset; the bias neurons have a weaker effect on the ultimate decision than the choice neurons, so their influence is progressively apparent for trials where the values associated with the decision alternatives are increasingly similar.”

This study goes over the different types of neurons in the brain that work during free will decisions. Basically, it’s that some neurons are value based others are reward based or just automatic based. The brain does not use “logic” in a deterministic sense it is non-linear in the sense of being able to shift direction and it is not like a computer that runs in linear processes. While there is an autopilot to the brain (readiness potential) there is no evidence that it controls free will in deliberate choices since deliberate choices have different nonlinear mechanisms that drive free will in this type of process. Again, even from a neuroscientific perspective, we may be able to explain free will one day and the type of research needed for this project will take some time. 

Moving beyond the Libet methodology, Future research and beyond

Having looked into the conceptual issues of free will as well as its neurological basis the thing we need is more research and right now there are only a handful of studies that go into the details about free will. For many years based on the Libet type experiments and its methodology free will was seen by many scientists as an illusion but now gaining the knowledge of there being different neurological mechanisms for decision making and the fact that deliberate decision processes are not deterministic we can see how free will is supported by neuroscience. 

The methodology used by Libet and other researchers that tested human decision making were all based on arbitrary decisions and therefore since arbitrary decisions are automatic in nature then this was seen as evidence against free will and this is the main reason for why all the studies that followed this same methodology were able to all reach the same conclusion: that free will does not exist. However, with the new knowledge in place for making the arbitrary/deliberation distinction, we can move on from this libet methodology and shift the paradigm toward a new methodology that can truly study free will. The researchers I’ve cited have already adopted this new methodology and their results are showing that free will does exist in the human brain. With this new methodology in place, the next 10-20 years of free will research will give us more details about how the neurons in our brains work and how we come to make our decisions. So, by accepting this new methodology that further grows our understanding of the human brain we can say quite confidently that neuroscience strongly supports and inferes the existence of free will. 

Philosophy of mind and human consensus

Having presented our case for free will before we conclude this essay, we should take into account the importance of the philosophy of mind. The libertarian free will I advocate is compatible with a wide range of views including idealism, dualism and non-reductive physicalism. So even if one is nonreligious, they may believe free will exist and does not have to hold to the materialistic determinism that some atheists hold too. I firmly think all humans should agree on the existence of free will and even if we may never absolutely prove the existence of free will we should all just accept our gut intuition that it is a real thing in the world. Taking moral responsibility for our actions is a very important thing in our world and if humans believe in free will then we may in fact make the world a better place not just for us but for all life on earth. 

Conclusion: The cumulative case for free will and the death of determinism

We close by asking: Do human beings generally have the free will to freely choose their actions without any prior causes and are human beings the originator and first cause of their actions? In light of what we have seen in this essay, the answer is a strong YES. 

To summarize the broad cumulative case for the free will thesis and our critique of the case for determinism we have found that there is positive evidence for agent causation in the universe namely from the fields of quantum physics. We have found that the prior probability of free will is higher than that of determinism due to it being a simpler theory so the initial burden is on the determinist to demonstrate their thesis to be true. Given this initial burden, it also applies to any hidden variable theories in quantum theory that attempt to describe quantum mechanics by pure determinism and thus we can be confident in the existence of agent causation. 

Moreover, attempts to argue against free will based on Reductionism, Libet type arguments, Strawson type arguments, the PSR or God’s omniscience have shown to be faced with major flaws. Reductionism is refuted by the hard problem of consciousness. Libet type arguments rely on an outdated methodology of studying free will which is based on arbitrary rather than deliberate choices. This has given rise to a new methodology which supports the existence of free will from neuroscience. As for Strawson type arguments, these ignore models of free will based on criteria causation. The “criteria” or “reasons/reasoning” is the weighting, values, goals, and past outcomes that the brain uses in order to choose for future outcomes. During deliberation, the brain will test the various options producing a pathway of events along with that choice, thus allowing for free will and refutes any Strawson argument. As for the PSR, it allows for free will since a “necessary fact” doesn’t need to be a necessary determined fact it’s only a fact of the world. The final decision in human choices is the byproduct of criteria that guided it. As for the incoherence of free will due to the fact that if we were to compare two identical twins and we can’t tell which one has the free will and which one does not this objection ignores the fact that free will is a purely irreducibly subjective aspect of the human mind and therefore can only be intuitively known from the 1st person perspective. Finally, with God’s omniscience, people’s free choices determines God’s knowledge, not vice versa. 

So, where does this leave us? I suggest that with taking our intuitions seriously and being open to agent causation in quantum physics as well as moving beyond the Libet type methodology that has existed in neuroscience as well as understanding that free will is ultimately an irreducibly subjective aspect of the human mind that free will is the most probable position to hold to when it comes to human choices. The full burden of proof now goes to the determinist to show that free will does not exist. I believe this essay serves as a robust defense to libertarian free will and so I challenge determinist to show why free will does not exist. If this essay has to any extent helped to give good solid reasons to believe in free will then it has served its purpose. 
 

References 

1″Bait and Switch | Books and Culture.” https://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2013/janfeb/bait-and-switch.html. Accessed 21 Sep. 2019.

2″Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain.” 13 Apr. 2008, https://www.nature.com/articles/nn.2112. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

3 “The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility – Philosophy.” 15 Sep. 1993, https://philosophy.as.uky.edu/sites/default/files/The%20Impossibility%20of%20Moral%20Responsibility%20-%20Galen%20Strawson.pdf. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

4 “The Principle of Sufficient Reason Proves … – YouTube.” 19 Aug. 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgu0M6YYp2s. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

5 “Hard problem of consciousness – Scholarpedia.” 21 May. 2009, http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Hard_problem_of_consciousness. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

6 “Brain preparation before a voluntary action: evidence … – NCBI.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19736023. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

7 “Brain signals do not demonstrate unconscious decision ….” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24394375. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

8 “Does the brain “initiate” freely willed processes? A philosophy ….” 17 Oct. 2012, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0959354312460926. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

9 “Barking up the wrong free: readiness potentials reflect … – NCBI.” 28 Mar. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23535835. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

10 Analysis of a choice-reaction task yields a new interpretation ….” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18096261. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

11 “[PDF] The point of no return in vetoing self-initiated ….” https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/The-point-of-no-return-in-vetoing-self-initiated-Schultze-Kraft-Birman/12db93edf2db054715efa29231c62de398d40150. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

12 “Neural precursors of decisions that matter—an ERP … – bioRxiv.” 1 Jan. 2017, https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/097626v1. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

13 “Two types of libertarian free will are realized in the human ….” https://www.dartmouth.edu/~peter/pdf/C12.pdf. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

14″The Strong Free Will Theorem.” https://www.ams.org/notices/200902/rtx090200226p.pdf. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

15″Attention, Intention, and Will in Quantum Physics.” 17 May. 1999, https://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/9905054. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

16″Neurocognitive free will – Royal Society Publishing.” 31 Jul. 2019, https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2019.0510. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

17 “Predeliberation activity in prefrontal cortex and striatum … – NCBI.” 26 Nov. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3840801/. Accessed 23 Sep. 2019.

Final Response to Aron “Cherry-pickin” Ra

Aron has lost any ounce of respect I once had for him with this last response. He still is not grasping basic definitions (like intrinsic and extrinsic), yet claiming I am the one being dishonest. There is a lot of projection in his video. However, the silver lining is we might be getting somewhere finally with pistis. At random times in this video, he seems to finally get that pistis doesn’t mean what he said in his last video, “Faith is a complete trust that is not based on evidence.” However, at other times he doesn’t seem to get it. For example, at one point in his conversation with Dr. Josh Bowen, he seems to suggest from what he studied that pistis is forced trust (Dr. Bowen doesn’t confirm this and we will get to this later on). But I am going to go through this video and respond to what needs to be addressed and leave it at that. I suspect Aron might respond again. He just seems to double down on the errors and ignore the mistakes he keeps making, especially when it comes to the social sciences.

In a nutshell, AronRa’s case rests on three rather fallacies: 

1. First, Aron Ra tried to prove that Christianity, in general, is tied to negative outcomes by cherry-picking individual instances of Christians behaving badly. Picking individual instances to prove a general trend is an example of the inductive fallacy called an association fallacy (or hasty generalization). In addition, he displays a related cognitive bias which in social psychology is called the intergroup attribution error. More on this later.

2. Second,  he has distorted (at times) the meaning of the word ‘pistis’ (faith) to imply that Christian doctrine by its very nature promoted a mindless belief sometimes even in the face of overwhelming evidence when no contemporary scholar of Koine Greek actually thinks that’s what the original word ‘pistis” meant. More on this later.

3. Finally, when I cited counterevidence to his thesis in the form of social science research that ties intrinsic religiosity to positive social outcomes, he thinks that’s a no-true-Scotsman fallacy. He thinks I am unjustifiably restricting my analysis of the benefits of religion to intrinsic religiosity — while ignoring Christians who are extrinsically religious. Again, more on this later.

Let’s address these points one by one. 

At 0:50 seconds in, Aron says he didn’t make any association fallacies in the debate, which is blatantly false. He spent a lot of time citing examples of Christians doing bad things (politicians, alleged Christians upset about breastfeeding in public, the Bible Belt, Catholic priests, etc.) and then argued Christianity was dangerous from these examples. You don’t have to take my word for it, anyone can go back and watch his opening presentation to see the connections he attempted to make. That is an association fallacy. Finding that some individual Christians behave badly doesn’t mean that Christianity, in general, is dangerous, and it doesn’t show that Christianity caused people to behave badly. There are actually two leaps of logic here. First is an association fallacy, since Aron Ra tried to prove a general trend by citing individual cases,  but the second one is a correlation-causation fallacy. Even if he were to succeed in proving a correlation between religion and negative outcomes, that would not prove a causal link.  It would equally have been an association fallacy if I got up there and spent half my time citing cherry-picked examples of good things Christians have done. That doesn’t necessarily mean Christianity caused good behavior.

Also, to clarify, I mainly accused Aron of a related cognitive error called the attribution error. What’s an attribution error?  It’s the cognitive bias in highly prejudiced people to assume that immoral actions committed by members of their in-group are outliers, but examples of immoral actions committed by members of an out-group prove a general trend. For instance, an atheist may believe that Stalin, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Jacobins of revolutionary France, and Pol Pot are just outliers or bad apples; isolated examples that are not representative of the atheist community, while instances of evil Christians are not just isolated examples, but representative of a general trend. 

After this, Aron says, “Listing the ways that the commands of Christian doctrine are and have been historically dangerous is not an association fallacy.” Here we have our first misrepresentation because I never said this or implied this is where the attribution error occurred in his presentation. I pointed out, as I just did yet again, that random examples of Christians behaving badly is the association fallacy. The error with this claim is to simply point out that there is no empirical evidence or meta-analysis that shows Christian doctrine causes bad behavior. The very limited data that might imply negative correlations is fickle, is not often replicated, and very few researchers have ever claimed Christian doctrine is a cause of harmful behavior (at least what I have read in the meta-analyses). 

Second, Aron is either confused or misrepresenting my point again. I never said this is where the association fallacy was made, and it is easy to verify this. Go back and watch the debate, or better yet, I’ll just link my entire opening script so everyone can see that when I called out an attribution error, it was over the citing of random examples, not addressing Christian doctrines. I covered that in a later section of my presentation.

After this, Aron cites some verses and reveals two things: a lack of charity in interpretation and a lack of scholarship. First is Matthew 15:11, “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” The second is Mark 16:18, “they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Aron says of this verse, “If the basic tenets of the faith tell people that if God says it doesn’t matter what they take into their bodies, they can hold venomous snakes and drink bleach and all that and it won’t hurt them if they can just make-believe hard enough…” 

Wow, where to begin…

First, it is nearly unanimous that Mark 16:18 is a later addition, thanks to the rigorous work done by Christian and non-Christian scholars in textual criticism. This has been known for over a century, and even very conservative scholars recognize this passage doesn’t go back to Jesus. (1)

The prior verse is widely taken out of context. I cannot find a scholarly source that suggests Jesus was saying it doesn’t matter biologically what you take into your body. Jesus was responding to Pharisees who focused on ritual purity. This is obviously clarified in verses 19-20 where Jesus says he is talking about what is defiling the heart. This is not a commentary on physical health.

Craig Keener notes in his commentary that this is about questions of what constitutes morality: “But Pharisaic scribes frequently determined morality (where the Torah was unclear) by extrapolating from tradition; by demanding that disciples extrapolate morality instead from biblical principles Jesus takes ethics out of the domain of the academy and courtroom and places it more fully in the daily lives of his followers.” (2)

D. A. Carson says, “The verb koinoi (‘makes [him] “unclean”’), here used (v.ll) for the first of thirteen times in the NT, literally means ‘to render common’; but because participation in what was common was for a practicing Jew to become ceremonially unclean, the customary NT meaning is very similar.” (3)

So Aron is asserting an uncharitable and unscholarly interpretation of a passage that he has been corrected on before (see his debate with Tyler Vela, during the cross-examination). It is also a blatant quote mine and he has never corrected himself on this.

Next, Aron cites Deuteronomy 22:23-24 and says this verse means you can kill a rape victim. Well, again, this is an uncharitable quote mine. Verses 25-27 tell of an account of a woman who is raped and is supposed to go free. Commentators have noted verses 23-24 are about a man and woman having an affair, not rape, as the Hebrew verbs are different. I’ll link to a video by an atheist who debunked this bad eisegesis.

Aron cites another Old Testament passage, Deuteronomy 13:6-10. Instead of addressing this, I’ll remind him I already addressed alleged Old Testament commands in my presentation during our debate. Remember this slide:Screen Shot 2019-09-03 at 10.08.56 AM.png

None of these commands are prescribed to Christians. Furthermore, this is a case of misreading scripture with modern eyes. Scholars note Levitical law and other ancient Near East (ANE) law codes are not modern law codes, but more likely treaties meant to teach judicial or moral wisdom. Here are some scholarly quotes to back this up:

Delbert Hillers says, “…there is no evidence that any collection of Near Eastern laws functioned as a written code that was applied by a strict method of exegesis to individual cases. As far as we can tell, these bodies of laws served educational purposes and gave expression to what was regarded as just in typical cases, but they left considerable latitude to local courts for determining the right in individual suits. They aided local courts without controlling them.” (4)

John Walton says, “The current view is that the collection of legal saying in the ancient Near Eastern documents constitutes expressions of legal wisdom assembled under the king’s sponsorship (and attributed to him) to provide evidence of his wisdom and justice… These are not laws that have been enacted, nor necessarily rulings that have actually been given. They are treatises on judicial wisdom.” (5)

J. Bottéro says, “In conclusion, we have here not a law code, nor a charter of a legal reform, but above all, in its own way, a treatise, with examples, on the exercise of judicial powers.” – Le code de Hammurabi, (6)

Bruce Wells says, “[The legal systems of the ANE] allowed the same infraction to be punished with different penalties. The wronged party often had the right to choose which penalty or penalties to impose on the offending party. A husband who had been wronged by pre-consummation sex plus deception thus had a range of penalties from which to choose.” (7)

So it is unlikely the ancient Israelites took these as we take modern law codes today. Aron hasn’t checked up on the scholarship regarding this topic and it shows. But either way, these verses are not prescribed to Christians, so Aron is just blatantly wrong claiming these verses lead to harmful effects in society. Furthermore, there is no study which empirically demonstrates these cherry-picked verses produce harmful effects. Thus, Aron’s claim that these verses lead to harmful effects is unverified, so that means he takes this all on faith that Christianity causes dangerous effects.

At 1:47, Aron says, “You dismissed all my examples as just Christians behaving badly, including my specific references to Jesus promoting slavery, among other dangerous ideas. Yet you now deny dismissing him right along with the rest of my list the way you definitely did.”

No, Aron, I addressed all this. Again, examples of Christians behaving badly in modern times is nothing but an attribution error, unless you have a direct study which shows (or at least finds a positive correlation) between negative behavior and certain Christian doctrines. You didn’t present any evidence to verify the attributions errors you kept making, and I addressed your claim that Jesus promoted bad behavior by pointing out the stipulations of the new covenant are to love one another (see slide and points above). The problem is that you are not even offering a rebuttal to my points, but instead pretending I never made a point, which is the real dodge going on here. If you don’t agree with my interpretation, offer a rebuttal. Don’t just pretend one doesn’t exist. That is what is dishonest.

At 2:02 Aron says, “You also denied that the Bible actually does endorse capital punishment for LGBTQ people.” Again, I addressed this in the debate and above in the blog. To recap, none of this is stipulated in the new covenant, and scholars note the Old Testament law is more didactic in teaching judicial wisdom via case law, not prescribing minimal sentences. This is getting repetitive. So from now on when Aron cites an Old Testament passage out of context, I’ll just ignore it and move on. Until he takes a more scholarly approach to this issue, there is no reason to engage with him on it, and he is just preaching to his audience. 

Also, he puts Romans 1:26-27 on the screen at this point, which doesn’t say “murder gays.” It literally says on the screen that Aron put up that God gave them over to their desires. So not only is Paul not commanding the murder of gays, he is telling us God lets them be (see a parallel in 1 Thess. 2:10-11). So that kind of challenges Aron’s point if God is just saying let them be. So Aron, did you even read the passage you are citing? 

Screen Shot 2019-09-03 at 10.17.12 AM copy.png

The next section makes me wonder if Aron even paid attention when I was speaking at our debate, or if he went back to check. At 2:28 he says, “You accused me of quote mining but cherry-picked a line out of Hebrews that directly contradicts what Jesus said in another verse that you yourself cited, where Jesus specified that we had better follow every jot and tittle of all those old Mosaic laws, because if we break even one of them we will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever practices every last one of those 613 Jewish commandments will be called great in heaven.”

Once again, we have another example of quote mining. I know, I am sure you are shocked, given what we have seen from Aron before. As I pointed out in the debate, Matthew 5:18 says, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Notice how Aron just quote-mined by leaving out the last part of the verse. Again, see my slide on when all was accomplished:

Screen Shot 2019-09-03 at 10.08.56 AM.png

Jesus said it will pass away when all is fulfilled, and it was all fulfilled in John 19:28-30, which is why this passage doesn’t contradict Hebrews 8. Second, I will remind you Jesus was an oral rabbi and frequently spoke in hyperbole, as was the custom at the time. Jesus also said the point of the law was to point to Him (John 5:39). So to do the law is to follow Jesus, which is explained in detail in Romans 3, not to literally keep the Mosaic law in practice, because that is impossible. 

At 2:57, Aron says, “You said that I provided no empirical evidence that Christianity causes bad behavior, ignoring the list of historical atrocities that were endorsed and enforced by Christian clergy and driven by Christian conviction, earning the title of the bloodiest religion in history.” 

Wow, once again, where to begin. Did you notice the contradiction from what he said earlier? 

Before that, notice Aron’s source that Christianity is the bloodiest religion in history doesn’t come from a historian or a peer-reviewed paper, but an article in the Washington Times (not the Washington Post, mind you). Oddly enough, he forgot to note that in this video. The author of the article is Chris Ladd, who is just a pundit. He also doesn’t use the phrase “bloodiest religion in history”. Aron interpreted that from the brief article. Even worse, the article doesn’t really support Aron’s interpretation. Ladd writes, “No matter what religion teaches, some bloody-minded believers will twist it to justify their own dark urges. Religion does what people tell it to do. There is a clear connection between religion and violence – human beings.” Aron cites and misrepresents this short article as if it was fact, which really speaks to his bias and poor research (see this short booklet for more on the poor research Aron has done in the past).

Second, remember that Vox Day (7) went through “The Encyclopedia of Wars,” by Alan Axelrod and Charles Phillips and found that of the 1,723 wars waged over the course of human history, only 124 were religious in nature (6.98%). Subtract Islam and the total number of wars attributed to religion is 3.23%. So mathematically, Aron is way off target here (and also lacking studies which demonstrate Christianity causes violence). AronRa is clearly oblivious to the evidence. How can Christianity be the bloodiest religion in history if in the absence of Christianity, wars were even bloodier, the body count even higher and the atrocities even more cold-blooded? The Mongol conquest of Europe, for instance, killed 34 million people. The communist regimes of the 20th century massacred more than 100,000,000 of their own citizens. (8)

Moreover, William Cavanaugh in the Blackwell Companion to Religious Violence notes that even in wars quintessentially identified as religious, such as the 30-year war, divisions between warring factions were more frequently drawn along secular than religious lines.  So mathematically, Aron is way off target here. (9)

Third, once again, this is an attribution error or association fallacy. Aron is just citing examples by association and then assuming too much. To quote Aron, from earlier in his own video, “An association fallacy would be like asserting that some Christians are bad therefore Christianity is bad.” So by Aron’s own words, giving a list of “historical atrocities that were endorsed and enforced by Christian clergy” is an association fallacy and doesn’t show Christianity is bad. Again, you need peer-reviewed, multivariate studies to show Christianity is dangerous, and so far the overwhelming amount of research shows the opposite is true (we will get to these studies he cited below). Any example he cites (like the Mormon execution), by his own standard, is just an attribution error or an association fallacy. So I’ll skip over the rest of the times he does this since his own words came back to bite him.

At about 3:51, Aron cites a dissertation of Juan M. Thompson on the effects of religiosity on mental health. First of all, within the discussion section, Thompson does admit the correlations are weak. Second, without spending too much time on the limitations of this study, I want to remind Aron what I said in my presentation during the debate, “In fact, numerous studies show intrinsic religiosity does increase one’s overall quality of life and has been positively associated with increased ethical behavior and overall well-being. Now, there will always be exceptions to the rule. Some studies do show religiosity is associated with various negative effects. But by in large, the consensus in the peer-reviewed literature is intrinsic religiosity is not only not dangerous, but that it is associated with beneficial results in multiple ways, some studies even cite a causal relationship.”

I have already acknowledged there are some studies that do find a negative correlation with intrinsic religiosity. This is why I focused on meta-analyses, which take into account a multitude of studies that reveal a broad range of results. In fact, in my presentation, I cited two meta-analyses on mental health which have sections that note studies that find a negative correlation between religiosity and mental health. However, when you take in all the studies published on this topic, by and large, intrinsic religiosity is positively associated with better mental health. Aron has just cherry-picked one study instead of looking at all the data together. There is so much quote-mining and cherry-picking going on. He really should have taken the stack I offered him:

image1.jpeg

At 3:56, Aron says, “Regarding the studies you cited, you asked why I said they were a dodge? Because as I said, in our debate, what they showed was only that some isolated aspect of Christianity may not be necessarily dangerous if that belief is only intrinsic, meaning that it is only for its own sake, described as a framework of life which is fortunately nowadays usually interpreted only as being good people and ignoring much of what the Bible actually says to contrary, which you do.”

It is hard to imagine how many errors can pile up in one short section. Aron is at it again, just making up definitions and not providing sufficient sources. Nowhere is intrinsic religiosity defined as “a framework of life which is fortunately nowadays usually interpreted only as being good people and ignoring much of what the Bible actually says to the contrary, which you do.” This is just nonsense.

I’ll just cite from one of the meta-analyses I cited in my presentation:

“Persons with [an intrinsic religious] orientation find their master motive in religion. Other needs, strong as they may be, are regarded as of less ultimate significance, as they are, so far as possible, bought into harmony with the religious beliefs and prescriptions. Having embraced a creed the individual endeavors to internalize it and follow it fully. It is in this sense that he lives his religion. (Allport & Ross 1967, p. 434)” (10)

In other words, to be an intrinsically religious Christian means you embrace the creeds of Christianity fully. You don’t ignore parts of it. So my point in citing meta-analyses was never a dodge, and the only reason Aron thinks it was is that he doesn’t understand the terminology or what the studies say (because he refused to read them). Aron just cannot seem to fathom how good people can follow what the Bible says, and the evidence shows their pro-social behavior (as the meta-analyses I cited strongly imply) is tied to their religiosity. Perhaps, as I noted in the debate, his interpretation of select passages is fallacious, most Christians don’t agree with his fallacious interpretations, and the overwhelming amount of research shows intrinsic religiosity is positively associated with beneficial outcomes. See the slide below:

Screen Shot 2019-09-03 at 10.49.23 AM.png

Earlier in the video, Aron said this slide was an unworkable framework, which was my point. The arguments that he constantly puts forward are leaps in logic and cannot actually show Christianity is dangerous. The fact that he had to admit this in the opening lines of his video says more than he realizes. 

Next, when Aron says, “As I said in our debate, what they showed was only that some isolated aspects of Christianity may not be necessarily dangerous if that belief is only intrinsic.” This statement doesn’t make any sense once we understand the definition of intrinsic religiosity. As we noted about intrinsic religiosity is, “Having embraced a creed the individual endeavors to internalize it and follow it fully. It is in this sense that he lives his religion.” If the studies show many positive benefits of this, then it is not just isolated aspects, but living your religion to its fullness. That should have been obvious. 

At 4:30 Aron gets very close to asserting a conspiracy is at work. He says, “The reality is that the very concept of intrinsic religiosity was invented to counter a number of studies that showed a positive correlation with prejudice, meaning that the more religious one is, the more prejudiced they tend to be.”

Wow… So scientists in psychology and social science want to hide the truth that religion causes prejudice. So they got together and fabricated a difference via the I-E orientation scale to hide the fact that religion causes prejudice. Don’t creationists make the same claims about conspiracies in evolutionary biology? Those claims are laughable, and this is laughable for the very same reason. 

The I-E orientation scale is not a conspiracy to hide that fact that religion causes prejudice. Scientists were asking the same questions any rational person would ask: “Is religion, itself, causing the beneficial result, or is it something external, like community unity or social gatherings?” So researchers realized they needed to divide subjects into the different ways they are religious, and typically what you come across is intrinsic, extrinsic, and quest (fundamentalism is sometimes even separated out as a distinct category). 

Also, notice Aron doesn’t cite a source for this claim he made. He just asserts it as fact without verifying its truth. Until he actually shows that the I-E orientation scale is a conspiracy to hide the fact that religion causes prejudice, this claim needs to be rejected as nonsense. As Hitchens said:

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Also, one of the meta-analyses I cited had this to say: “Moreover, we found no relation between the endorsement of religious doctrine specific to the Christian faith and racial prejudice.”

Aron then follows up this with another line that doesn’t make sense. He says: “…because you admitted that Christianity really is dangerous when believers act on those beliefs extrinsically, meaning they use their religion as a means to an end. In other words, whenever religion does something to further its own agenda.”

This doesn’t make sense, probably because he still doesn’t understand what extrinsic religiosity means. Christianity cannot be extrinsically religious. Only people can be extrinsically religious. It doesn’t make sense to say extrinsic religiosity is when “religion does something to further its own agenda.” That is utter nonsense. People who are extrinsically religious use any religion to further their own agenda. It is not Christianity at that point.

Extrinsic religiosity is defined as:

“Persons with [an extrinsic religious] orientation are disposed to use religion for their own ends. The term is borrowed from axiology, to designate an interest that is held because it serves other, more ultimate interests. Extrinsic values are always instrumental and utilitarian. Persons with this orientation may find religion useful in a variety of ways–to provide security and solace, sociability and distraction, status and self-justification… The extrinsic type turns to God, but without turning away from the self. (Allport & Ross 1967, p. 434)” (10)

Again, people are extrinsically religious, not Christianity itself. Very rarely will you see social scientists ever say “extrinsic Christianity” and when they do they are using it as a label to describe groups of people, not Christianity, itself. So Aron is either lying or misunderstanding the terms. I never admitted Christianity can be dangerous when it is extrinsic because that doesn’t make sense. At this point, people need to realize this is not even my opinion against his. Aron is just getting basic facts and definitions wrong. I should not have to waste time correcting basic information. 

After this, Aron just continues with the same misunderstandings and says nonsensical things like, “…any extrinsic action taken by that religion,” or “…when your religion acts it is dangerous.” This doesn’t make sense because religions don’t act, people do. If you thought maybe Aron just mixed up his words, that is not likely, given he continues this throughout the rest of his video.

Ironically, at 6:00 Aron gives an analogy that actually shoots himself in the foot. He says, “your argument was similar to saying… that having a gun in your house isn’t dangerous just as long as no one is ever tempted to do anything with it.” 

Yeah, Aron, exactly. Guns are not dangerous, people are. Likewise, Christianity isn’t dangerous, people are, just like Christianity cannot be extrinsic or intrinsic, people are. Great analogy, thanks for making the point for me. 

Aron then cites a clip from the debate again, which I already responded to in my response video by citing my video on the theology of hell, so this was already addressed.

After this clip, Aron gets to actual studies that he either cherry-picked or probably didn’t read. Fortunately, I read them. At 6:44, the first one he cites, is a study titled, “Judgements About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds.

Aron says of this study, “And yes, there are peer-reviewed studies to prove what I said. For example, this study shows that non-religious children are more capable of distinguishing fact from fiction than religious children who are more susceptible to deceptive fantasies, just like I already predicted they would be. We didn’t really need a study to confirm what we already knew was obvious, right? And notice we’re also only talking about intrinsic religiosity here.”

I said before I quoted Aron that he probably didn’t read them (or he is lying), because the study never even says the word “intrinsic,” and you can verify that, Aron. It should be obvious to anyone who has read these types of studies that they would never include an I-E orientation scale because children are not capable of answering a questionnaire to determine their I-E orientation. 

In fact, Aron should not be putting so much weight on this study because researchers are aware of the limitation of studying children. To quote from “Studying Children in Context: Theories, Methods, and Ethics”:

“Studying children is a different and more problematic endeavor from studying adults, and studying young children is even more so. Physical, social, cognitive, and political distances between the adults and child make their relationship very different from adult relationships. A participant observer can never become a child. He remains a very definite and readily identifiable ‘other.’” (11)

This should also be obvious since the brains of children are nowhere near fully developed, so social scientists always take these types of studies with a grain of salt. Furthermore, I cannot find any indication that the results have been replicated, let alone a cross-cultural analysis. This paper also had very small sample sizes (66 in the first study and 33 in the second).

Moreover, Aron is not really getting at what the paper demonstrates. In a nutshell, the studies performed in the paper basically indicate children in religious homes have a broader concept of what can happen or what is possible, which would be expected since religious households would include the idea of an agent beyond the natural realm, whereas this would not be included in nonreligious households. The study does not say, as Aron says, that religious children are more “susceptible to deceptive fantasies.” He just made a conjecture.

To quote from the study directly:

“Thus, religious children are likely to see God as connected to their everyday lives and are prepared to view religious stories containing miracles as similar to realistic stories. They judge the characters in those stories to be real, and they frequently appeal to God in justifying those categorizations. Thus, for these children, God is part of the real world and stories that refer to God can properly be regarded as realistic…The findings are, however, consistent with the third explanation, namely that religious children have a broader conception of what can actually happen. Scrutiny of children’s justifications lends support to this conclusion.” (page 21)

Since Aron knows in his heart that religion is wrong, we can see where his conjecture comes from. In reality, the study only demonstrates the obvious, that religious subjects have a broader range of what is considered possible than nonreligious subjects. In the paper, the authors note religious children are still able to recognize fantasy. For example, they identified Snow White as fantasy and George Washington as real. This study does not prove what Aron thinks, and the fact that he used the word “prove” shows he doesn’t understand the implications of studies like this. They never prove anything, but instead, lend credence to one theory or another. 

Furthermore, let me remind Aron what I said in our debate which shows us he is cherry-picking studies: “In fact, numerous studies show intrinsic religiosity does increase one’s overall quality of life and has been positively associated with increased ethical behavior and overall well-being. Now, there will always be exceptions to the rule. Some studies do show religiosity is associated with various negative effects. But by in large, the consensus in the peer-reviewed literature is intrinsic religiosity is not only not dangerous, but that it is associated with beneficial results in multiple ways, some studies even cite a causal relationship.”

The next study Aron cites really doesn’t help his case. The title is, “Mixed Blessing: The Beneficial and Detrimental Effects of Religion on Child Development among Third-Graders”.

Aron says, “Another study published in the journal of “Religions” shows that there can be beneficial effects to any religion if the whole family or community shares that same belief and don’t confront other beliefs, in which case all those advantages would be lost, and this again is intrinsic religiosity.”

This is, yet again, another mischaracterization of what the study shows. Like the previous, the study never mentions intrinsic religiosity, so I doubt Aron read it, or he is lying about it. It is focusing on third graders, as you can see from the title behind him, so the same limitations apply, as I mentioned above.

Furthermore, let me just quote directly from the study so you can see for yourself how Aron is mischaracterizing it. I’ll include a hyperlink here so you can read the full context if you want:

“More frequent parent–child discussions of religion significantly bolstered standardized test scores for reading, thereby suggesting that such conversations—perhaps practiced as scripture study or religious devotionals within the home—might enhance children’s literacy. Also, some forms of parental religiosity (fathers’ attendance and both spouses attending semiregularly or frequently) produced salutary effects on children’s approaches to learning as rated by teachers. Therefore, children’s orientations to learning and their achievement on tests are affected somewhat differently by parental religiosity… the psychological adjustment, social competence, and academic performance of somewhat older children is likely subject to a mix of religious factors (e.g., parents’ attendance) and nonreligious factors (e.g., teachers, peers)… 

Parental religiosity yields salutary effects on a number of child development outcomes related to psychological adjustment (e.g., self-control) and social competence (e.g., interpersonal skills). And it can also bolster children’s orientations toward learning. However, parental religiosity can also undermine children’s academic development in reading, math, and science. In this way, parental religiosity is a mixed blessing in the lives of developing children. Moreover, within the household religious environment, we found that parent–child discussions of religion exhibited generally beneficial effects for developing children with respect to their interpersonal skills and reading scores but that spousal arguments about religion were generally ineffectual (producing null results). Thus, when considering developmental trajectories over time, different facets of the household religious environment yield distinctive effects. In short, this study renders a more complicated portrait concerning the effects of parental and household religion in the lives of young children, such that several salutary outcomes on psychological and social measures are observed alongside a series of mostly adverse effects on academic performance measures.” (pages 15-16)

The study never says intrinsic religiosity or Christian doctrine can affect a child’s development. After all, I already cited a meta-analysis which shows religion can have positive effects on GPA scores of children. What this study actually shows is that parental activities and how parents handle their religious disagreements or concerns can have a negative effect on their children. Who would disagree that parental arguments can have a negative impact on their children? Aron’s summary is a pretty bad misrepresentation. No wonder he didn’t directly quote from it. 

After this, Aron cites studies on prayer failing to work, as if we haven’t heard this straw man before. Prayer is not a magical formula that God has to answer to. When atheists make this argument, it shows they are not even trying. I’ll just link to a video which addresses this nonsense and remind Aron that I already cited a meta-analysis which did show religiosity aided the health of cancer patients. So more cherry-picking from Aron.

After this, Aron continues to demonstrate his lack of knowledge on this subject by talking of “extrinsic Christianity,” which as I explained above, is not a thing (unless you are describing groups of people, not a religion). That would be like saying I have a happy house. The adjective cannot coherently explain the noun.

At 8:21 Aron says, “You showed an image of Steven Anderson, leader of the Independent Fundamental Baptists, who advocates killing disobedient children as the Bible says we should. You said it would not be a ‘no true Scotsman fallacy’ for you to dismiss such religious extremists who interpreted scripture differently from the way that you do, but no, you can say they are bad Christians and I’ll agree with you since they’re bad people, but you can’t say that they’re not truly Christian as if they’re not Christian at all.”

Since I already addressed this and Aron doesn’t seem to understand the problem with his argument. I’ll repeat what I said in my earlier video response. Perhaps if he reads it he will grasp the double standard he is setting up:

“The no true Scotsman fallacy is meant to be used for arguments that dismiss members of a group over arbitrary reasons. Take one of the original examples: you are only a true Scotsman if you eat your porridge a certain way. But the obvious problem is such an act is arbitrary to what it means to be a Scotsman. However, if someone is born in Germany, has no Scottish heritage, and pretends they are a Scotsman, it is not a fallacy to say they aren’t, because you are not dismissing their claim on arbitrary reasons, but on sufficient reasons. That should be obvious. And likewise, if someone claims to be a Christian and doesn’t follow core doctrines of what it means to be a Christian, it is not a fallacy to point out they are only a Christian in name. As I was trying to explain to you at the end of the cross-examination if a self-proclaimed humanist went around killing religious people in the name of humanism you would obviously say they were not a real humanist, and rightly so because they are doing things that go against the core tenants of humanism. Why doesn’t the same logic apply when it is the other side?”

If Aron can dismiss self-proclaimed humanists who would not hold to core doctrines of humanism, I can, and do, easily dismiss Steve Anderson as a Christian since he advocates the opposite of what Jesus advocates (John 15:12).

Next, we get to the utter lie from Aron that initially convinced me to write this response. This is why I have no more respect for him. At 9:17 he begins by paraphrasing me, “…nowhere in the Bible does it say that children will go to hell if they don’t believe, but even if that is not in the Bible, you know that Christianity teaches that anyway and you told my wife that you even believe that yourself. So your hypocrisy is showing.”

Wow, what lie from the mouth of Aron, himself. This is absolutely incorrect, and you can verify that. As I pointed out in my video response, I made a video on hell, where I preach against that and pointed out the only people who are in hell are the people who want to be there. But it appears Aron doesn’t like to fact-check (as we have seen from this video already). He would rather just take hearsay on faith. Ironic. Aron, your hypocrisy is showing. 

I don’t know what your wife thinks she heard, but you, of all people, should know you have to verify that claim, instead of just taking her word on faith. Interestingly enough, you just said yourself that I told you that the belief that children go to hell is not in the Bible. So you paraphrased me, then take on faith what your wife thinks she heard (she probably just didn’t understand what I was saying), which completely contradicts how you just paraphrased what I said. You didn’t see the problem?

At 9:46 Aron says, “You say that assuming a soul without evidence is justified because of your unwarranted assumption that it just not part of nature”.

It should be obvious I never said this (more lies from Aron) and you can verify that by looking at my video response. I do believe there is a soul because of evidence, and I did a whole series on it. 

A lot of what follows is more unsupported assertions that I don’t care to address. At 11:10 Aron once again quote mines the Bible, “you cite in your vacuous attack a passage to love thy neighbor, which is a reference to community unity which you said was extrinsic, not intrinsic, and I think you are mistaken about that, but the verse you referred to was a repeated line that actually means, or actually meant originally, love your fellow Jew as yourself, which contradicts what Jesus said in Matthew 10 about how you are supposed to hate yourself and your whole family.”

It is hard to imagine how anyone can be this bad at reading the Bible. First, at this point, you should be able to note the obvious flaw in that he still doesn’t understand what extrinsic and intrinsic mean.

Second, Aron is quote mining the Old Testament and the New Testament this time. The Old Testament says to treat the foreigner as a native-born Jew (Leviticus 19:34) and to love them (Deuteronomy 10:19). In the New Testament, Jesus says to love your enemies (Matthew 5:43) and Paul says all people are equal (Galatians 2:28). Jesus also gave the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is about how your neighbor is the one who cares for you, regardless of ethnicity (Luke 10:25-37).

Third, Matthew 10 doesn’t say to hate yourself or your whole family. I think he meant Luke 14, which is obvious hyperbole. Aron’s research is very poor. Darrel Bock says, “The call to ‘hate’ is not literal but rhetorical” (Denny 1909–10). “Otherwise, Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbor as oneself as a summation of what God desires makes no sense (Luke 10:25-37). The call to hate simply means to ‘love less’ (Gen. 29:30-31); Deut. 21:15-17; Judg. 14:16). The image is strong, but it is not a call to be insensitive or to leave all feeling behind…. This saying needs to be set in the context of it first-century setting” (12).

I’ll link to a video where this is explained more.

After this, Aron quote-mines the Bible again, ignoring Jesus’ command to preach the gospel to all nations (Luke 14:23, Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:7-8). It is hard to imagine how he can quote mine this much and never check the scholarly literature. 

Aron then gets mad that I called out his argument as being scientism, even though I never said he holds to scientism. What I actually said in my first response was, “These are elements of scientism seeping into Aron’s reasoning, even though he denies he holds to scientism. Science doesn’t explain everything, like philosophy of science.” Ironically, Aron says I am misrepresenting him. I never could have imagined a video could contain so much projection. 

Aron then gets mad that I called him a liar, and I don’t care. As you can see from this blog post, his newest video is filled with more lies (like my views on hell). He says, “Christians often accuse me of lying every time they disagree with me.” Aron, this is not about disagreement. I called you a liar because you lied about what I said, put words in my mouth, and said I held to views I never have advocated. That is text-book lying. Get over it.

There is so much arrogance in what follows after this it is hardly worth addressing. Aron claims he has a special psychological place above religious people in terms of biases. However, no one can be as unbiased as he likes to pretend he is, and there are studies which show this. Other than noting it here, I am just going to skip ahead to facts instead of his impossible views about his psyche.

At 15:10, we finally get to what this whole dispute is about. Yes, it took him that long to get there. He says, “Now, on the definition of faith, this is where we actually agree, though you somehow don’t understand or didn’t realize that. You admitted that the common mainstream definition that I use for the word ‘faith’ in English is not incorrect.”

Now Aron said I should only accuse people of lying when they actually are, so here it goes: Aron you are lying, again. You are getting really bad at this. I never said the definition you use is the common mainstream definition. What I actually said in my first response was “I never asked what faith means, because in English that can have different meanings.” That doesn’t implicitly or directly mean the obscure definition you made up (see slide below) is mainstream:

Screen Shot 2019-09-03 at 11.17.05 AM.png

Aron says he is justified in saying that religious faith is not based on scientific evidence. Tyler Vela already tried to point out the fallacious reasoning of his claim, because what he means by scientific evidence is testable or direct empirical evidence of God, which is a category error because God is not a natural substance that one can perform tests on. Plus, this is not what science is – this is just one aspect or way science can operate. I’ll link to a lecture on philosophy of science because Aron’s odd view of science would be laughed at by professional philosophers of science. In reality, theists never claimed there was scientific evidence for God, as Aron erroneously defined it. As I have argued in my videos, there is good evidence within the realm of science to make inferences to the best explanation of theism. So if we understand that science is much broader than Aron likes to pretend, I would not say there is no scientific evidence for God’s existence. If we use Aron’s narrow view of science, then he would be correct. That is where the equivocation fallacy comes in. In reality, I have several videos where I argued there is plenty of evidence within different fields of science to infer that theism is the best explanation. 

At 15:32, Aron says, “You said faith is not about rational inquiry. It’s an act of volition, it’s a confidence or loyalty, and I agree completely.”

I am shocked because Aron has never implied this (as far as I have seen) up to this point. Let me just give some different ways (with links) to how he as described faith in the past. 

Take a look at this conversation back from 2014, starting at 11:35. Aron says, “I am not just an atheist, I am also an a-pist-avist. Now an a-pist-avist is one who rejects faith as being the most dishonest position that is possible to have, and it doesn’t matter what source you look at to look it up. If you compare different definitions from scriptural references, form hymns, from sermons of theologians, past and present, so forth, you’re going to get a consensus definition. There is a second definition that exists only in the dictionary, which is a secure confidence in a person, place, or thing and the value or the trustworthiness of the thing, but that definition appears only in the dictionary, it doesn’t appear in the religious references. In the religious references, faith is a belief you assume, a secure conviction, that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.”

Later in the conservation at 44:04, Aron says, “My favorite definition of that would be an unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and defended against all reason. But the one you’re going to find in most sources, the consensus is, that it is a stoic conviction that is assumed without evidence and is independent of evidence, and defended against all evidence.”

First of all, there is no evidence of any of these definitions Aron claims, which is probably why he is pretending this is the consensus but not backing it up with any actual sources we can check up on. I have already provided sources in my last response that faith (pistis) in the New Testament is just a synonym of confidence, loyalty, or trust.

Screen Shot 2019-09-03 at 11.23.17 AM.png

But notice the impression Aron gave is that he is an a-pist-avist, as he defined elsewhere, as one without pistis. The obvious impression is Aron is implying pistis is faith without reason. 

Now that was 5 years ago. Perhaps he changed his mind. But remember what he said in his first response at 28:04, “Contrary to what my critics want to believe, faith is not simply a synonym of trust. It takes both a prefix and a suffix to turn faith into trust. Faith is a complete trust that is not based on evidence.” 

So we can see the same idea. He strongly implies the word for faith is not a synonym of trust, which is absurd. Maybe, the problem is how Aron words this. What he needs to say (as he dogmatically believes) is that a Christian’s confidence (pistis) in the truth of Christianity is a faith not based on evidence. Because in several of his past talks he keeps saying “faith is an unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.” Nowhere is the word faith defined this way, which is the problem. So he needs to stop saying that, and just say what he means – that he believes a Christian’s confidence (pistis) in the truth of Christianity is a faith not based on evidence. If Aron would have just said this instead of going around for years implying faith is not a basic synonym for trust, we would never have had this argument. 

Getting back to Aron’s main video I am responding to, if he finally accepts faith is an act of volition, a confidence or loyalty, then maybe we have finally broken through (although this seems to change later in the video), or at least he realizes the way he has been wording it in the past lead to misunderstanding or confusion. 

After this, Aron pretends he already gave definitions by scholars who use the definition that he uses, which is just false. None of the people he cited said, “faith is an unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.” Also, with regards to the definitions Aron keeps putting on the screen, why is it that there are no proper references? I would love to read, for example, the context of what Alister McGrath wrote to see if he is really implying that faith “is an unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.” Because on page 84 of his book, “Faith and Creeds,” he points out faith is just trusting in God. (13)

Given how much we have seen Aron quote mine the Bible, I wonder if the references have context to help explain what they mean more in-depth. And even if they don’t, they are not Greek scholars and we have plenty of evidence to show faith is not defined biblically as an “unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.” 

 

Conversation with Dan Barker

So after this, Aron has two conversations, first with atheist activist Dan Barker, who has a degree in religion from Azusa Pacific University. Despite what Aron says in the video description underneath his video, Barker is not a Koine Greek scholar and Barker even admits that (21:25). A Greek scholar would be someone fluent in the ancient languages, not someone who just has a degree in religion. This is why I cited people like Craig Keener, who are fluent in Koine Greek and routinely translate when working on commentaries. 

The first thing Barker says at 17:41 is, “I think what these people are asking for when they’re asking for an expert – they’re asking for the expert who agrees with them.”

This is so ironic because this is what Aron is doing. He went out and found people with degrees who already agree with him. So, Aron, your hypocrisy is showing. Why dismiss all the references to scholarly sources I provided?

Also remember, I am not asking for a theologian. Remember, originally I was just asking for a Koine Greek scholar who defined pistis as Aron does. Once we establish that, by pistis, the biblical authors never mean an “unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason,” then we can move on to if Christians have sufficient evidence. Remember, that was the main point of disagreement. If all Aron said was, “pistis just means loyalty or trust but I don’t think Christians have a good trust in their God,” none of this would have happened.

After this, Barker shows us why he is not an expert on this topic by going to Hebrews 11 and claiming it says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”

This is the problem – the word “hypostasis” is never defined as substance. This comes from the KJV, which has several translational errors. The word more or less means confidence, assurance or nature. Again, I addressed this before and I’ll link to a video where Michael S. Heiser addresses this as well. Now Heiser is not a Greek scholar, but he relies on other scholars in this talk to explain what is going on in Hebrews 11, which is what Barker and Aron Ra should do.

Let’s remember Barker is the guy who, when debating New Testament scholar James White, quoted Justin Martyr to claim Jesus was based on pagan deities. Then in the cross-examination, White asks Barker if he had read the first apology of Justin and Barker said he had not. Wonderful research from Dan Barker.

Also, Barker says there are several definitions of pistis, which I agree with. However, never once is it used in the New Testament or Greek literature to mean “an unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.” That was my point. There is not much more here worth addressing. 

 

Conversation with Dr. Joshua Bowen

Next up, Aron has a conversation with Dr. Joshua Bowen, again, not specifically a Koine Greek scholar. He is a well-trained Assyriologist, but he at least does have knowledge of the Koine Greek language. 

Now this conversation left me puzzled as to how it helped Aron’s case. Let me remind you our chief complaint with Aron is that he is not properly defining the word pistis, or what the New Testament authors mean when they use the word. It never means, “an unreasonable conviction that is assumed without reason and is defended against all reason.” I never hear Dr. Bowen confirm or remotely imply this is the correct way to understand pistis in the New Testament. In fact, he uses great examples of what pistis means in the New Testament, that, not only would I use, but imply pistis is not based on no evidence or is a forced belief. Maybe Dr. Bowen can point this out to me, but I don’t see how he helps Aron’s case. 

For example, at around 34:30 he gives a great analogy that faith is like sitting in a chair you never sat in. That fits exactly with what I have been trying to say. You may have faith the chair will hold you up, but any rational person would use their intellect or prior experience to reason the chair is probably trustworthy. You don’t just jump in without reason and defend the chair against all reason.

After this, Dr. Bowen talks about Abraham and others who believed or had faith in God and the future promises he made. These examples come up in Hebrews. However, God never asked these people to believe without evidence. The stories include the evidence that they were visited by a deity and they were told to trust him. That was the evidence they were given and then asked to believe. 

Let me give a similar analogy I have often used. Imagine you are married to someone in the CIA, and they contact you to tell you they are still alive, but the news is going to report that they died in a secret mission. So you have been given the evidence or the assurance they are alive. Yet the news stories seem very convincing, and they even show what appears to be the very real dead body of your spouse.

So are you denying evidence over faith in your spouse, or do you have the testimony of your spouse as evidence to overcome other things that would indicate the opposite is true? The Faith of Abraham (and the rest of the examples in Hebrews 11, as well 2 Peter 3) fit in with this same idea. They walked and talked with God, as Dr. Bowen said (if the stories are true), and that gave them good reasons to trust or place their faith in God. Again, I fail to see how Dr. Bowen helps Aron’s case. He is using examples and analogies similar to what I have used in my video on faith to try and explain this. 

Now after this, the conversation gets more philosophical because Dr. Bowen starts to talk more about the reasons Christians place their faith in Christ, which again goes back to what I said in my first response. You could say our reasons or the evidence we provide is not sufficient to place faith in Christ, but it is clear the Biblical authors never encourage faith blindly, but on reason or pieces of evidence offered, which I explained in detail in my video. 

Dr. Bowen suggests that what we Christians use to place our faith in Christ is subjective. This is why I said the conversation becomes more philosophical. Now, first off, the Bible never says to believe because of subjective experience. In fact, we can see the opposite (John 14:11; Acts 13:30-31; 17:31; Exodus 9:14). We are called to believe in the evidence provided and to follow the example of men who believed on the evidence provided to them. So my problem is if Dr. Bowen is correct, where is the passage where the Bible says believe on subjectivity? We cannot cherry-pick passages out and ignore other parts where believers are encouraged to believe based on evidence. Again, hopefully, he can comment below and clarify.

Remember Acts 17:11, “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” So these Jews were nobler for fact-checking Paul and verifying if his words aligned with what was already taught.

Second, are we not allowed to believe because of evidence outside of our own subjectively? That is what I do on my channel: offer the evidence for the truth of Christianity. Never once have I needed to bring in personal experiences. So why can’t my faith be based on that? Again, you may think it is insufficient, but it is not my own personal experiences of the divine.

Oddly enough, in this conversation, Aron says at 41:30, “the root meaning of pistis can be summed up as convincing or persuasion via force. That forced trust, forced belief is the meaning of pistis.”

Sigh*

No… And remember Aron said earlier in his video, “You said faith is not about rational inquiry. It’s an act of volition, it’s a confidence or loyalty and I agree completely,” but now he is saying it is forced trust. He is adding “forced” into the word when that is not the case. 

This is the problem, Aron, and why we have to keep calling you out on this. You said you understand pistis just means confidence or loyalty, but then, in the same video, you change that to say it means “forced trust”. So which is it? The truth is that pistis just means trust or faith, not forced trust or forced faith. Aron says he was researching this but doesn’t give a source for this definition of “forced trust,” so I guess we have to take his word on this.

After this, Dr. Bowen gives a great analogy to explain faith, and I approve entirely (again, I’m not sure how this is helping Aron’s case). He says to picture a boy on a ledge and his father is seven feet below on the ground and tells his son to jump. The boy has to take a leap of faith. But realize what the analogy is saying. My question for Dr. Bowen and Aron is: does the boy jump without evidence? Of course not. He can see his father and he can draw on past experience that his father loves him and wants to catch him. Now does the boy know for sure that his father will catch him? Also, no. But he probably would have good reasons to trust his father, which is the point of Christianity. It is not “forced trust.” We argue there is sufficient evidence to trust God and take the leap, just like with the analogy.

There is not much more worth addressing here that I have not already addressed. I want to remind people, I do have scientific evidence that leads to theism. I just reject Aron’s definition of what constitutes as scientific evidence. Scientific evidence is, but is also beyond, what is empirical and testable. When you study philosophy of science and the differences between degenerate and progressive research programs, you understand scientific evidence also relies on certain criteria, like parsimony, explanatory scope, and explanatory power. This old idea, that science is just what you can see or test, has been rejected now. It is much more complicated. 

So what I argue is that we have plenty of evidence to make the inference to the best explanation that God exists. This is what I present: 

https://inspiringphilosophy.org/the-digital-physic-argument-for-gods-existence/

https://inspiringphilosophy.org/the-cosmic-conscious-argument/

https://inspiringphilosophy.org/the-moral-argument/

https://inspiringphilosophy.org/defending-christianity/

https://inspiringphilosophy.org/the-resurrection-of-jesus/

Tyler Vela tried to explain the confusion and the different standards in his long conversation with Aron but I don’t think anything got through. 

The last point worth addressing is a peculiar point Dr. Bowen makes at the end. He says, “Christians, you do a disservice to put down faith like this. That’s how this comes across to me. This is my opinion. When you try to minimize faith and say, ‘no, no, no, you get tons of evidence with faith. That’s the whole point, you get all this evidence.’ I think that is doing it a disservice. You have evidence of the fidelity of the object of your faith. The thing that’s allowing you to move forward, but the things that you’re believing in, the promises that are being given are things that you can’t see and I think you do it a disservice to downplay that because I think that’s actually really beautiful…”

This doesn’t make sense, because Dr. Bowen doesn’t have faith in Christ. This is like if Dr. Bowen said, “here is this beautiful pie, it’s so wonderful, but I wouldn’t trust that on my plate.” Who is going to eat that pie? I would not place my faith in Christ if there wasn’t enough evidence as the New Testament teaches (John 14:11; Acts 13:30-31; 17:31), and I have a whole channel where I present the evidence that Christian theism is the best explanation. So in response, I will simply say I am not going to downplay the evidence my faith is based on because that would be not beautiful or rational. 

In conclusion, as much as Aron wants to go on about how there is no evidence, he is only preaching to his audience, because we keep presenting the evidence to make the rational inference to theism. If we are wrong, the challenge is to find a better explanation of the data we present. From his video as a whole, Aron’s research is subpar and there is no excuse for his constant cherry-picking of the facts. I’ll leave with the words of atheist Tim O’Neill, who wrote a response to Aron on his misunderstandings of history:

“So the issue is not just that [Aron Ra] is terrible at history and believes many stupid and erroneous things. It is not even that he is a lazy researcher and poor thinker who does not bother to check things that he finds appealing. It is that he peddles this gibberish to an equally uncritical audience of thousands and they lap it up like the worst kind of fundamentalist fanatics. ‘Aron Ra’ is the problem of New Atheist bad history, embodied.”

 

 

Notes:

1. Black, Alan, et al. Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: 4 Views. Nashville, TN, 2008.

2. “The Gospel of Matthew: a Socio-Rhetorical Commentary.” The Gospel of Matthew: a Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, by Craig S. Keener, William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2009, p. 412.

3. “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke: with the New International Version of the Holy Bible.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke: with the New International Version of the Holy Bible, by Frank Ely Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas, Zondervan Pub. House, 1984, p. 350.

4. “Covenant: the History of a Biblical Idea.” Covenant: the History of a Biblical Idea, by Delbert Roy. Hillers, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994, pp. 88–89.

5. “The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority.” The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority, by John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy, IVP Academic, 2013, p. 218.

5. Bottéro, Jean. Le Code De Hammurabi . Ed. De L’Accueil, 1967, p. 167

6. Wells, Bruce. “Sex, Lies, and Virginal Rape: The Slandered Bride and False Accusation in Deuteronomy.” Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 124, no. 1, 2005, p. 41., doi:10.2307/30040990.

7. “The War Delusion.” The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, by Vox Day, BenBella Books, 2014, pp. 97–112.

8. Phillips, Charles, and Alan Axelrod. Encyclopedia of Wars. Facts On File, 2005.

9. Cavanaugh, William T. “The Myth of Religious Violence.” The Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence, by Andrew R. Murphy, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, pp. 23–34.

10. Trimble, Douglas E. “The Religious Orientation Scale: Review and Meta-Analysis of Social Desirability Effects.” Educational and Psychological Measurement, vol. 57, no. 6, Dec. 1997, pp. 970–986, doi:10.1177/0013164497057006007.

11. “Studying Children in Context: Theories, Methods, and Ethics.” Studying Children in Context: Theories, Methods, and Ethics, by M. Elizabeth. Graue et al., Sage Publications, 2001, pp. 95–96.

12. “Luke: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.” Luke: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, by Darrell L. Bock, Baker Books, 1994, pp. 1284–1285.

13. “Faith and Creeds: a Guide for Study and Devotion.” Faith and Creeds: a Guide for Study and Devotion, by Alister E. McGrath, Westminster John Knox Press, 2013, p. 84.

Jackson Wheat’s biological Shenanigans

Estimated Reading Time: 23 Minutes

Recently Jackson Wheat decided to respond to my 40-minute video on biological structuralism and argue against the idea of structuralist evolution in favor of functionalist evolution (Neo-Darwinism). Before I get started I want to note I support Jackson’s work in addressing the claims of young-earth creationists. So I hope he doesn’t take this rebuttal personally. 

The reason I note this is because many of the objections he brought against structuralism were not well thought out, and I don’t think he really understands what structuralism truly is (he only seems to gather the gist of it). Most saddening is he didn’t even respond to most of the evidence I presented and misrepresented my claims in a lot of ways. From reading Stephen Jay Gould (after he became a structuralist) and Michael Denton I actually already expected some of these objections to come eventually from opponents, so nothing caught me off guard. So let’s dive into his arguments. 

The first part of the video is simply an explanation of what structuralist believe. His explanation is okay and I am not going to get nit-picky about specifics here and there. However, at 3:27 Jackson, says:

“However, since the features of the human form are the results of incremental modifications that were compiled over many millions of years of evolution it’s unlikely that another life-form would follow the exact same evolutionary route.”

I need to stop here because the errors are piling up so quickly. I know Jackson is addressing specifically the idea of a dinosaur-like human species, but he seems to conflate this with structuralist claims, so I would like to clarify what structuralism states before moving on. First, neither structuralists or functionalists deny evolution results from a series of incremental modifications over millions of years. The question is what are the driving forces of these modifications. This point doesn’t favor functionalism in any way.

Second, structuralists do not say other life forms or any life for has to follow the same route. This is just not true by any standard. In fact, I spent a large chunk of my video arguing for convergent evolution as evidence of structuralism. Convergent evolution, by definition, would mean that different species take different routes and still arrive at very similar forms. Structuralists don’t even say species have to arrive at the exact same structures, only that species tend to arrive at very similar structural plans. This is what I mean about Jackson not understanding the claims of structuralism. He presents something we never claimed was the case.

Third, this brings up the other issue I raised in the beginning. Jackson has simply ignored data I already covered at his convenience. In my video, I covered a study that contradicts this idea. The authors argue that we can predict aliens (if they exist) to follow similar patterns given similar natural constraints. Let me just quote from abstract, “Given aliens undergo natural selection we can say something about their evolution. In particular, we can say something about how complexity will arise in space. Complexity has increased on the Earth as a result of a handful of events, known as the major transitions in individuality. Major transitions occur when groups of individuals come together to form a new higher level of the individual, such as when single-celled organisms evolved into multicellular organisms. Both theory and empirical data suggest that extreme conditions are required for major transitions to occur. We suggest that major transitions are likely to be the route to complexity on other planets, and that we should expect them to have been favoured by similarly restrictive conditions. Thus, we can make specific predictions about the biological makeup of complex aliens.” (1)

So we would except other life forms to have taken similar routes (not the exact same evolutionary route as Jackson says). It is also not like I was arguing this without evidence to support it. As we will see throughout his video, Jackson offers very little evidence to favor functionalism and ignore a large portion of the evidence I presented in favor of structuralism. 

Next at 4:25, Jackson seems to think part of my case for structuralism was the existence of intelligent organisms which implies “the existence of a platonic universe of ideal forms.” This is just not true at all. The existence of intelligent organisms was never used as evidence of structuralism in my video. My main arguments for structuralism were self-assembly processes, convergent evolution, and evo-devo research. I have no clue why Jackson noted the first two but ignored the third area.

The only reason I brought up intelligent organisms was to note a structuralist account of evolution can better explain why intelligence arises over functions accounts relying on contingent histories and chance genetic mutations. This is pretty clear in my video. How on earth Jackson could confuse this is beyond me.

Also, I actually don’t believe in a platonic world any more than Stephen Jay Gould does. I am actually more of a scholastic realist, but I am not nailed down to a particular view. If you notice in my video, the only time the word “platonic” comes up is when it is in quotes. Most of when it is quoted platonism is only used as an analogous way to explain the structuralist argument. For example, remember this quote from Stephen Jay Gould, “I worked piecemeal, producing a set of separate and continually accreting revisionary items along each of the branches of Darwinian central logic, until I realized that a “Platonic” something “up there” in idealogical space could coordinate all these critiques and fascinations into a revised general theory with a retained Darwinian base.” (2)

Obviously, Gould is not a platonist. He is using platonist terminology to explain what he is getting at and that is the only way I would use it as well.

Next, Jackson tries to tackle my evidence for structuralism from convergence, and once again, demonstrates he doesn’t understand structuralism. I will suggest he only shoots himself in the foot. I am going to put the full quote up because, in a way, he makes the argument for me:

“Molecules do self-organize and interact with each other, governed by physical laws and convergent evolution really does happen quite a lot. When organisms enter similar environments they tend to converge on similar forms. For example, prehensile tails have evolved repeatedly in mammals, such as in platyrrhines, opossums and new world porcupines. Now did they evolve their features because their environments are similar, sure, prehensile tails have an adaptive value in an arboreal environment. When you live in a tree it’s helpful to have grasping appendages for keeping yourself from tumbling to the forest floor. This very same argument can be made for every example of convergence that IP shows. The convergent traits have adaptive value in their particular environments. Thus, his numerous examples structuralist interpretation at all.”

What he has just said could have been argued by a structuralist, almost word for word, yet he claims this does not favor structuralism. Why would structuralists be harmed by the idea of organisms adapting to new environments? It is an odd claim for Jackson to make, especially since he forgets that later in his own video he references Edward T. Oakes (from my video) speaking in a colloquial sense of structuralist reliance on environmental constraints. So how does he not realize structuralists predict this?

Remember that one of the core tenants of structuralism is that nature constrains organisms through environmental factors to bring about certain structures, which is why we see so much convergence. We are not claiming some mystical platonic realm is causing convergence in evolution, it is obviously because nature brings about similar environments, which create similar constraints, which brings about similar forms and structures. This should have been obvious. Jackson has only succeeded in explaining environmental mechanisms that structuralist argue for, yet claims this is not evidence for structuralism. Once again, he demonstrates he doesn’t understand structuralist claims. If the environment constraints organism so certain forms come about I see nothing to object to from a structuralist perspective. Nature constraints and brings about similar structures. To quote Stephen Jay Gould, “They write (p. 167): “Given evolution by random drift as a null model, natural selection now becomes a constraint!” Yes, and appropriately so—with no exclamation point needed to register surprise.” (3)

Now here is the important point, because a lot of what I said a functionalist would accept and might be left scratching their head wondering where the disagreement is. This is because structuralism is technically not opposed to functionalism, we simply say functionalism is incomplete and doesn’t follow its own logic. I agree with PZ Myers at the end of Jackson’s video that natural selection works in conjunction with structuralist accounts of evolution. In fact, Stephen Jay Gould has a whole chapter in his book, “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory,” on this very topic where he explains this; titled, “Chapter 10: The Integration of Constraint and Adaptation (Structure and Function) in Ontogeny and Phylogeny: Historical Constraints and the Evolution of Development.” 

Structuralists don’t deny the role of natural selection and adaptations. Gould’s point is functionalists need to simply follow their arguments to their logical conclusions. If organisms, through adaptation, are being constrained by internal genes and environmental factors then the environment (ecological niches) is fine-tuning organisms and causing repeating structures to form. Again, and I cannot stress this enough, structuralist accept adaptive changes, and natural selection, we just say that is an incomplete description of what drives evolution and we need to look at the big picture and accept the role of internal and external constraints driving evolution. To quote Gould again:

“In short, and to summarize these few pages of argument in a paragraph, orthodox Darwinians have not balked at negative constructions of constraint as limits and impediments to the power of natural selection in certain definable situations. But they have been far less willing to embrace positive meanings of constraint as promoters, suppliers, and causes of evolutionary direction and change. This distinction follows logically from the basic premises of Darwinian functionalism, because the admission of a potent and positive version of constraint would compromise the fundamental principle that variation (the structuralist and internalist component of evolution) only proposes, while selection (the functionalist and externalist force) disposes as the only effective cause of change. In considering how structural constraints might limit the power of natural selection to adapt each feature of an organism to each local environment, we recognize that some modes will rank as “benign” for Darwinian functionalists…” (4)

Next Jackson moves on to Hox genes and their involvement in evolution. This was a confusing part of the video for numerous reasons. For one, he completely ignores the fact that I did not shy away from this area of research in my video. I used it as part of my case for structuralism. Why would he think this threatens a structuralist account of evolution? 

Second, the evidence of ancient genes such as Hox genes was not predicted by functionalism. I am not sure why Jackson would bring this subject up as if it somehow supports functionalism. As Rudolf Raff said, “The conservation of a set of clustered genes over half a billion years is difficult enough to accept, but collinearity with body axis defies credibility. Yet it’s true.” (5)

Stephen Jay Gould says, “On the second branch of full efficacy for natural selection as an externalist and functionalist process, the stunning discoveries of extensive deep homologies across phyla separated by more than 500 million years (particularly the vertebrate homologs of arthropod Hox genes)—against explicit statements by architects of the Modern Synthesis (see p. 539) that such homologies could not exist in principle, in a world dominated by their conception of natural selection—forced a rebalancing or leavening of Darwinian functionalism with previously neglected, or even vilified, formalist perspectives based on the role of historical and structural constraints in channeling directions of evolutionary change, and causing the great dumpings and inhomogeneities of morphospace—phenomena that had previously been attributed almost exclusively to functionalist forces of natural selection.” (6)

After discussing the role of Hox genes Jackson then contradicts himself. At 7:40 he says, “This means that the picture IP shows of all the different eyes, all of which come from bilaterally symmetrical animals is full of animals with eyes controlled by homologs of the same pax6 gene family. The eyes shown were therefore not evolved in response to sunlight but are simply variations on the same gene family that existed in all of them.”

Come again? First of all, the picture he is commenting on is a visual representation of a quote from Edward T. Oakes who is being quite colloquial in his description. This is not meant to be a detailed account at this point in the video. Oakes is just trying to move on to the philosophical implications of structuralism. So Jackson is being unfair here. 

Second, eyes do not evolve in response to light? Do you mean organisms do not adapt to their environment? Didn’t Jackson just tell us earlier, “The convergent traits have adaptive value in their particular environments.” Do not organisms evolve by adapting to new environments? That is all Oakes is trying to point out in very colloquial terms. Doesn’t Jackson accept that evolution through adaptations happens? Here, let me just google random quotes from scientists on this.

“The ultimate source of light and energy for life on Earth is the sun, so it is not surprising that virtually all living organisms evolved some kind of response to light.” (7)

“The sun is a very hot body, and most of its rays fall in the region of visible wavelength. This is reasonable since our visual organs have evolved in response to sunlight.” (8)

“Animals that have colonized dimmer environments have evolved superposition eyes in response to lower light levels, and the refracting compound eye is the most common form.” (9)

Now there is a half-truth in what Jackson said. Of course, the eyes that species have now are variations on the same ancient gene family, but they change in various organisms due to environmental constraints and organisms adapting to those constraints. It is not an either-or situation. Of course, evolution works on what is available, no one denies that. The problem for functionalism is that it was originally predicted by the modern synthesis that genes would be constantly modeled and changed, so ancient genes were not predicted to still be found. The fact that ancient genes are still constraining evolutionary changes is evidence in favor of a structuralist account. Numerous structuralists make this case, like Michael Denton and Stephen Jay Gould. 

Next, instead of Jackson actually dealing with a plethora of evidence I presented in the first part of the video he goes back to Oakes’ colloquial phrases. I guess because it is easier to attack. At 8:50, he says, “What about wings? Did wings evolve in response to wind? No, definitely not!

Really? Again, give me a moment to back this up with some quotes.

“The former line derives from thysanuroid insects living on swamp grasses and using paranotal lobes as parachutes, and the latter from thysanuroid insects living in crevices of the soil and using paranotal lobes as sails in the mind.” (10) 

Later in the paper, the same author says, “In the species living on the ground the lobes functioned as a sail and enabled the insect to become airborne thanks to the wind.” (11)

“Allocapnia stoneflies (Capniidae) skim by sailing; they raise their wings in response to wind and are incapable of flapping. Because this behavior is mechanically simpler than flapping, it was originally proposed that sailing might be the ancestral condition.” (12)

Again, Oakes is just speaking in colloquial terms, so Jackson is being quite unfair.

Right after this, Jackson says the one thing that made my jaw drop when I watched this video. This is one quote from him which almost guaranteed to me he has never read anything on structuralism. He says, “If wings evolved in response to wind then why don’t all terrestrial animals have wings. This claim is nonsense!”

Well considering I just quoted scientists above who said very similar things to the colloquial saying that wings evolving in response to wind, this claim is not nonsense. Second, no structuralist says all organism will always evolve in the same way. We have never made this claim. We say certain structures and features will come about due to environmental constraints, but that doesn’t mean the environment is supposed to produce the same thing every time. Take a lesson from an analogy of using the periodic table. Did not the laws of physics constrain nature to bring about each element on the periodic table? If molecules “evolved” (so to speak) in response to the laws of physics why are not all elements the same? The obvious answer is certain physical constraints brought about certain elements given different conditions throughout the universe. Just because the elements of the periodic table were constrained by physical laws that doesn’t mean we would expect to always see the same element forming everywhere. A similar analogy can be drawn from the various protein folds that arise in nature. They are not always the same due to different constraints or factors. 

Likewise, different organisms will fill different ecological niches and wings will come about in similar ways. Different environments produce a plethora of different ecological niches and sometimes, depending on the niche, specific constraints bring about wings, much like how physical laws bring about various elements. Jackson is wasting time attacking a very colloquial saying and it is not charitable of him at all. 

In fact, I agree with what Jackson says right after this, “Particular animals have wings because they living in environments where having wings was selectively advantageous and happened to have had relevant mutations that opened up new adaptive options for their descendants.” Yes, I agree, and I don’t understand why Jackson would think I would disagree with this statement. It is quite clear at this point he doesn’t understand the claims of structuralism. 

At 10:09, Jackson says, “And what about the last one? Did brains evolve in response to the ideal forms that exist as part of the universe? No, again! Enlargement of the human brain was the result of a number of factors.”

Again, structuralists would agree. We argue numerous factors constrains the evolution of life. I feel like Jackson is ignoring what I quoted from Oakes and Dennett and trying to sum of their entire argument in one sentence, which is coming out at as clear misrepresentation. 

Then at 11:18, Jackson says, “Needless to say, no anthropologists are attributing the size of the brain as a response to platonic forms sewn into the fabric of the universe.” 

Neither am I, and neither is Daniel Dennett in the quote I provided in conjunction with the quotes from Oakes. Allow me to provide the quote from Daniel Dennett again to clarify what I am getting at:

“Suppose SETI [Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence] struck it rich, and established communication with intelligent beings on another planet. We would not be surprised to find that they understood and used the same arithmetic that we do. Why not? Because arithmetic is right… The point is clearly not restricted to arithmetic, but to all “necessary truths” — what philosophers since Plato have called a priori knowledge. As Minsky (p. 119) says, “We can expect certain ‘a priori’ structures to appear, almost always, whenever a computation system evolves by selection from a universe of possible processes.” It has often been pointed out that Plato’s curious theory of reincarnation and reminiscence, which he offers as an explanation of the source of our a priori knowledge, bears a striking resemblance to Darwin’s theory, and this resemblance is particularly striking from our current vantage point. Darwin himself famously noted the resemblance in a remark in one of his notebooks. Commenting on the claim that Plato thought our “necessary ideas” arise from the pre-existence of the soul, Darwin wrote: “read monkeys for preexistence (Desmond and Moore 1991, p. 263).” (13)

Dennett is not a platonist, he is using platonic terminology to drive home a point about the existence of why there we can predict the existence of intelligent beings. One does not need to posit a mystical explanation for this. The abstract information that gives rise to intelligence is a part of nature. One can learn abstract arithmetic from seeing empirical objects and adding amounts together. The basic laws of logic and mathematics are clearly displayed in the description of the empirical world for a contingent mind to discover. That is all Dennett is saying. Jackson even knows this quote from Dennett is not advocating direct platonism, as shortly after this he addressed the quote I used from Dennett in an attempt to clarify what Dennett means. 

As for Oakes’ beliefs, I never denied he is being more literal, but as I stated above I am far more in agreement with Stephen Jay Gould that Platonism is used more of an analogy rather than literally accepting platonism. 

The second issue on this point is Jackson has made a category error in saying, “no anthropologists are attributing the size of the brain as a response to platonic forms.” Of course not, because they are not philosophers. The section of the video Jackson is attempting to criticize is where I go over the philosophical implications of structuralism, which is why I quoted two philosophers here. Why on earth would Jackson expect me to quote anthropologists when I am laying out the philosophy of structuralism?

Right after this, Jackson commits an ad hominem fallacy against Edward T. Oakes. To quote, “Where does IP’s quote claiming this comes from you ask? Not an evolutionary biologist or anthropologist, but Catholic theologian and fierce proponent of intelligent design, Edward T. Oakes. Why a theologian instead of a biologist? Reasons I guess.”

This is quite disrespectful, even for Jackson’s own standards. To be fair, in the video description Jackson did correct himself and note Oakes is not a fierce proponent of intelligent design. He is an opponent of intelligent design. Besides that, yes Jackson, there are reasons I quoted someone who has a degree in philosophy when I was talking about philosophy. The reason is that I am talking about philosophy. Notice that roughly the first 30 minutes of the video was filled with quotes from biologists to support this philosophical implication. Why not note that as well? Jackson is better than this. Why doesn’t he make the same note about me quoting Daniel Dennett not being a biologist? Why only attack the credibility of Oakes? Could it be because Dennett is an atheist?

Also, Jackson conveniently leaves out where the quote from Oakes comes from. It is from a book titled, “Fitness of the Cosmos for Life,” which is a book where each chapter has a different author and it is filled with the work of biologists, chemists, paleontologists, etc. It is not like Oakes’ quotes exist in a vacuum. He was asked by the editors of the book (who are scientists) to write on the philosophical implications of the data they are presenting. Jackson is being quite unfair to Oakes in numerous ways. (14)

After this, Jackson hands things over to P.Z. Myers. A couple of months ago P.Z. Myers commented on my video and I was wondering how he even found it. I guess Jackson’s video answered that for me. As you can see there was no real substance to his comment:

Screen Shot 2019-05-22 at 4.56.54 PM.png

Myers doesn’t say much I disagree with in Jackson’s video and he comes across as more charitable than Jackson has been in this video. Oddly enough, Myers calls me a structuralist extremist. I really don’t care what they say, but I would not consider myself that, and in fact, I am perfectly willing to criticize someone like Michael Denton for being too extreme in his work on structuralism. I think he takes things too far and argues too much from gaps and doesn’t put enough emphasis on natural selection. So I protest the use of the phrase, “structuralist extremist.” Neither Myers or Jackson bothered to ask me where I stand on this and from Jackson’s response video I can’t help but wonder how much he paid attention to my arguments. (15)

Next, Myers says structuralists like myself “like to think that evolution leads inevitably to human-like forms, ignoring the obvious fact that it leads instead to endless forms most beautiful.” This is obviously a false dichotomy (it seems to be what he implied in his comment on my video screenshot above). No one denies that the evolution of life has produced a plethora of forms and structures. That is not the focus of the debate between functionalist and structuralists, but why the plethora of forms has come about and why intelligent beings have evolved. Was it by chance or was it inevitable? That is where the divide is, not on what evolution produces. As far as I see, neither Jackson or P.Z. Myers presented evidence that favors functionalism or evidence that structuralists cannot account for. I spent most of my video presenting evidence that favors structuralism from self-assembly processes, evo-devo, and convergence. 

One of the main problems for functionalists, that Gould notes, is most of what they say drives evolution is already accounted for and predicted by structuralism. This is why structuralists simply note functionalism is not necessarily wrong but incomplete and in response to structuralism, many functionalists have to ignore a lot of the data structuralists present and argue it is not as prominent as structuralists suggest. This is why I spent most of my video presenting as much evidence as I could possibly find to show this is not the case and there is mounting evidence favoring structuralism. For the most part, Jackson and P.Z. Myers barely touched on this.

To summarize, Jackson demonstrates a lack of knowledge of what structuralism is, he seemed to contradict himself in several places, and ignored most of the research I present in my video while focusing too much on one quote from Edward T. Oakes where it was obvious Oakes was speaking in colloquial terms. If Jackson had questions about structuralism he could have just emailed me. I am more than willing to send him books to read, but his current video is not well thought out and I think he is better than this. His attacks have only shown a lack of knowledge on the claims of structuralism. 

 

 

Sources:

1. Levin, S., Scott, T., Cooper, H. and West, S. (2017). Darwin’s aliens. International Journal of Astrobiology, 18(1), pp.1-9.

2. Gould, S. (2002). The structure of evolutionary theory. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, p.41.

3. ibid, p. 1035.

4. Ibid, p. 1029.

5. Raff, R. (1996). The Shape of Life: Genes, Development, and the Evolution of Animal Form. p.307.

6. Gould, p. 27.

7. Nation, J. (2001). Insect physiology and biochemistry. p.316.

8. Spiro, T. and Stigliani, W. (1990). Environmental issues in chemical perspective. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/ Hunt, p.97.

9. Dubielzig, R., Schobert, C. and Schwab, I. (2012). Evolution’s Witness: How Eyes Evolved. Oxford University Press, p.56.

10. La Greca, M. (1980). Origin and evolution of wings and flight in insects. Bolletino di zoologia, 47(sup1), p. 65.

11. ibid, p. 78.

12. Thomas, M., Walsh, K., Wolf, M., McPheron, B. and Marden, J. (2000). Molecular phylogenetic analysis of evolutionary trends in stonefly wing structure and locomotor behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 97(24), pp.13178-13183.

13. Dennett, D. (2014). Darwin’s dangerous idea. New York: Simon & Schuster, pp.129-130.

14. Barrow, J. (2012). Fitness of the cosmos for life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.49-69.

15. Denton, M. (2016). Evolution: Still A Theory in Crisis. Seattle: Discovery Institute.

Illogical Propaganda of Martymer81

Average Read Time: 12 Minutes, Guest blog by Kyle Alander

As was seen previously with AntiCitizenX we have a couple of atheists that have been responding to IP video on the laws of logic defended. This time we have Martymer 81 (I will be referring to as MM81) who has misunderstood IP’s views and, therefore, sets off to strawman the claims that were made. This was a fairly easy response (which says a lot) so the fact that it is shorter than some of the other things I have written shows that MM81 has had no good arguments here. This was an extremely dishonest video. It seems IP and MM81 don’t disagree on much when it comes to logic, yet MM81 has misrepresented IP’s position to the extreme and assumed IP said things he never claimed. It is clear MM81 didn’t get fact-check a lot of his claims.

The video opens up with MM81 assuming that IP’s original video was to attack atheists when at no point in the video was the word “atheist” mentioned. This is an example of MM81 putting words in IP mouth when he never claimed that atheists deny the laws of logic. What IP did mention however were epistemic skeptics, which unlike atheist (lack of belief in God), lack any beliefs in logic or knowledge (Also known as an academic skeptic or Pyrrhonian skepticism). Unlike atheists, an epistemic skeptic is one who doubts all knowledge and therefore doubts logic and thinks that any kind of knowledge is impossible or that we can never know if knowledge is possible. I won’t get into the different views of epistemic skepticism but what they doubt is that the category of knowledge can’t be known. So in other words, if you were to ask an epistemic skeptic if they believe one can acquire knowledge you would either get one denying that they can have knowledge or one that says they “don’t know” if knowledge is possible. In both cases, epistemic skeptics are skeptics about knowledge itself and thus the term “epistemic skeptic” is there. So IP’s video was a response to that group and not atheists, so MM81 has already begun to misrepresent who IP is addressing.

Next MM81 quotes Martin Luther and uses it as an example of Christians rejecting logic when in reality he did poor research on the context of the quote.1 This really goes to show the amount of research MM81 did. He didn’t even fact-check the quote. Regardless, one can use examples of Christians rejecting logic all day but that is irrelevant to the original point of the video of whether logic should be doubted and IP’s point was that it shouldn’t.

At 1:05, MM81 says that logic is the enemy of faith when he once again doesn’t understand what Christians have understood faith to be. Faith is not the rejection of reason rather it is putting trust in someone or something. I have faith that my employer will give me a paycheck every two weeks or I have faith that my car was built the right way so it doesn’t fall apart. As a Christian, I have faith that God will one day resurrect the dead (Acts 17:31) and those that chose to follow him will have eternal life. I don’t have faith in the sense of a lack of evidence but rather that the Christian God exists (has given evidence already) and that God will fulfill his plan. So faith is not belief in lack of evidence but rather it comes from the evidence that it leads to Christianity being true. MM81 may disagree that there is evidence for Christianity but that is irrelevant to what faith actually is understood to be which makes his entire attack on faith a strawman.

At 1:27, MM81 says that IP’s definition of logic is wrong and then goes on a rant about how apologists are dishonest and knowingly go on to present bad arguments and then talks about how by definition faith cannot be defended. Sadly, this is similar to ACX childish rants and it’s embarrassing that one would begin by name calling their opponents. It’s one thing to present an argument but it’s a whole other to have a condescending rant.

Anyway, MM81 seems to not see that IP’s definition is not in all at conflict with the academic definitions of logic. In fact, it is synonymous with it and when MM81 goes on later to explain what logic is his explanation does not contradict IP’s view. He is simply explaining the same concept in a different way. (MM81 video – 3:58 mark) Yes, IP’s definition in his video is not exactly the same as MM81’s definition. MM81 says that logic is the study that makes sense of what makes sense. However, we cannot find that in any academic definition so should I say that MM81 is wrong? Of course not, since they are similar.

At 4:42, MM81 claims he has never come across this argument and that IP has not either. In fact, this is just wrong as IP got the original argument from an epistemic skeptic at Carnedes2. This was pointed out in the response to ACX. If MM81 would have checked this very blog before making his video he would not have goofed on this. This again demonstrates very poor research.

Moving on at 5:50, MM81 claims that IP thinks that the laws of logic are abstract when IP made no such claim. IP is not a platonist, in fact, I asked him and he is between nominalism and scholastic realism, which is the view that universals only exist in minds but they are founded on real relations of similarity in the world.3 So while he does not hold rock solid to one position he is open to both views and rejects traditional Platonism. Also with regards to the principle of bivalence, IP said that he rejects it and holds to three-valued logic, which is basically where a proposition can be true, false or some indeterminate. MM81 is correct in saying that there are different types of logic beyond classical logic that are used for describing different situations or propositions (he used the example of fuzzy logic), however, MM81 seems to think that IP’s video was only a defense of classical logic, which is not the point. This has been pointed out multiple times on this blog. The original video wasn’t about which type of logic is “correct” but rather that logic works (regardless of which type of logic we are using) and since it works then we have no reason to doubt it.

Ironically at 7:40, MM81 says how we should not expect a dictionary to define a “proposition” in every system of logic since it’s not a logic textbook. But earlier we saw MM81 complain that IP didn’t go about to explain every system of logic or what the laws of logic are in those different systems (since there are different laws in classical and non-classical logics). This brings up a point that if IP didn’t originally exactly specify which laws of logic he is defending then he must be using it more in a broader sense and not just the classical laws of logic. Again like I’ve said many times IP is NOT trying to show why classical logic is the correct logic but rather showing why logic as a whole (classical and non-classical) should not be doubted. The video is a response to epistemic skeptics that doubt all systems of logic not trying to make classical logic superior to other systems of logic. MM81’s video is looking more like a blatant misrepresentation than a response video. I feel like he should know better.

At 8:40, MM81 complains that the proposition “easter is the best holiday” is neither true nor false so therefore it is not a proposition. This of course only works if we are using classical logic but if we use three-valued logic then it would be a proposition, however, it would be indeterminate rather than true or false. So while he is right that we can’t determine if it’s true or false the proposition “easter is the best holiday” is still a proposition but it would be indeterminate.

Next, MM81 goes on to explain Gödel’s theorem in which he does correctly present. Nothing he said about the theorem would disagree with IP as the whole point of the theorem is that one cannot prove something within a system that has axioms. No one has denied that.

At 11:55, MM81 seems to think that it can’t be a false dichotomy to say something is either true or false. Once again under a three-valued logic, it would be a false dichotomy since there is a third option which is a proposition that is indeterminate.

At 13:20-15:40, MM81 begins to explain the liar’s paradox. While he is right that there is no “single bullet” type solution and there is nothing here that would contradict IP. Again, IP said in his video that we cannot prove something is 100% true within a system of logic. That was the whole point of his video and why Gödel’s theorem was brought up. Basically, the liar’s paradox does not disprove logic since its okay to have certain propositions with no truth value (which means it’s not a proposition in any system of logic). MM81 seems to imply IP denied this.

While there are some systems of logic that can assign truth values to certain propositions that classical logic cannot (the example of ‘easter being the best holiday’ as an indeterminate proposition) and why there is no “correct” system of logic there is nothing here that would contradict IP. So MM81 has not addressed IP original point which is that there are no good reasons to doubt logic (regardless of which system).

Next, with regards to the mathematical usage of (i), MM81 falsely equates the mathematical definition with what we mean in a philosophical sense. IP used (i) as an analogy to explain why there would be a third truth value besides true or false. IP never denied we can define (i) in a mathematical way, so MM81 is missing the whole point. This is ironic because MM81 uses this to imply IP doesn’t understand high school math, and in reality, all this shows is MM81 can’t pay attention to a simple youtube video. (i) would be analogous to that indeterminate truth value of between true and false. MM81 made a big deal about claiming we can define (i), which is the square root of -1. IP never denied this and simply noted we cannot understand it (philosophically) in terms of other numbers and quantities. This is incredibly dishonest of MM81.

At 17:07, first he contradicts himself when he says how this has nothing to do with Gödel’s work. Earlier at 11:00, MM81 explained Godel’s theorem and how saying “the truth of this sentence is unprovable” is a way to understand why one cannot 100% prove something within a system of axioms. The point that IP was making was that just because we cant 100% prove something within a system that doesn’t mean we should doubt logic works. Since epistemic skeptics try to use the liar’s paradox and Gödel’s theorem to show that logic cannot be provable the response IP made to the epistemic skeptics was the principle of particularism (more on that later) so Gödel is relevant here as epistemic skeptics have used those types of arguments to debunk logic. So MM81 has once again misunderstood IP.

Second, no one denied that logic is a field of study. However, IP was addressing the skeptics that do think that logic as a whole does not work (since its not 100% provable due to Gödel’s theorem). Third, MM81 fails to distinguish between reasonable doubt and the doubt used by epistemic skeptics. Most of our reasonable doubt is because we have logical and good reasons to doubt something (such as doubting the earth is flat) however the doubt of the epistemic skeptic is that our reason and logic is flawed simply because we cannot 100% prove it to be true. This is not reasonable doubt since the epistemic skeptic has presented no good reason to doubt logic and so the point of IP’s video was that when we have good logical reasons to believe something to be true then we should believe them and not simply doubt them by the fact that logic itself is not 100% provable. This was literally the point of defending logic (regardless of its forms) and of IP’s video. The fact that MM81 didn’t get this makes his video look more like propaganda.

Next, at 18:00, MM81 once again misunderstands IP’s point. One can deny classical logic to work in certain situations which is why one must use other systems of logic to give truth values to propositions. When IP says that we can’t doubt logic he is not saying one can’t deny classical logic but rather one can’t deny logic as a whole, so this includes all systems of logic. Any thought or argument one gives will depend on some system of logic regardless if its classical, non-classical, fuzzy, three-valued logic, linear logic, non-reflexive logic, model logic etc. Literally one cannot deny logic as a whole without presupposing some system of it.

Finally, at 19:06, MM81 misunderstands IP yet again. IP does not believe in everything that randomly pops into his head but rather accepts it if there are good reasons to do so and there are no good reasons to doubt those beliefs. This is the whole point of epistemic particularism and it was the formal response IP gives to the epistemic skeptics. At this point, MM81 is not even trying to get what IP points are and it’s embarrassing.

The rest of the video is just MM81 talking about why religion discourages doubt and this shows he is not even trying to address IP points concerning logic. Nothing in MM81 response did anything to take down IP’s original points. The whole response has been nothing but strawman and misrepresentations of what IP was trying to explain. While it’s true that some of IP’s followers have equated the epistemic skeptics with atheists at no point did IP mention atheists in his video. Perhaps it’s time for people to not equate IP with his followers or equate the classical laws of logic with logic itself. The biggest straw man in the whole video was that IP was making classical logic superior to other forms of it when in reality IP was not concerned with the different systems of logic but was concerned with those that deny logic as a whole and doubt all the systems of logic. This same straw man has been the most common from all the responses IP has gotten from other bloggers and YouTubers on his video that defends the laws of logic. While I myself do not intend to respond to each one in detail as I have here I will say that they have all been straw man attacks against IP.

 

Endnotes

  1. “Richard Dawkins is wrong: Martin Luther was not against “Reason” or ….” 9 Dec. 2011, https://simonpetersutherland.com/2011/12/09/richard-dawkins-is-wrong-martin-luther-was-not-against-reason-or-logical-correctness/. Accessed 10 Feb. 2019.
  2.  “Arguments of Indirect Skepticism – YouTube.” 23 Nov. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBlDGTZUOek. Accessed 10 Feb. 2019.
  3.  “Scholastic Realism | Dictionary | Commens.” http://www.commens.org/dictionary/term/scholastic-realism. Accessed 11 Feb. 2019.

 

The Resurrection According to Dave S

Dave S is one of the few youtube atheists I’ve seen who is willing to engage in the debate on the resurrection. Most just dismiss it as just another miracle claim, assuming a naturalistic worldview from the onset. However, Dave S has at least taken some time to dive into this topic and address the resurrection claim from a naturalistic perspective.

I first spoke with this guy after I posted part 1 of my resurrection series. He seemed like a nice guy and said he going to respond to my whole series when I finished. However, he took his videos down and I thought he left youtube. Then last year he uploaded a bunch of his old videos and started making more, and unfortunately, he became rather insulting in debating with me in the comment section under one of my videos. I had several followers request I respond to his resurrection videos and I was waiting until he was finished his full resurrection series but he has not uploaded any more videos for this series in 4 months. So I’ll deal with the ones that are currently up. I’ll respond to each video below in sections (hyperlinks included throughout).

Episode 1:

This video was originally posted just after I’d uploaded part 1 of my series, so it doesn’t really address the evidence I went over in parts 2 and 3. So there isn’t much to respond to, and I responded to some claims he brings up in part 5 of my series anyways.

Episode 2:

The next one is where the real response begins. This is his longest video and mostly on Bayes’ Theorem. There are a lot of problems with this video because it is a gross exaggeration of what Bayes’ Theorem can say and how it ought to be applied.

First, Dave starts off with the claim that Bart Ehrman has given time and time again, that miracles are, by definition, the least probable explanation for an event. Again, I addressed this objection in part 5 of my series. This is nothing more than circular reasoning, assuming the conclusion of naturalism so miracles by definition must be improbable because we have already presupposed they are (i.e. naturalism must already be true).

Dave has already implied his conclusion at the beginning without even studying the evidence. In other words, regardless of what the evidence leads to, we must first start with the presupposition the miraculous must be the least probable. So obviously Dave will arrive at the conclusion Jesus did not rise from dead, regardless of what the evidence suggests.

After this, what follows is a pretty good explanation of Bayes’ theorem, which I would recommend people watch. However, this will come back to haunt Dave later on, as applying to it the resurrection simply doesn’t work (even when Christians try this).

Bayes’ Theorem only is reliable when you have actual values or quantities to work with. For example, Dave gave a good example by pointing out Bayes’ theorem can help us calculate what the probability of someone who smokes a cigar is either a male or female. The reason why it works in his example is that we have numbers from statistical analyses we can use. We know 51% of the population is male, and we know 9.5% men smoke cigars, whereas 49% of the population is female and only 1.7% of females smoke cigars (I am just using Dave’s numbers to illustrate a point, I don’t know if these numbers are accurate). So we have actual numerical data we can enter into Bayes’ theorem and calculate the probability that a random cigar smoker is male or female.

It should be obvious to all that when it comes to the resurrection, we simply do not have numerical values to enter into. Atheist, and Founder of the website History For Atheists, Tim O’Neill says this as well. He wrote a response to Richard Carrier’s attempt to apply Bayes’ theorem to the question of whether or not Jesus existed, and he gave a petty good example as well of how we can use Bayes’ theorem by calculating the probability it will rain on a specific day. Given that we have observed for roughly the past 100 years the annual rainfall and have recorded how many days out of the year have experienced rain, we can calculate how likely it will rain on a given day.

Tim O’Neill says:

“The first thing our objective observer should notice here is that we have hard data to plug into the equation.  We know how often it does rain in this region, how often it doesn’t rain and how often the weather forecast is right or wrong.  So we can get a meaningful answer out of the equation because we can plug meaningful data into it in the first place.

So there are two problems here when it comes to trying to apply Bayes Theorem to history: (i) Carrier and Craig need to treat questions of what happened in the past as the same species of uncertainty as what may happen in the future and (ii) historical questions are uncertain precisely because we don’t have defined and certain data to feed into the equation.

Bayes Theorem only works in cases where we can apply known information. So, in the example above, we know how often it rains in a year and we know when the weather forecast is and isn’t correct.  So by inputting this meaningful data, we can get a meaningful result out the other end of the equation.

This is not the case with history.

Bayes Theorem’s application depends entirely on how precisely the parameters and values of our theoretical reconstruction of a real world approximate reality.  With a historical question, Carrier is forced to think up probabilities for each parameter he put into the equation. This is a purely subjective process – he determines how likely or unlikely a parameter in the question is and then decides what value to give that parameter. So the result he gets at the end is purely a function of these subjective choices. And this is the wrong way to apply the theorem as its based on subjective rather than objective parameters.

In other words: garbage in/garbage out.

So it’s not surprising that Carrier comes up with a result on the question of whether Jesus existed that conforms to his belief that Jesus didn’t – he came up with the values that were inevitably going to come up with that result.  If someone who believed Jesus did exist did the same thing, the values they inputted would be different and they would come up with the opposite result. This is why historians don’t bother using Bayes Theorem.”(1)

In other words, Bayes’ theorem only works if you have hard values to enter in, like with annual rainfall, or current population percentages. When it comes to an event like the resurrection we don’t have values to enter in. We have to simply make them up based on our subjective preferences.

Bayes’ theorem is nothing really special, as some people like to imply (Carrier and Craig). As Aviezer Tucker says, “Philosophers find often that formal representation, Bayesian probability in our case, clarifies and concentrates the discussion.” (2)

In other words, it is telling historians what historians already know in numerical terms. In reality, it doesn’t really add anything extra to our knowledge of history. It only gives us a numerical value to apply to our probability factor, when we have hard numerical data available. If we don’t have hard numerical data, we have to fudge the numbers based on our subjective preferences of what we think the values out to be, and this is exactly what Dave does when he tries to apply Bayes’ Theorem to the resurrection.

About 13:00 in, Dave begins to calculate the prior probability, and says the background knowledge should be based on how many times in the past God has raised someone from the dead. The obvious problem is the Bible does not contain an exhaustive list of all the people who God has brought back to life. This information is simply unknown to modern humans. The Bible does mention sometimes God resuscitated someone and they came back to life, but nowhere does God or any biblical author ever put a number on how many times this has actually happened. We simply lack the background knowledge to make an inference. So Dave just decided to take the few cases in the Bible as the actual total.

On a side note, I want to mention that there is technically only one resurrection in the Bible, which is Jesus’ resurrection. The other times that someone came back to life these would be defined as resuscitations. In the Jewish sense, a resurrection (anastasis) is when a body dies and comes back to life in a new immortal, glorified form. This only was claimed to happen to Jesus. Everyone else in the Bible was just resuscitated back into their mortal body.

Back to the main point, in the strangest fashion I have seen, Dave doesn’t even give all the resuscitations in the Bible to God but instead says when the Bible records that someone like Paul or Elijah brought someone back to life this was not God doing it. Going even further, he says the people Jesus brought back to life do not count as God doing raising the dead. I had to watch this section multiple times because I could not believe what I was hearing.

Even if he rejects that Jesus claimed to be God (which is hard to argue given Jesus’ own claims) Jesus said the power he had came from the Father and Holy Spirit (John 5:19; 29-30, Luke 1:35; 4:1; Philippians 2:6-8). Paul was also said to be filled with the Holy Spirit and work through God (Acts 13:9; 2 Corinthians 13:5). It is also strongly implied in scripture all miracles come from God, not from the people themselves, but God working through them. This shouldn’t even be a controversial topic.

Also, I would like to reiterate this is still all nothing more than garbage in, garbage out. We don’t have an exhaustive account of all the people who came back from the dead. Dave only says two resuscitations count where God actually rose someone from the dead:

Screen Shot 2019-01-09 at 9.16.27 AM.png

Dave includes the passage of Matthew 27:51-53, where it says the dead saints came out of their tombs when Jesus died, but only calculates this as one resuscitation God performed, even though Matthew implies there were multiple people who rose. So Dave, awkwardly, just counts this as one resuscitation. Why? Does Dave know only one person came back? The fact remains, if this event did happen, we don’t know how many people came back to life. This is what I (and Tim O’Neill) mean when we say without hard numerical values to go on, people subjectively just make up values to suit the conclusion they want. It only goes to show us you can’t use Bayes Theorem properly when evaluating events like the resurrection.

Dave then compares the resuscitations God directly did, to the ones where he worked through someone else, and then concludes the background knowledge for the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead is low.

Screen Shot 2019-01-09 at 9.19.15 AM.png

This should be enough to show the conclusion is going to be flawed. The numerical value Dave assigned to the background knowledge is flawed and not an objective hard fact. It is not based on an exhaustive account of all resuscitations, he discounts most in the Bible as not being caused by God, and has no other factors to calculate in when studying the background knowledge. There are so many issues that it ought to be completely discounted.

To be fair, Dave does admit just after this the rest of the data points will not be easy to calculate. I would say it is impossible with our current knowledge, but let’s hear him out. Dave says next we need to calculate how likely it is that we would have evidence we do if God did raise Jesus from the dead. He then says to do this we need to talk about the early Christians and how they viewed the resurrection. He says the first recorded appearance is what Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 15.

However, Dave says, “it is fairly obvious this is not the same sort of resurrection that’s recording in the Gospels. Paul never says he saw Jesus in the flesh, and even denies it in Galatians 1. Instead, he insists that the resurrection is into a spiritual body, not the rising of a corpse.”

Ok, the errors are piling up, so let’s deal with this before moving on. This has already been extensively dealt with in part 6 of my series on the resurrection and a follow-up video on alleged development in the resurrection story, so I’ll only briefly address this here.

Paul does not deny Jesus physically rose from the dead in Galatians 1. This should be plainly obvious from just reading the passage:

Galatians 1:11-12 (ESV)

“For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Paul says the Gospel is what he received from revelation. In other words, the message of how salvation has come is what he learned through revelation. He does not say he learned of Christ’s death and resurrection through revelation. So this is nothing more than misquoting what Paul actually says. Even if I was wrong Dave is plainly incorrect that Paul denies Jesus physically rose.

In 1 Corinthians 15, he says he delivered to the Corinthians what he received. He uses a Rabbinic statement of a teacher passing something on to his students that he was taught. So this creed Paul cites would have to have come from the disciples themselves very early on so they could teach it to Paul, and what he tells them is that Jesus died and rose from the grave (see part 2 of my series for more on this).

Paul also doesn’t teach a spiritual resurrection. As I went over in part 6, the Greek words for natural and spiritual more likely denote an enlightened and unenlightened body, not different states of being, but more like different states of mind. In other words, the resurrected body will be enlightened, not ontologically something other than flesh (like a spirit). Paul even says right after this that what dies is what is raised (1 Corinthians 15:42-55). Also, in the first century and prior, there is no evidence the Greek word for resurrection (anastasis) even meant anything other than physically coming back to life when speaking about a person. So Dave has done nothing more than misquote and quote-mine Paul.

Dave then plays a clip of Bart Ehrman going on about how Jesus could not have appeared to the 12 disciples, because this appearance would have occurred after Judas died and before they elected his replacement. So there were only 11 disciples, so this has to be false. Dave doesn’t comment anything about this, but let’s response to it anyway.

This is a fairly easy objection to address. The twelve seems to just have been a title for the closest disciples of Jesus, which originally totaled 12 men. For example, in John 20, it says Jesus appears to the disciples behind a locked door. We would assume all 11 are there because it says “the disciples.” However, in verse 24 we are then told Thomas was not there. The verse also implies “the twelve” was being used as a title, “Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.” This would be an odd phrase to use if it was a numerical value since it was fairly understood in the Gospels that Judas was dead at this point (Matthew 27:3). So it’s probable when Paul says Jesus appeared to the twelve in 1 Corinthians 15, he is just speaking of the collective group that was known as the twelve.

Following this, roughly the next 30 minutes of Dave’s video is a string of different video clips edited together which argue the Gospels were written late and cannot be trusted. I have argued against a lot of the points in this my 9 part New Testament Reliability Series, in my 6 part Resurrection Series, and I am currently going through two series addressing alleged contradictions and alleged errors in the Bible so I won’t focus on that here. But what I do want to do is ask why is this actually even relevant to the topic at hand?

Dave already said at 12:42 in his video that the position he’s arguing against is Gary Habermas’ 5 minimal facts, which doesn’t rely on the Gospels being credible sources. In part 2 of my own resurrection series, I say I will not rely heavily on the Gospels but only the minimal trustworthy facts. Yet most of his video is a string of video clips arguing the gospels are not credible, so this really seems like a waste of time and doesn’t really address the minimal facts argument.

I do want to address one part in this section, which is Richard Carrier’s remarks that the Gospels are just symbolic myth because there are patterns in them he seems to think he can identify. Carrier even says this is not how history was written. Well, perhaps we should check with scholars on this (I am repeating a lot of what I said in my blog response to Godless Engineer).

New Testament scholars have speculated for years that the Gospels were written in a way to mirror individuals and events from the Hebrew Bible. N.T. Wright argues Matthew is deliberately painting Jesus as a second Moses, whereas Luke is trying to make him look like another King David.(3) Is this a problem for Christianity? Of course not, because ancient authors often looked to the past to see similarities to current events so that they could draw connections. This doesn’t imply they simply made everything up.

Oral tradition specialist, Albert Lord says, “Traditional narrators tend to tell what happened in terms of already existing patterns of story… When I say that an incident in the gospel narrative of Jesus’ life fits in a mythic pattern, there is no implication at all that this incident never happened. There is rather an implication that traditional narrators chose to remember and relate this incident because an incident of similar essence occurred in other traditional stories known to them and their predecessors. That its essence was consonant with an element in a traditional mythic (i.e., sacred) pattern adds a dimension of spiritual weight to the incident, but does not deny… the historicity of the incident.” (4)

Other ancient historians like Tacitus and Virgil also made use of this style, but never once have I heard a skeptic conclude that means they made things up. Dr. Rhiannon Ash says about Tacitus that he “…embeds such points in the very language which he uses,” and uses “linguistic echoes and structural similarities.” (5) Jan Bremmer and Nicholas Horsfall note Virgil borrowed from Roman legends to paint current events of his day. (6)

Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh say, “To be able to quote the tradition from memory, to apply it in creative or appropriate ways . . . not only brings honor to the speaker but lends authority to his words as well . . . Luke 1:68-79 is an example. It is stitched together from phrases of Psalms 41, 111, 132, 105, 106, and Micah 7… The ability to create ouch a mosaic implied extensive, detailed knowledge of the tradition and brought great honor to the speaker able to pull it off.” (7)

So Carrier is ignoring the cultural context of how history was written in the ancient Greco-Roman World and applying our cultural understanding of how to write history to the Gospels, which is unfair. There are clear patterns in the gospels, but that doesn’t mean the events did not happen. It means the Gospel authors purposely picked certain elements out to highlight patterns. Patterns simply happen sometimes and humans like to highlight them because it is in our nature. Ironically, that is all Carrier is doing, looking for patterns where ever they may or may not exist and assuming correlation is causation.

Finally, after all the video clips have finished Dave gets back to assigning values to plug into Bayes’ theorem. He says he is being as kind as possible and takes the value of 0.8 from Dr. David Baggett’s paper “An Application of Bayes’s Theorem To The Case For The Historicity Of The Resurrection Of Jesus” to assign to value of “how likely it is that we would have the evidence we do, if God did resurrect Jesus from the dead.” The paper he is citing is actually doing the opposite of Dave, in that it is trying to use Bayes’ theorem to argue it is probable Jesus did rise from the dead. Following this, Dave also takes the value from the paper for the probability that God didn’t raise Jesus from the dead as 0.3.

Screen Shot 2019-01-09 at 9.48.47 AM.png

The problem I have here is the paper commits a lot of the same problems that Dave is committing. There just isn’t hard numerical data to quantify this. Everyone who applies Bayes’ Theorem to the resurrection on both sides of the debate gets the result they want because they arbitrary assigned values to get that. It is all purely subjective and so when Christians use it, garbage in, garbage out. When non-Christians use it, garbage in, garbage out.

Dave ultimately gets a value of .4966 that Jesus rose from the dead, but this is because he assigned such a low value to the background knowledge, which we addressed early in this blog post, and that was based on obvious insufficient data, cherry picking, and skewing things to his liking. Again, and I cannot iterate this enough: when you don’t start with cold hard objective quantities to plug in, you subjectively assign what you want to get the result you want. If there are no values available you cannot use Bayes theorem to evaluate the past.

So the reality is this is not the correct way to evaluate a historical claim. Mike Licona does a far better job in his book, “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographic Approach,” where he says the best way to evaluate a historical claim is to use Behan McCullagh’s criterion for weighing historical theories. (8)

I went over this in part 2 of my series, but I’ll briefly address it again. For a theory to be successful it must:

Have Greater Explanatory Scope – This criterion looks at the quality of facts accounted for by a hypothesis. The hypothesis that includes the most relevant data has the most explanatory scope.

Have Greater Explanatory Power – The criterion looks at the quality of the explanation of the facts. The hypothesis that explains the data with the least amount of effort, vagueness, and ambiguity has greater explanatory power.

Have The Most Plausibility – This criterion assesses whether other areas known with confidence suggest a certain hypothesis. A hypothesis is more plausible if other disciplines support the hypothesis.

Be The Least Ad Hoc – A hypothesis possesses an ad hoc component when it enlists nonevidenced assumptions, that is, it goes beyond what is already known. When a hypothesis adds extra unnecessary assumptions it becomes ad hoc. In other words, the simplest explanation is the best.

Provide Illumination – This criterion means a hypothesis can be more powerful if it provides possible solutions to other problems without consuming other areas held with confidence. This criterion is less important than the other four.

When it comes to the data we went over in my series, McCullagh accepted the resurrection hypothesis has the most explanatory scope and power and we argue it is also more plausible and less ad hoc. It is more plausible because other arguments for God’s existence in cosmology, quantum mechanics, ethics, fine-tuning, etc., make the resurrection claim more plausible. So we have other areas of knowledge which already support the existence of God. As William Lane Craig says, “Only if the naturalist has good reasons to think that God’s existence is implausible or his intervention in the world implausible could he justifiably regard the resurrection hypothesis as implausible.” (9)

It is the less ad hoc because it posits fewer assumptions than alternative naturalistic explanations.  Dr. Campbell points out the resurrection hypothesis only adds one extra assumption, not multiple, “…it is difficult to see why the resurrection hypothesis is extraordinarily ad hoc. It requires only one new supposition: that God exists. Surely rival hypotheses require many new suppositions.” (10) In other words, the number of assumptions that naturalistic explanations employ make them all far more ad hoc than the resurrection hypothesis.

Finally, the resurrection hypothesis also provides illumination and strengthens the likelihood of Jesus’ other claim, like that He is divine and YHWH.

Dave should take this route and try to find a better explanation that fits this criterion. Attempting to debunk the resurrection through Bayes’ Theorem simply doesn’t work and luckily there is a better way to go about it. I argued in my series the resurrection hypothesis meets all of these criterions, and my challenge is if there is a naturalistic hypothesis that can overtake the resurrection hypothesis through this methodology.

Episode 3:

This is a much shorter video and there is not much to address here. The aim of this video is simply to argue that even if the resurrection did happen it would not prove Christianity is necessarily true. Well, obviously that is correct. No one should claim it proves Christianity is true, however, that doesn’t mean the resurrection does not provide illumination for the rest of the claims of Christianity and make them more plausible.

I’ve argued the reliability of the New Testament, various arguments for God’s existence, and the case for the Resurrection is enough to support the truth of Christianity. Soon I’ll add a series on Old Testament archaeology to support the truth of Christianity as well. Furthermore, the resurrection does provide illumination on the truth of Christianity and does make it more plausible. After all, if Jesus did rise from the dead, that shows He has power and is trustworthy.

In fact, throughout the Bible, miraculous signs are given as reasons to trust the claims of God. In Matthew 9:5 Jesus heals a man paralyzed so they will have evidence or know He is the Son of Man. In John 14:11, Jesus tells the disciples to believe, or have faith in Him on the works they have seen Him do. Even in Exodus 9:14 God told Pharaoh through Moses that the plagues will be given so they may know there is no one like YHWH.

Specifically, Jesus says in Matthew 12:38-42 that the resurrection will be a sign of the truth of what He has claimed. So although we agree the resurrection could possibly be just an odd coincidence (anything is possible), the fact that the evidence suggests Jesus did rise from the dead makes the rest of the claims of Christianity more plausible.

Next, Dave makes an odd claim towards the end of this video. He says, “…1 Corinthians 15 should not be read as the resurrection of Jesus validating the truth of Christianity. Instead, this is intended to provide a framework about the overall mission of Jesus as “the Christ”. That is, Paul is not attempting to demonstrate that the resurrection occurred, or even that Jesus rose from the dead rendered him to be “the Christ”, at least not yet, but this merely laying down the argument at this is, in fact, the first stage of the overall plan for the future state of the world… In fact, when reading this passage in full, it becomes clear that this passage is intending to remind the church in Corinth, not only that Jesus rose from the dead but the important point Paul is stressing is that this is not the end of the story. Given that Paul is stressing that the benefits of the resurrection have yet to come. Therefore, what this means, is that the point he is making is almost the opposite of what Christian commentators claim; that the resurrection validates the truth of Christianity.”

The reason why this is an odd claim is that Paul makes several points as part of a larger goal in 1 Corinthians 15. Dave is correct his main goal is to teach the Corinthians that we will all be resurrected, but what is important is Paul makes several other points related to the overall goal along the way.

He first starts by reminding them of the evidence for the resurrection by citing the witnesses who saw the risen Lord (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). So Paul is, in fact, beginning with evidence Jesus rose from the dead and that is why they ought to believe there will be a future resurrection for all Christians. He then reminds them of the utter importance of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12-20), that all Christianity fails if Jesus has not been raised.

So I am not sure what the point of Dave’s 3rd episode is. Sure, the overall message of 1 Corinthians 15 is there will be a coming resurrection for all Christians, but in order to make that final point, Paul makes several other additional points to support this. One is that if Jesus has not been raised then our faith is in vain. Paul is capable of making additional points in 1 Corinthians 15 besides the main argument.

In conclusion, there is not really much in these three videos that challenge the case for the resurrection of Jesus. Now, Dave did say at the end of part 3 that more videos were to come, but we have not seen any in a while. So if he does make more videos and offer any reasonable points or challenges to the resurrection I’ll respond when I have the time. However, if all he does is build on his misuse of Bayes’ theorem, or assume naturalism is already true so the resurrection has to be the least probable, there really won’t be much to address because we have already dealt with this issues extensively.

Bonus Video:

Dave also responded to a video I made on defending the laws of logic and people have asked why I didn’t respond to that in-depth. Well, because the entire video is a straw man, as I never once claimed in my original video I was defending classical logic, and that was the basis of his reply. If I did a response it would just be me saying over and over, “No Dave, I didn’t say or imply that.” My video is not a defense of classical logic (which I do not even hold to). Plus, he employed a lot of the same misunderstanding AnticitizenX did in his blog reply, and Derezzed83 wrote a guest post on my blog which dealt with that. So there is really nothing more to say other than that Dave built up an entire straw man argument.

 

Sources:

1. https://www.quora.com/What-is-your-opinion-on-the-use-of-Bayes-theorem-as-a-tool-to-discover-the-best-historical-explanation-for-the-data-we-have-as-outlined-by-Richard-Carrier

2. Tucker, Aviezer. Our knowledge of the past: A philosophy of historiography. Cambridge University Press, 2004, 22

3. Wright, NT. The New Testament and the People of God. Fortress Press, 1992, 341- 435

4. Lord, Albert. The Gospels as Oral Traditional Literature in The Relationship among the Gospels: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue. Trinity University Press, 1978, 39

5. Ash, Rhiannon. Tacitus. Bristol Classic Press, 2006, 85-87.

6. Bremmer, Jan. Horsfall, Nicholas. Roman Myth and Mythology. University of London, 1987, 99-100

7. Malina, Bruce. Rohrbaugh, Richard. Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Augsburgh Fotress Press, 2002, 293-294

8. Licona, Mike. The Resurrection of Jesus:A New Historiographic Approach. InterVarsity Press, 2010, 109-111

9. Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith. Crossway, 2008, 188-189

10. Campbell, Travis. Defending the Resurrection. Xulon Press, 2010, 292

Cyber Bully AntiCitizenX has Reached New Lows

Average Reading Time: 25 Minutes

Guest post by Derezzed83:

In his latest blog post, written in his usual bellicose, condescending style, AntictizenX attacked InspiringPhilosophy for his video Logic Defended. It’s clear that even though ACX makes a few valid points, his critique is motivated by a deep personal vendetta against IP. Take for instance ACX’s previous post where he said he wouldn’t be surprised if ‘IP abuses his family’, which seems over the top even for someone known for being excessively antagonistic and condescending! Seemingly half of his 1000 word blog post was dedicated to personally attacking IP. Ironically, despite accusing IP of being biased and philosophically ignorant, the blog post highlights a pernicious pattern of bias on the part of ACX. Reading his blog post one can’t help but notice that his position is based on a mishmash of contradictory and often inconsistent metaphysical ideas.
It’s also important to emphasize that there’s no fundamental disagreement between AnticitizenX and InspiringPhilosophy when it comes to the main thesis of the video. Both agree that the logic that is used by the majority of people every day to reason about the world is valid. So one begins to feel like it was really personal animosity for IP which motivated ACX to write such a long blog post, in which he obsessively scrutinizes every line and comes to often wildly inaccurate conclusions about what IP said. Let’s go through his blog post step by step:

IP: “Can we trust the laws of logic?
ACX: “The next question that needs to be asked at this point is, Exactly which “laws of logic” is IP referring to? As I said earlier, there is no such thing as a singular, unifying school of logic… I assume from the context that IP is defending classical propositional logic…”

Who cares if IP says “I’m defending logic” instead of saying “I am defending classic propositional logic” or “I am defending three-valued logic”. Why should IP include philosophical jargon early in his presentation when he is speaking to a general lay audience? It was clear to me and probably to the majority of his audience that he is defending the type of logic that the vast majority of ordinary people use every day to reason about the world or the type of logic used in scientific discourse. The same type of logic that is used by competent everyday speakers of the English language.

IP: “[Is logic] just another man-made construct built on sand?”
ACX: “I realize that IP is being somewhat rhetorical here, but the very nature of his questions reveal a profound bias. Namely, what exactly does IP have against man-made constructs?”

If ACX realizes that IP could be speaking rhetorically, then why is he taking the most uncharitable interpretation possible? This is also a complete strawman. IP did not say logic is worthless just because it’s a man-made construct. For all we know, IP believes that many man-made constructs are worthwhile pursuits and valuable in and of themselves, except logic could be an example of a man-made construct that isn’t. Not because it’s man-made per se, but because it lacks a connection to external reality. What IP said is ambiguous but why be so pedantic and interpret it in the most uncharitable way possible?

IP: “Many argue the laws of logic are not true and use a form of Russell’s paradox to show this.”
ACX: “Notice that we’re not even 30 seconds into the video, and IP is either being inexcusably lazy or just outright dishonest. The phrase many argue is a textbook example of Weasel Wordsña deliberate manipulation tactic designed to make an argument appear more relevant than it actually is. It is also intentionally vague enough so that we are unable to check out the source for ourselves. For instance, who exactly are these many people supposed to be? How influential are they? Where can I read their arguments for myself? Are these people serious academics with PhDs?”

What is ACX talking about here? One of the main motivations why a whole BRANCH of logic other than classical logic (i.e. paraconsistent logic) was developed is because of Russel’s paradox. The philosopher Graham Priest has written extensively on this and itís even listed in his Stanford Encyclopedia entry on dialetheism (a type of non-classical logic). These were not “weasel words” on the part of IP, he is not as ACX alleges, trying to make the argument seem more relevant than it already is. So what if IP didn’t mention these philosophers individually? IP has to juggle between presenting engagingly and concisely or bombarding his audience with too much information, and sometimes information gets left out. Isn’t ACX just trying to hold IP to an excessively high standard?

IP: “Logic simply is a description of everything that is and everything that is possible.”
ACX: “This is very clearly an embarrassing misconception. How on Earth does IP expect to defend the laws of logic when he cannot even define that word correctly? It reminds me of the old adage about playing checkers against an opponent who is playing chess. Only in IP’s case, it’s more like he’s playing Go Fish with a sack of marbles while all the chess players are in a different building down the street.”
Later in the blog:
ACX: “Remember that logic is not a force to be trusted; it is a tool to be exercised. The reason why logic works so well at describing the universe is because we specifically invented logic to do exactly that.”

ACX claims IP can’t even define logic, but he gives the exact same definition of logic as IP later in his blog post! IP said that logic is a description of everything that is and everything that is possible. ACX says that we invented logic to describe the Universe. I don’t understand how ACX thinks his position is different from IP’s? They both think logic is a description of the world, the only difference is that IP thinks logic is also a description of the way things could be. ACX also wastes no time to take a personal jab at IP and his grandiose condescension is nauseating given the fact that he LITERALLY says almost the same thing as IP just using different words!

ACX: “The thing that makes this even more infuriating is the way in which IP specifically frames it all as a direct accusation against atheists”

Sorry, but I must have missed the part where IP treated atheists as a singular homogenous group who deny logic. ACX is attributing a position to IP that he probably doesn’t even hold. IP is specifically addressing a group of people who deny the type of logic people use every day, who may or may not be atheists.

IP:
“Here is a simple argument of how they try to show the laws of logic are not true or objective.
Premise 1: Assume that the laws of logic are true.
Premise 2: All propositions are either true or false.
Premise 3: The proposition “This proposition is false is neither true nor false.
Premise 4: There exists at least one proposition that is neither true nor false.
Premise 5: It is not the case that all propositions are either true or false.
Premise 6: It both is and is not the case that all propositions are either true or false.”

ACX: “notice again that IP gives zero citations as to where exactly this mysterious argument is coming from. I even tried to Google it myself, but I could not find a single example of anything remotely similar. It therefore seems to me that, for all practical purposes, IP might as well be inventing it out of nothing. I donít know what to say, other than congratulations on your amazing straw man, dude.”

Actually, the argument was presented by Carneades.org:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBlDGTZUOek

If ACX thinks IP is inventing this argument from nothing then he is simply ignorant of a whole branch of philosophy which attempted to reconcile the Liar’s paradox with classical logic. This philosophical tradition stretched from Bertrand Russel to Alfred Tarski to Quine and Saul Kripke. The fact that the Liar’s paradox allegedly shows that some propositions may be both true and false (or neither true or false) at the same time is why whole new logical systems (paraconsistent logic or three-valued logic) were invented! AnticitizenX is just showcasing his ignorance here.

IP: “So if this argument works, it would show we cannot trust the laws of logic. However, there are several problems with this argument and line of reasoning that need to be addressed. First, the argument breaks down in premise 2. Not all propositions are either true or false.”

ACX: “The premise that all propositions are either true or false is called bivalence, and it is a core presumption in classical propositional logic. That means when IP rejects this principle, he is effectively rejecting a fundamental law of logic in order to defend the laws of logic. That’s not a very good start.”

I’ve spoken to InspiringPhilosophy and he is defending a three-valued logical system, not classical logic. He is rejecting bivalence because bivalence (i.e. all propositions are either true or false) doesn’t apply to propositions such as “this sentence is false”. There’s absolutely no contradiction on the part of IP here. IP never claimed he was defending classical logic. The fact that he is defending a three-valued logical system is apparent from his video (even if he doesn’t mention the term “three-valued logic” outright) because he says not all propositions are either true or false, rather that’s a false dichotomy, which must mean there’s a third option.

ACX says, “In principle, IP could easily avoid this little trap by simply admitting to the existence of different systems of logic. But you have to remember that IP views logic as an objectively potent force unto itself, independent of human intervention. He is therefore not allowed to accept logic as a human invention because that would immediately render it unreliable (i.e., “built on sand”).”

This is a complete fabrication and a lie on the part of AnticitizenX. IP has never denied the existence of different systems of logic. Although IP has never mentioned three-valued systems or paraconsistent logic in this video, there’s no evidence whatsoever that he has denied they exist. AnticitizenX is attributing words and positions to IP that he has no evidence that IP has ever held.

IP: “A proposition can be defined as a statement or assertion that expresses a judgement or opinion.”

ACX: “Sentences like this are hilarious to me because they perfectly demonstrate how little IP has studied logic. When I Googled the word ‘proposition,’ this was the verbatim definition that came up in my search. However, when I actually looked up the definition from an academic source, the result was something very different. According to Richard E. Hodel’s textbook, An Introduction to Mathematical Logic, a simple proposition is a declarative sentence that is either true or false and has no connectives. Likewise, a proposition is a declarative sentence that either is a simple proposition or is built up from simple propositions using one or more of the connectives not, or, and, if-then, and if-and-only-if.
To be fair, the distinction between these two definitions is a bit subtle, but it does illustrate the extent of IPís ‘research’ for these videos. He completely avoids any contact with authentic, scholarly references, but instead relies entirely on 10-second Google searches to get his information. It also shows that, again, classical logic requires all propositions must be either true or false. IP is flat-out denying a fundamental law of logic in his defense of the laws of logic.”

IP may not have used the academic definition of “proposition” (“a proposition is a declarative sentence that is either true or false”) because as we can see from his video he is defending a three-valued logical system, where not all propositions are either true or false! Also on what evidence does ACX base his assertion that IP is not interacting with scholarly literature? Just because he uses a layman’s definition of a proposition? Are not his videos attempts to simplify complex ideas for a more general audience? The academic and layman’s definition of a proposition are effectively synonymous on the logical system that IP is defending!

IP: “Consider the statement ‘Easter is the best holiday.’ This cannot be proven true or false. It is just an expression of opinion.”

ACX: “I find it truly baffling that IP thinks this is supposed to be compelling. All we have to do is ask ourselves what exactly we mean by that statement. For example, if we take this proposition to mean ‘It is my opinion that Easter is the best holiday,’ then we absolutely have a statement of truth. Sure, it may just be my opinion that Easter is the best holiday, but it is verifiably true that I hold to this opinion (or, if I do not hold such an opinion, then it would be false).
Alternatively, we could take this proposition to mean something more like ‘It is an objective fact that Easter is the best holiday.’ However, that proposition has a truth value as well. By definition, opinions are subjective facts that only apply to individuals and their preferences. It is therefore a contradiction in terms to speak of an objectively correct opinion, and the proposition simply becomes false. So no matter how we interpret his proposition, there exists a definite assignment of truth.”

IP’s argument is very compelling since, contra AnticitizenX, the closest interpretation of the statement that “Easter is the best holiday!” is neither (A) “My subjective opinion is Easter is the best holiday” or (B) “it is an objective fact that Easter is the best holiday”. The closest interpretation to “Easter is the best holiday!” is captured by the statement “Hurrah for Easter!”, which is an expression of one’s subjective emotional state. It has no definite truth value because it is not describing a property of the external world.

ACX: “The Liars paradox is a textbook example of the kind of proposition that binary logic struggles to deal with. ThatÌs why we have, for example, systems of tri-state logic. Unfortunately, that would again require IP to acknowledge the existence of multiple logics, which he has specifically refused to do from the outset. It would also force him to completely overhaul his entire conception of truth itself.”

If I was as hypercritical as AnticitizenX, I would accuse him of not having any clue of what he was talking about, because the expression “tri-state logic” relates to digital electronics and has nothing to do with three-valued logical systems. Also, AnticitizenX keeps repeating the lie that IP has denied the existence of alternative logical systems, which IP has never done.

ACX: “Remember that IP thinks logic is an objective force of nature unto itself and thus independent of human design. By the same token, IP also tends to think of truth itself as something very similar. If we take the more modern approach, however, then truth is just a label that we assign to propositions.”

First, IP has never said logic is a force of nature unto itself. AnticitizenX is openly lying. His exact words are, “logic is a description of everything that is [external reality] and everything that could be”. Ironically, it is AnticitizenX who is contradicting himself here. Previously he wrote that logic was invented by humans to describe the universe and works very well at that task. Now he is saying truth is just a label that we assign to propositions? These two statements reveal a deep confusion about the nature of truth and logic. On one hand, AnticitizenX takes a deflationary account of truth, where a truth is merely assigned according to the axioms of a system. On the other hand, he thinks true propositions are the ones that accurately describe the external world, which is a non-deflationary account of truth. Obviously, these two positions can’t both be true.

ACX: “If we take the more modern approach, however, then truth is just a label that we assign to propositions. This immediately solves the liar’s paradox by rendering it undecidable because there is no procedure you can apply through axioms and rules of inference to arrive at a final truth value (at least, not if you want to preserve consistency). The only problem with this approach is that it forces us to give up on any platonic ideal of truth. Truth, in effect, is reduced in meaning to the bare procedure that was constructed to assign it (at least, for analytic propositions it is). For us pragmatists, that’s perfectly acceptable because we’re not interested in some nonsensical platonic ideal of truthiness. We just want a system of communication that allows us to talk at each other effectively. For IP, unfortunately, that’s not allowed. He has to believe in his magical world of metaphysical mystery.”

I spoke with IP, he is not a Platonist. Furthermore, having a three-valued logical system doesn’t force you to “reduce the meaning of truth to the bare procedure that was constructed to assign it”. Propositions under the three-valued logical system can still be true and false, and we are not given any reason by AnticitizenX as to why a proposition that is true under a three-valued logical system could not correspond or reflect external reality. In other words, adopting a three-valued logical system doesn’t force us to take a deflationary view of truth.

IP: “Carloman was murdered by his brother Charlemagne so he could have the throne for himself.
This statement is either true or false. However, we cannot be sure if it is true due to lack of information. We do not have enough records or evidence to confirm whether or not Carloman was murdered or died naturally. It is simply beyond the scope of our knowledge today. Which brings us to the next problem with this argument. This argument itself is based on Gödel’s theorems, which many think shows logic doesn’t work. But in a nutshell, they actually only show that no consistent system of axioms, whose theorems can be listed by an ‘effective procedure’ is capable of proving all truth. In other words, Gödel’s theorems show we cannot fully prove something is true, just because it seems like it is or is consistent. All Gödel did was show we are limited in having total proof of something. But even without Gödel that is intuitively obvious. Many things will always just be 99% probably true, but absolute certainty will always be beyond our reach.”

ACX: “This paragraph is so hopelessly muddled that I literally stared at it in confusion for two minutes before thinking of something to say. For starters, the uncertainty surrounding Carloman’s death has absolutely nothing to do with Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. That’s because Carloman’s death is a matter of synthetic propositions where truth is assigned in accordance with a preponderance of empirical data. In contrast, Gödel’s theorems are a statement about the nature of language itself.”

Notice that blatant lie by AnticitizenX?

Let’s call the statement “Carloman was murdered by his brother Charlemagne so he could have the throne for himself” (statement (A)).
And let’s called the following argument the dialetheist argument.
Premise 1: Assume that the laws of logic are true.
Premise 2: All propositions are either true or false.
Premise 3: The proposition “This proposition is false” is neither true nor false.
Premise 4: There exists at least one proposition that is neither true nor false.
Premise 5: It is not the case that all propositions are either true or false.
Premise 6: It both is and is not the case that all propositions are either true or false.

IP argued that we can’t know whether statement (A) is true or false on the current evidence we possess. He argues that this shows that one of the premises (premise 2) of the dialetheist argument is unsound. I think it’s pretty clear to me that IP did not claim, as AnticitizenX alleges, that statement (A) has something to do with Gödel’s incompleteness theorem.
When he says, “which brings us to the next problem with this argument”, IP clearly outlines that he is bringing up Gödel s incompleteness theorem in relation to the dialetheist argument and not in relation to statement (A). I think that at this point it’s clear that AnticitizenX has so much hostility towards IP that he can’t even read properly what IP is saying.

ACX: “Secondly, notice the repeated use of weasel words: Many think that Gödel’s theorems show logic doesn’t work. Seriously, who exactly are these people? I have never once encountered a single human being in the entire universe who claims this. IP is again arguing against total phantoms, all with the same unspoken subtext that, no really, it’s atheists.”

Just because AnticitizenX has not encountered a single human being in the entire universe who has claimed this, that doesn’t make Gödel’s incompleteness theorem any less relevant to the discussion. I don’t know why AnticitizenX thinks the entire universe revolves around him. As the philosopher, S. Choi outlines: “one of the Priest’s main motivations for Dialetheism is Gödel’s theorem. He applies Gödel sentence to a naive notion of proof in natural language and attempts to make an argument for Dialetheism”
https://philpapers.org/archive/CHOCGI.pdf
“one of the main proponents of dialetheism, Graham Priest, has argued that Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem implies the existence of dialetheias” (On the Gˆdelian argument for dialetheism, K. Zahidi)

IP: “This argument itself is based on Gödel’s theorems, which many think shows logic doesn’t work. But in a nutshell, they actually only show that no consistent system of axioms, whose theorems can be listed by an ‘effective procedure’ is capable of proving all truth.”

ACX: “Notice that IP specifically removed any mention of arithmetic and natural numbers. This is important because it limits the context in a way that contradicts IP’s interpretation. He must have done this on purpose, too, because I see no possible way to accidentally remove such a key piece of information. The guy just flat-out lied to his audience, all so he could invent some obtuse interpretation about logic that doesnít even apply to its original context.”

IP has removed mentions of arithmetic and numbers because he is referencing Gödel’s incompleteness theorem not in reference to arithmetic but in reference to logic in natural languages. This is in response to people who make similar arguments to Graham Priest, people who take Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem and argue for dialetheism.

IP: “So because of that, we can also deny premise 3 and say that it is a false dichotomy.”

ACX: “This sentence is especially confusing, in that IP is now outright contradicting himself. He just spent the last two paragraphs explaining in great detail that not all propositions have to be true or false, and now he is denying a premise claiming that not all propositions have to be true or false! Seriously. Read that premise again: Premise 3: The proposition ‘This proposition is false; is neither true nor false. You just categorically denied the very thing you set out to prove, you imbecile!”

Ad hominem attacks aside, AnticitizenX actually has a valid point here. I’ve spoken to IP and he says he misspoke during the video and meant to say that he is denying Premise 2, (“All propositions are either true and false”) and not premise 3. I think there’s a fair bit of evidence to support IP’s claim that he made a simple mistake and meant to say “premise 2” not “premise 3”. For instance, when he says that the premise is a false dichotomy that only makes sense if we apply to premise 2 (“All propositions are either true and false”). Such a simple mistake is entirely forgivable during a 15-minute video and there’s zero need to lambast IP for it, given the fact that AnticitizenX has made similar mistakes such as confusing the terms “tri-state logic” with “three-valued logic”.

IP: “I can explain how and why if we reduce the problem to mathematics, which can show the statement this statement is false can actually be solved. Allow me to explain using the work of G. Spencer Brown.
The proposition can be represented as X = -1/X. Now like the statement in our argument, if you try to solve with x = 1, the equation will yield negative 1. If you try X = -1, then positive 1 comes back. The solution oscillates between one and negative one, like true or false. One being true, and negative one being false, just like our proposition. If you say it is true, then it canÌt be because it claims it is false. If you say it is false, then it cannot be true in claiming it is false. Same problem, just represented mathematically. So how do we escape this vicious cycle? The solution is to use i, which is also the same as the square root of negative one. If you substitute x for i, you get i = -1/i, and negative one over i is also i. Thus, mathematically, the problem can be solved, because i transcends the paradox.”

ACX: “This is the part where IP really flies off the rails, and it is truly baffling where he got the idea to present this information. For starters, G. Spencer Brown is essentially no one. The guy has almost no historical significance or philosophical influence to speak of. Secondly, I attempted briefly to read through G. Spencer Brownís book, and all I found was a meaningless word salad of incoherent gibberish. To illustrate, these are the first words Brown writes in the forward to the text:
“The theme of this book is that a universe comes into being when a space is severed or taken apart. The skin of a living organism cuts off an outside from an inside. So does the circumference of a circle in a plane. By tracing the way we represent such a severance, we can begin to reconstruct the basic forms underlying linguistic, mathematical physical, and biological science, and can begin to see how the familiar laws of our own experience follow inexorably from the original act of severance.”
The book pretty much rambles endlessly in this style of prose, and it only gets worse the deeper you dig into it.”

Who cares who formulated the argument? I think arguments should be judged based on their merit not on who originated them. This is a genetic fallacy.

Academic credentials aside, I still did my best to charitably interpret the underlying train of thought. Basically, Brown is saying that the equation x^2 = -1 has no solution within the set of natural numbers. Thus, something other than a natural number is required in order to solve it. By analogy, classical binary logic cannot assign a truth value to the Liar’s paradox. Thus, a new system of logical truth values must be invented that does.

ACX: “This stuff is important because it completely undermines IP’s central thesisñthe idea that the laws of logic can be ‘trusted.’ Clearly the laws of classical binary logic are not trustworthy because they completely break down when exposed to self-referential negations (remember, this is IP’s own argument!)”

ACX is again attributing an argument to IP that he has not made. IP is not defending classic binary logic, and he has said so in the comment section of his video multiple times. When taken as a whole, it’s clear that IP is defending a three-valued logical system, he thinks not all propositions are either true or false, and some propositions are neither, i.e. the statement Easter is the best holiday.

IP: “The only problem is that we cannot epistemically understand the mathematical usage of i.”

ACX: “This claim is just laughable. Mathematicians are very well-acquainted with the ‘mathematical usage of i.’ The imaginary unit is, by definition, the number that produces -1 when squared.”

There are two interpretations of what IP said, and again ACX is assuming the worst. The first interpretation is that we can’t understand “i” epistemically, and the other is that we can’t understand the mathematical use of “i”. Could IP have written this sentence a bit more clearly? Sure, he is fine admitting that. But I think it’s clear to most people what he meant. It’s clear that IP meant that we can conceptualize what the natural numbers like 1,2,3,etc. are supposed to be, since, for instance, we have a concept of what 1 apple is compared to 2 apples or what having 1 coin as opposed to 2 coins, but it’s impossible to conceptualize ‘i’ in the same way, because we cannot tie it to something that exists in reality. What is an i apple supposed to be? In the same way, statements which are undecidable, such as “this statement is false” is undecidable because it has no connection to external reality, it just references itself.

“IP: “Thus, Gödel was proven right, and not the absolute skeptic who doubts logic is true.”

ACX: “I’m just going to recap IPís argument over the last few sentences and see if you can make sense out of it.
Imaginary numbers “transcend” integers.
By analogy, the liar’s paradox transcends true and false.
Therefore, Gödel was right.
Therefore, logic is true.
Seriously, dude. How do you have patrons?”

That’s clearly not a valid recap of the argument IP was making. To me it’s clear that the argument IP was making can be summarized as:
Gödel has shown that no consistent set of axioms is capable of proving all truths.
The formula x=-1/x is a putative example of a mathematical formula whose truth is not provable since the solution oscillates between 1 and -1 in the same way that the truth of the proposition, “this sentence is false,” oscillates between true and false.
A solution to the Liar’s paradox is that the proposition, “this sentence is false” is undecidable, in the same way, that the solution to the equation x=-1/x is substitution i for x.
There are several analogies between mathematical unprovable formulas such as x=-1/x and undecidable statements. First, both are self-referential. Second, we have trouble conceptualizing what an undecidable proposition like, “This sentence is false!” is supposed to represent, in the same way we have trouble conceptualizing i.

If I understood all of this in 3 minutes, why is it so hard for AnticitizenX to understand it?

In summary, ACX scrutinizes every single word spoken by IP, but it’s clear that he himself is deeply confused about the nature of truth. He offers various contradictory accounts; on one hand, he seems to think logic describes the universe. While on the other hand, he thinks a true proposition is only true by virtue of truth assignments and axioms.
He is seemingly unaware of the vast philosophical literature on the Liar’s paradox and Gödel’s incompleteness theorem in relation to dialetheism. And while he makes a few valid points, there’s an undercurrent of outright hostility towards IP and this antagonism biases whatever valid critiques he has to offer.

The Numerous Errors of Prophet of Zod

Estimated Reading Time: 25 Minutes

Atheists don’t have any real arguments I suppose. That might be why they just fill their videos with insults, instead of arguments. Prophet of Zod is no exception, just another rant, numerous philosophical errors, and an attempt to see how many times he can insult theists. I am always amazed that they think they can insult their way to victory, but that is what they constantly do as if they are cut from the same mold. Now given my busy life my contributor Kyle Alander has helped me in response to Zod and we will show his errors.

Zod tried to respond to my god of the gaps video and it was quite unfortunate at how bad he was at this. He made a bunch of philosophical errors (including not understanding what methodological naturalism is), and made conflicting claims and basically proved my original video correct (that atheists just assume their worldview).

He begins already upset that I started my video by noting “It seems a common reply to the arguments from natural theology is to cry “god of the gaps.””

I am not sure how he can miss the double standard here. He has already said in the opening minutes of his video my name “Inspiring Philosophy” is ironic for what I do and said my video is bullshit, but then begins to whine about how childish I am that I said some atheists cry god of the gaps. This is just a perfect example of atheists turning molehills into mountains. I’m surprised that when you throw out insults all day you’re shocked someone throws them back at you. He throws out a bunch of insults and condescending remarks throughout his entire video, but is so upset I said some atheists “cry” god of the gaps.

He then asks that if we think “The point is skeptics shout out the phrase [god of the gaps] as a thoughtless knee-jerk reaction?”

To answer his question, yes. That is basically what I get in comments and why I put the screenshots up. It is a thoughtless knee-jerk reaction, that doesn’t really address our arguments or evidence, and that is what Zod does throughout his video. He never addresses the evidence, just assumes naturalism is true and any evidence for theism is just appealing to the mystery (more on this later).

He then says about the gods of the gaps fallacy, “I’ve never seen any pattern of this argument being employed as a last resort.” Well, I don’t care what you have seen, Zod. I have seen it (which is why I screenshot them and put it in my video). Typically, I present the evidence and the inference to theism then I get a bunch of arguments where the skeptic confuses possibility with probability, throws out red herrings, or just avoids the evidence altogether. Then after I keep asking for a better explanation all I get is “god of the gaps.” If he needs to stop the video to make a note about his experience it really makes me question where this response is going.

He then rants for a little while about pedantic issues. Then around 5:30 he said, “I have a feeling these are artificially distinct categories (science and metaphysics) and that any attempt at using a metaphysical theory to prove God will be built on unexplained physical observation.” Now it is my turn to be nitpicky. I have said this a thousand times. No argument can prove God exists. We argue theism is the most logical inference or the best explanation of the data. That is all. Atheists constantly want to straw man this and assume we are trying to prove God, instead of what natural theology actually aims to do. We are not trying to prove God exists we are arguing theism is the best explanation of reality from observed data. Why is that so hard to understand? It is not about proof and never has been.

At 6:30, Zod really goes off the rails. He says, “So let me get this straight, according to you if you claim that a physical process needs to be explained by a current miracle that occurs within that process that’s god of the gaps, but if you claim that the same physical process or the culmination of all physical processes must be explained by God miraculously setting the universe into motion, that’s not god of the gaps. Seriously, that’s what you’re going for?”

To reply, yes. I really shouldn’t have to say more than that, because that is the truth. There is pretty big difference Zod just brushed over and I am surprised he missed it. Putting a miracle into a physical process is unlikely given that physical processes can explain themselves in naturalistic ways. But as even atheist Thomas Nagel says, in his book, “Mind and Cosmos” (Pages 13-33), that doesn’t explain why there are physical processes, to begin with. (1) If you think the answers to the arguments from natural theology are actually naturalistic then please provide a better explanation after we have given the arguments for theism. Don’t just assume metaphysical explanations are the same a scientific ones. They are not, and that should be obvious.

Zod then shoots himself in the foot with an analogy. He says (I’m paraphrasing) picture a domino that we see fall over. One person says God must have pushed that over. A second person says I don’t think God pushed it over but maybe he pushed the original domino over which led to that one. It is an odd analogy because you can see screen changes and thus the analogy changes. In the first clip there is just one domino that fell over (probably from wind):Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 9.15.31 AM.png

Then he switches to a second clip where you see him literally push over a bunch of dominoes that lead to the first:
Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 9.15.53 AM.png

Then says both people are doing the same thing. No, Zod, in your own analogy they are not doing the same thing.

In the second we see him push them over, whereas, in the first, the one domino just falls over by itself. So the analogy is awkward, at best, and if we take the analogy as it stands it actually work against his point (since in the second there was an intervention that caused the dominos to fall over). Zod didn’t mean for it to be understood this way, but the actions of the analogy he set up, speak louder than how he wants us to interpret it.

Zod says, “Both of these people are doing the same thing. They’re looking at a mystery and coming up with the same premature, totally unjustified theory that God did it.” Ironically, as I said, if we took his analogy literally (with him as the divine intervener) then it actually does make sense to say God did it since we have good evidence of intervention in this second example. But let’s use his analogy to make a point about how natural theology works and why crying ‘god of the gaps’ whenever the atheist wants to is a bad argument.

In the first scenario, Zod set up we just saw one domino fall over. It could have been wind, an uneven table, perhaps hidden magnets, or a number of other things. The fact is from just watching the domino fall over we don’t have enough evidence to conclude why it fell. Now with his second analogy, we do have good evidence to suggest human intervention caused the line of dominos to fall. We saw him do it. So it is absurd for Zod to use this analogy and say they are the same. His own analogy works against him. In the second scenario, we have good evidence to infer intervention.

Likewise, this is how the arguments from natural theology work. We do not appeal to a mystery as he asserts. We actually present evidence to infer a theistic conclusion as the best explanation. If the atheist disagrees with our argument then he can either remain agnostic or offer a better explanation of the data. For example, with this domino scenario let’s say if we zoomed out and saw there was no human hand that pushed them over, it was a glove attached to a swinging board. Then we would have new and more evidence to replace the previous inference with a better one. Atheists don’t do this when it comes to arguments for God’s existence. They never offer a better inference. They just cry god the gaps, assume naturalism is already true, and caricature theistic arguments like Zod did throughout his entire response. The fact is the first domino scenario is not the same as the second, just like theistic arguments are not the same as crying “god did it.” For theistic argument, we do have independent evidence to make our conclusion (like with the second domino examples). They are not just different forms of the same thought process. In the first scenario there is not enough evidence to make a valid conclusion, and in the second we do have independent evidence.

If that is the wrong conclusion then atheists need to explain why, not just caricature, and say it is the same as saying “god did it.” Ironically, his own analogy works against him.

If atheists don’t have a better non-theistic explanation, they resort to saying “I don’t know,” since we may not have enough data and therefore should not draw any conclusions. However, then they also admit they truly do not know and lack a position to argue from. So they do not know the best explanation but they also do not know if the theist is right. So they cannot say, “I don’t know but I know it is wrong to infer theism.” Otherwise, that refutes their own claim that they “don’t know” so they cannot have their cake and eat it too. The whole thing is circular and self-defeating.

To further explain what I mean lets quote Zod just after this at 8:10. He says, “In other words, God didn’t push the current domino we just looked at all the dominoes that fell and assumed he must have pushed the first one. That’s what this is saying and labeling it as metaphysical or philosophical doesn’t do shit to change the fact.”

Well, Zod, it depends on the type of evidence we have in each case. Again, even in your own analogy, we do have enough evidence to infer an outside intervener knocked the line of dominos over. Would it not be silly to cry intervener of the gaps with your analogy? We all saw you push it over, right? When it comes to the arguments for theism you don’t just get to cry they are same as the first domino, especially if the evidence is different in each scenario. That should be blatantly obvious. So this is why we present evidence and philosophical arguments from different angles for why a necessary mind is the best explanation of the data. We have evidence we rely on and when you just say it is the same as the first domino you are just crying god of the gaps and not addressing our arguments or evidence. So in a sense, this video proves my point about abusing the god the gaps. Zod is just ignoring the evidence used in theistic arguments and presenting a caricature.Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 9.20.00 AM.png

Zod then gives a visual and inadvertently shows what all theoretical physicists, historians, and philosophers do is silly. He gives us a circle which he says contains everything we know, and everyone outside of it is an unknown mystery (in this area he lists the beginning of the universe and what might be outside the universe). This was defined poorly because the lines between these two categories are not black and white. In fact, we don’t really speak in these absolute terms. We tend to speak of probability and likelihood. There is no fine line between things we know and don’t know since new data can give us reason to change our current limited explanations. Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 9.37.12 AM.png

Zod says of his visual, “of course, anything we can prove to anybody else lies within the circle, and by contrast, any claim we make about what’s outside the circle is totally silly because it’s made up and you can’t prove a word of it to anyone.” He says theistic arguments are attempts to fill in this area outside of the circle with guesses. This really shows how little he has thought about this. So we have to prove something? What does that even mean? Prove in a mathematical sense, scientific, historical? All of these areas have different levels of what constitutes a justified claim.

By his logic, unless we can prove something it is just silly and made up. Let’s test this. Can he prove he is not a brain in a vat? Can he prove Caesar crossed the Rubicon? Can he prove humans and chimps have a common ancestor? The fact is none of these things can be proven. Instead, actual experts talk about probability and likelihood, based on evidence.

For example, it is more probable modern humans evolved from an early species called Homo Habilis. We have not observed this and we don’t know all the transitional species in between, but we still conclude this based on the evidence. So which category does that go in? Based on the most current data, we infer quantum physics and relativity are valid scientific theories, however, we don’t know how they work together and physicists are still trying to sort this out. Which category should they go in? I don’t think Zod thought this one through and it shows how poorly thought out his video is. By his logic, all of theoretical physics is totally silly because it’s made up and you can’t prove a word of it to anyone. Theoretical physicists posit many things outside of the universe (multiverse, brane cosmology, quantum fields). Is this all silly? Historians posit theories to explain things in the past we cannot observe. Can anything that happened in the past be proven? I guess Zod thinks historical investigations are silly.

Philosophy of science also demonstrates science is not so much about proof and observations as it is about theories, data, and shaping principles. This old idea science is about inductivism has been dead for decades. We have moved far beyond this understanding of science. (2)

But we all know it is only silly for atheists when theists use the same line of reasoning to infer God exists. Unless Zod explains why theistic arguments (arguing from data to the most reasonable explanation) are any different, his whole argument here is special pleading. But so far all he has done is caricature the arguments we present instead of actually explaining why they are different.

Zod then really go off the rails. He puts an umbrella on the screen and says materialism covers methodological and philosophical naturalism. This is just wrong, there is no other way to put it. Materialism is not technically the same thing as philosophical naturalism, let alone an umbrella that includes methodological and philosophical naturalism. Materialism properly defined is a philosophical claim that all that exists is matter and that mind reduces to it whereas something like non-reductive physicalism mind does not reduce to matter but is rather an emergent property. (3)Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 10.22.04 AM.png

A good example is how the philosopher of mind, David Chalmers is one who writes on the hard problem of consciousness and he argues against materialism, however, he himself is a property dualist (and therefore a naturalist). So then materialism would not cover over all forms of philosophical naturalism since David Chalmers, himself is a naturalist but not a materialist. (4)

The second problem in this video is you can be a materialist and a methodological naturalist. But you can also be a materialist and reject methodological naturalism. The problem is (as any freshmen philosophy student will tell you) methodological naturalism is not a metaphysical worldview, is a strategy for studying the world and nothing more. In other words, it is not a conclusion like theism or philosophical materialism (or naturalism) is it is an attempt to tell us how we ought to go about studying reality.

He then says I don’t allow for this position (methodological naturalism) and I’m lumping all non-theistic positions with philosophical naturalism and creating a false dilemma. The fact that he thinks this show he doesn’t understand metaphysics or what methodical naturalism is. First, I definitely did not say all non-theistic positions are philosophical naturalism, that is just a lie or a very bad misrepresentation. So there is no false dilemma. I only used materialism as an example in my original video as something that would be a non-theistic explanation. I did not say it is only one or the other.Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 10.01.32 AM.png

Second, what we are talking about is comparing metaphysical worldviews. Methodological naturalism is a strategy some have as a part of their metaphysical worldview. It is not comparable in this case. You can be a theist and methodological naturalist. You can be a philosophical naturalist and not methodological naturalist or you can be both. It is not a third category that competes with philosophical naturalism and theism. The fact that he doesn’t know this and confuses this says a lot, and yet, he says I am the one being sloppy.

After this, I was confused because his terminology became even more sloppy. Starting at 12:10 he seems to be conflating materialism with methodological naturalism now, which would be absurd. He is throwing around a lot of terms that were never properly defined (or improperly defined). He refers to what he just went over and says I confused materialism and philosophical naturalism. However, his original image of the umbrella demonstrated he thought materialism covered methodological and philosophical naturalism (which is not even true). Maybe I am missing something here, but it hard to follow since his terminology has changed. It is hard to figure out what his definitions are.

Previously, he seemed to think he could separate methodological naturalism from philosophical naturalism as completely separate and opposing theories, but now I think he is conflating materialism with methodological naturalism, which is absurd. A quick google search should have revealed to him these are not the same thing. Materialism is a metaphysical worldview that all that exists is matter, as I explained, and methodological naturalism is a strategy for studying reality. (5)

Zod then says, “God the gaps arguments are problematic because when faced with a mystery about how the universe works they jump the gun and import purely guessed at information from out here (points to screen where unknowns mysteries are). Materialism never does any such thing. He wants us to think not only that materialism assumes everything outside a realm of observation is physically but that it draws on this assumption to explain things it can’t within the universe like theists do when they import assumptions about God.”

Again, I don’t think he thought this one out. He is, again, conflating materialism with methodological naturalism, which is what is really silly. Materialism is not even the same thing as naturalism, let alone an umbrella that covers methodological and philosophical naturalism. That is just wrong. Other than that, it is just the same old caricature of natural theology and what the aim is.

He then says, “Even philosophical naturalism just assumes everything operates by the same rules as the natural universe, an assumption that provides no supernatural nonsense to fill gaps with anyway and just encourages actual scientific inquiry.”

I need to stop here and point out how absurd this is. Is the implication theism hinders scientific inquiry? How many scientists in the past have been Christians? Also, the definition of philosophical naturalism doesn’t include the idea one ought to encourage scientific inquiry. It is a philosophical belief and doesn’t say anything about what ought to be done with science.

Second, he has finally gotten to the place where he proves my point, that when atheists cry god of the gaps they are employing circular reasoning. Anything that he deems “supernatural nonsense” must be a god of the gaps, because he knows naturalism is already true, so any evidence that doesn’t lead to naturalism must just be a gap filler. This is what I mean about the god the gaps being a circular argument. They always show us they just assume naturalism is true and no evidence could ever lead to theism because they know naturalism is already true.

After this, he just repeats a lot of the same flawed logic we have already addressed.

Then at 16:22 he shoots himself in the foot. He takes issue with my example of gravity that I used in my original video, that crying god of the gaps is as bad as crying gravity of the gaps. He says, “Do I need to explain that [gravity] is a parsimonious model for summing up phenomena we’ve actually observed and does not rely on imparting any random guesses about what lies outside the universe.”

So of course, he doesn’t represent the arguments from natural theology correctly again (at this point I doubt he ever read anything on philosophy of religion) and doesn’t even get the point. Again, theism is a model or a (metaphysical) theory of reality, like how gravity is a model that explained observable phenomena. It would be absurd to suggest gravity is wrong because it is not proven, and is only just the best and most parsimonious explanation of observable phenomena. However, earlier in his response he strongly implied theists cannot prove God exists. What I am pointing out, for atheists like him, is we are not claiming we can prove God exists, we are saying it is the most parsimonious model for summing up phenomena we’ve actually observed and does not rely on imparting any random guesses about what lies outside the universe. If he has a better model then let’s hear it. But just caricaturing theism shows he doesn’t or cannot understand the arguments we have presented, let alone offer a better explanation.

At 17:03 he says if scientists invoke gravity the same way theistic philosophers invoke God then upon seeing things fall they forgo scientific investigation. Then he says scientists would say, “well, obviously the gravity monster loves us so much and doesn’t want us to go into space so it can protect us and by the way, the gravity monster happens to be what I learned in Sunday school.”

First, Zod seems to think that theism entails that God is involved in a physical process (such as the Greek gods like Zeus), however, as my video already explained theistic explanations don’t invoke a miracle in physical processes. This was the whole point of me explaining the correct way to present a God of the gaps and why Christians should accept all of nature as God’s work. Did Zod even pay attention to my original video?

Second, once again we need to understand the differences between something that would be outside space-time (such as God) and something in space-time. Gravity requires physical objects and therefore requires classical space-time to exist. So a gravity monster would require space-time unless Zod can show why space-time is the only thing that is real and fundamental and nothing can exist outside it then he may have a case, however, we already explained in another video why space-time is emergent and not fundamental.(6)

Third, the last point involving Sunday school, Zod seems to think theist are indoctrinated into belief in God and have a biased toward it. For one, everyone has a biased, Zod himself has videos that criticize religion. Should I just accuse him of brainwashing his audience to be anti-theist?

Finally at 17:50 we get his first (erroneous) attempt to address the arguments from natural theology. He argues something like divine hiddenness. He says, “I wonder why [God] would let all these arguments sit dormant for thousands of years while unconvinced people went to hell for lack of access to them.

First off, this shows how little he knows about philosophy. Contingency, teleological, and moral arguments are thousands of years old. Has he never even heard of a guy named Plato? Second, all I said in my video was new data has strengthened our case, not that there was no evidence prior to the new data. He doesn’t even address the data or offer a better explanation. Thirds, my next video will be on hell, so I’ll address that then, but no one goes to hell for lack of information (John 9:41; 15:22). Either way, this is just an appeal to emotion, not a reasonable rebuttal, and it supports my point atheists cannot deal with the evidence and offer a better explanation.

At 19:12, Zod says, “Non-theists do not depend on future people filling gaps in our knowledge and the fact that you think we do betrays a weakness in your own thinking.”

I think Zod needs to get out more. I heard this objection in the very first online debate I ever was in:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWBvfchqiXQ

(It is towards the end).

Does Zod expect us to take his word that non-theists have never used this line of reasoning? I included in the video because I hear it all the time. If he doesn’t use this line of reasoning why is he getting so upset by this? It should not affect him unless he thinks he represents all non-theists.

Zod then goes on a rant about how it is an ancient superstition to want an answer everything, like why the universe exists. Zod, I don’t care if you don’t have an answer or don’t want to answer these questions. All it tells me is theists have the best explanation since atheists cannot offer a better one. You can remain ignorant or not follow the evidence where it leads. I choose to seek the truth, you do you.

Towards the end of my original video I said, “Thus, when a non-theist cries “god of the gaps” they are not really addressing any arguments for God’s existence, but admitting to us all they are just assuming their worldview that God doesn’t exist, and any evidence for God cannot possibly mean God exists.”

Zod then replies to this in his video around 22:00, “No, the problem is there is no evidence for God, which is why your best attempt at proving his existence relies on telling us that it automatically and for unobserved reasons explains unsolved mysteries.”

Okay, so based on his last two comments, he first said he doesn’t know the answers to these questions and doesn’t think we have to have answers, but now he knows the answer is not God. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either you are agnostic or you know the answer is not theistic and you have a better explanation of the data. Pick one, Zod. You can believe all you want there is no evidence for God, but we will keep presenting our arguments and wondering why atheists have to rely on caricatures (like he did this entire video) and are unable to offer a better explanation.

Second, here he is again, proving my original video correct. He just assumes naturalism is true and evidence which could lead to theism is just an unsolved mystery. His logic is, if the answer is not naturalistic it must be wrong or an unsolved mystery. In other words, naturalism is true so there is no evidence for God, therefore naturalism must true. Screen Shot 2018-11-25 at 3.02.15 PM.png

So before we wrap up, Zod says his metaphysical worldview “explains anything.” Okay, then put your money where your mouth is. Explain how the brain creates consciousness, where space-time came from, why there is something rather than nothing, etc. If for some reason he ‘does not know’ then as pointed out above, he shouldn’t be arguing against the theistic position.

It’s important to understand the distinction between science and metaphysics, as naturalism and theism are both metaphysical theories (again, methodological naturalism is a strategy, not a worldview). These metaphysical theories have different ontologies, which is the nature of what things are. Under naturalism, everything is physical, natural, material or non-mental at the fundamental level. Under something like idealism, everything is a mental ontology, and under substance dualism, you have both mental and material ontologies. All of these theories argue from the same data found in science. Science studies the world and we learn how it works, however, one can make a metaphysical argument from science and I have done this in previous videos to make a cumulative case from science. Science itself still works regardless of these metaphysical views. Scientific theories explain certain phenomena in the universe like how evolution is specific to biology but not physics whereas metaphysical theories explain all of the scientific theories as a whole and the universe as a whole, as well as its ontology. So we only argue theism is the best metaphysical explanation of reality just as a biologist would explain why evolution is the best explanation of biology. You cannot prove theism or evolution, only infer them as the best explanation. This is not complicated.

If Zod replies or wants to debate more, my guess is he will not be able to offer a better explanation of the data used in natural theology, but will just rely on more appeals to emotion, arguments to random possibilities, or continue to assume his conclusion of naturalism.
UPDATE:

Round 2 with Zod, his new response to this blog post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8XKkONxoew

Zod said this would be his last response, so even if it is not, he is right about one thing, there is no use in keeping this going. So this will be just going over a couple of problems.

Zod begins his second response an insult rampage of my blog, “For the most part, his response a tedious and disorganized mess of unremarkable apologetics comebacks, including standard shift….” You get the idea. As I said atheists have to rely on insults instead of addressing our arguments.

He then takes issue with the analogy of the dominos (mentioned above). Zod basically said I didn’t understand it or misrepresented it. Well, I did understand what he was getting at, which is why in my blog response I said (above), “Zod didn’t mean for it to be understood this way, but the actions of the analogy he set up, speak louder than how he wants us to interpret it.”

Now Zod tries to go on clarifying the analogy, which is a waste of time. As I already admitted, I took the analogy on a different way in order to illustrate a point, and you can read that above. He didn’t respond to my re-use of the analogy and so there is nothing really more to say. Zod didn’t seem to quote the part of my blog where I admitted I was changing this to make a point, so this is a clear quote mine on his part. Ironically, he ends his video by saying I don’t have a basic reading comprehension level.

Zod, then admits he made errors in the section of his video on methodological naturalism, and hats off to him for accepting that. However, he says in that in my original video that my “presentation is shrouded in linguistic vagary and his shady use of language slips between lumping atheists of multiple philosophical approaches and then using one of these approaches to response us all.”

I would like for Zod to back up this quote of his. My original video was not attacking all atheists, it was attacking atheists that cry ‘god of the gaps’ in response to natural theology. Not all atheists do that, which is why I never said ‘all atheists.’ Also, where (in my original video) did I lump all philosophical approaches? I never brought up methodological and philosophical naturalism until Zod thought they were separate ideas in his response. My video was simply pointing out that crying ‘god go the gaps’ is assuming non-theism is already true (circular reasoning). I am not saying all non-theists are materialists, and it seems Zod keep implies I did. I used materialism as an example and here are the lines from my original script:

First Quote: “For example, materialism is a metaphysical theory of reality, not a scientific theory. Materialism is the idea all that exists is matter and the complex arrangements of matter. This cannot be proven by science, only inferred philosophically. Now if a materialist were to argue from something we observe in science (conservation of matter) was evidence in favor of materialism it would be absurd for me to reply they are just trying to explain that with a materialism of the gaps, and this is how ridiculous it sounds when a non-theist attempts to argue a god of the gaps in response to the arguments from natural theology or the metaphysical theory of theism. It is not actually arguing from a gap in a natural process, but arguing for a metaphysical theory of reality which attempts to explain why there are natural processes or what is the best way to explain reality.”

Second Quote: “What they have done is assume their worldview is correct (say something like materialism) and therefore any data or evidence that the theist provides must really not imply God’s existence, because they have assumed materialism is already true. So it must just be a gap filler until a materialistic explanation comes along.”

Zod, as you can see, I was just using materialism as an example in order to illustrate my point. I don’t care what you argue from, crying god the gaps in response to our arguments and evidence is simply assuming we are wrong from the get-go, and not providing a better explanation of the data. Zod, please stop taking that out of context. You claim I misunderstood you, but that goes both ways. Nowhere did I claim all non-theists are materialists or naturalists.

Zod then concludes by saying he doesn’t really want to go into all-too-familiar arguments with me, when in reality that is what we theists are dying to do. We really want to have a rational conversation about the evidence and see if atheists have a better and more parsimonious, philosophical worldview. But we rarely get that, instead, we get atheists claiming god the gaps, which is a circular argument, and inadvertently ignoring our evidence and points. If you don’t want to engage with our arguments, fine, but that shows us we have the best explanation of reality because you cannot offer a better inference, and if you can’t deal with our arguments it shows us why you insist on crying god the gaps when confronted by any evidence. I would love to have a live discussion with Zod over my arguments and see if he has a better inference, but sadly, he doesn’t seem to want to do that, and just keep claiming god the gods, and thus, assume his worldview is already true.

Zod then ends by saying that I can’t understand him on a basic reading comprehension level. As I opened my original blog with, atheists typically rely on insults and talk down to theists. But remember at the end of the day we have the best explanation of reality, and I back that up to remind that atheists do not and they have not offered a more parsimonious explanation for our arguments.

 

 

Endnotes

  1. “Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False” https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Cosmos-Materialist-Neo-Darwinian-Conception/dp/0199919755. Accessed 24 Nov. 2018.
  2.  “Philosophy of Mind – By Branch / Doctrine – The Basics of Philosophy.” https://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_philosophy_of_mind.html. Accessed 24 Nov. 2018.
  3. “For and Against Method” https://www.amazon.com/Against-Method-Scientific-Lakatos-Feyerabend-Correspondence/dp/0226467759
  4.  “The Character of Consciousness (Philosophy of Mind): David J ….” https://www.amazon.com/Character-Consciousness-Philosophy-Mind/dp/0195311116. Accessed 24 Nov. 2018.
  5.  “Naturalism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).” 22 Feb. 2007, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/naturalism/. Accessed 24 Nov. 2018.
  6.  “The Emergent Universe – YouTube.” 6 Jul. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFEBOGLjuq4. Accessed 24 Nov. 2018.

Essence Of Thought still Abuses the God of the Gaps Fallacy

Average Reading Time: 23 Minutes

Have you ever seen a video so ironic that they only prove your original point? Well, that’s what Essence of thought (EOT) in his video response to my video “Abusing the God of the gaps fallacy”(1) has done (2). His response only proves the point that non-theist will misrepresent the God of the gaps fallacy and use it as a last resort argument. On a side note given my busy life, I have asked Kyle Alander to co-author this response with me and he will be responsible for the majority of the writing. We will show the irony in EOT response, show his flaws and circular reasoning to demonstrate why he has only proved our original point, and why his rantings are childish gibberish. On the bright side, EOT’s video actually serves to support our case of how crying a god of the gaps is circular reasoning and does nothing to threaten natural theology, so we should thank him for that.

 

Ending at 0:40, I had to highlight this. So apparently EOT thinks that I (IP), “drown cosmology, the mind, and ethics in its intellectually bankrupt destiny free of [my] regular shitposts.” So he clearly sets a tone of immaturity and mudslinging, which we all know is a sign of cyberbullying and lack of integrity. Anyways EOT seems to imply that even after we have explained why arguments for God are not God of the gaps he thinks that arguments for God’s existence are somehow still God of the gaps. We will see later in the video why he is wrong, but starting off with that type of statement is no way to allow your audience to take you seriously.

 

At 1:26-2:45, EOT says “God of the gaps simply notes that humanity in its ignorance in certain fields does not permit theist to come along and assert that said gap in our knowledge must be explained by and therefore validate the existence of their God. It really is that simple.”

 

First, in my original video, I pointed out that this very claim is circular reasoning, by assuming the conclusion of naturalism. If any evidence that theists offer leads to a theistic worldview, naturalists, like EOT, just assume it is a gap in our knowledge and can’t possibly be real evidence theism is true. So he has already committed the fallacy I said naturalist/atheists always commit. Did he really think he would be able to get that one by?

 

Second, any theist that would understand the arguments for God’s existence wouldn’t be claiming that these arguments are simply gap-fillers for our ignorance. Second, as I explain in my original video, it’s more about the best explanation of the data. EOT seems to think that any evidence for a God must be a gap filler which is not true (assuming naturalism must already be true despite what the evidence might say). Arguments for God simply give you the best explanation of the data and if non-theists have no counter explanation then they have no case. Theism is not a gap in our knowledge rather it is the explanation for the knowledge as a whole. We will get more into this later because he does continue to make the same objections even after it is explained in my original video that theism (a metaphysical theory) is simply the best explanation of the current data and it is not a gap-filler.

 

At 1:55 EOT says something interesting “God of the gaps does not rely on past failures nor does it has to posit that we will one day find the answer to every question. The way past failures are sometimes brought up is not as evidence the same will be true of the modern-day gap but rather a cautionary tale that shows the flaw in such an argument. A God could very well be an explanation of these things but none of the current evidence supports that claim at all. As for never finding out the answer that is just a sad fact, we may have to face one day yet that does not justify the apologist assertions in any way. As for this being the last resort argument, this may be the last resort because once it’s used the debate is over. Unless you have direct evidence for the existence of God.”  

 

The reason why I say it’s interesting is because of the circular reasoning involved here. EOT claims that the God of the gaps doesn’t rely on past failures but rather the past failures are brought up to show the “cautionary tale” in the arguments for God. Fair enough, but doesn’t really pertain to my video or what I was arguing mainly.

 

However, he then says that no current evidence supports God which is interesting because we would expect him to explain why the evidence doesn’t support God’s existence, but rather than that he says how things that don’t have an explanation we may never find the answer too. Well, this is the problem. If a non-theist has no explanation (or at least acknowledge there may never be a non-theistic answer) for certain pieces of data then they do not have a better explanation than the theistic one already offered. If there is evidence for something (examples include fine-tuning, emergent space-time/quantum cognition, digital physics, moral values, and duties, etc) that can’t be explained on a non-theistic worldview but the theist can explain such evidence then the theistic explanation is superior to non-theistic views. Thus, EOT starts with the assertion that there is no evidence for God’s existence in theistic arguments on grounds that there may one day be a non-theistic explanation (or lack of explanation), and this is of course because there is no evidence for God. How is this not circular and how does this make his case for a non-theistic worldview better than a theistic one? It’s not clear what EOT counts as “evidence for God” and the fact that he didn’t bother to clarify that makes it more likely that no evidence can count as evidence for God, because he is doing the very thing I said atheists do.

 

At 4:16-4:50 EOT says “Drummonds special pleading in willfully sacrificing the field of science while refusing the apply the same standards to philosophy, in general, is not a saving grace. It’s a fatal flaw instead of an addition of God of the gaps one which has been patched in updated versions which apply the very same reasoning comprehensively. The very facts that humanity acknowledge its ignorance in certain fields does not then permit theist to come along and assert that said gap in our knowledge must be explained by, and therefore, validates the existence of their God is equally applicable to all philosophy as it is [with] science”.

 

Okay, any freshman majoring in philosophy should see the blatant philosophical error here. But, EOT has had trouble with philosophy before, so this doesn’t surprise me. First, when we transition from science to philosophy we are dealing with the bigger questions of reality. Roughly speaking, science deals with how things happen, whereas philosophy deals with why things happen. In the case of theism, it explains why things happen or why there is even science, to begin with. Theism is not a scientific theory it is a philosophical or metaphysical theory of why reality works the way it does, in the same way, naturalism or materialism are metaphysical theories.

 

Second, saying that God of the gap applies to all philosophy is just plain wrong. There is nothing in philosophy that, a priori, gives us justification to say that all non-theistic explanations are superior to theistic ones since from the start, theism and non-theism are both philosophical positions and it would be absurd for me to say that a non-theistic explanation in philosophy is a gap that a theistic explanation will one day explain (or that we lack an explanation). That would be an absurd way to argue and assuming my conclusion, and yet that is exactly what EOT is doing in reverse.

 

Continuing after 4:50, EOT asserts that the moral argument is a God of the gaps because we don’t understand morality so one cannot assume God explains morality. Then he goes on to say that the origin of the universe is a field of science and that it will find an explanation without God.

 

First, claiming that we will find an explanation without God for things like the origin of the universe is committing the very error I pointed out in my original video. It is like he didn’t even watch it and just assumes he can keep using the same horrible reasoning.

 

Second, getting back to ethics, I’m getting hints he assumes morality is a science because he seems to be implying morality is a science. That would only be true if ethical naturalism or a form of non-cognitivism was true. Both of these positions are riddled with problems [Link 1] [Link2].

 

Morality is not a science because it does not use empiricism and we can’t scientifically test morality. One has to use reason in order to figure out morality and the moral argument simply leads to the conclusion that God is the best explanation of morality. If non-theists cannot come up with an explanation then theists have a reasonable case to the best explanation. Now I know EOT will try to claim that it’s just a god of the gaps (because he keeps assuming his conclusion of naturalism), however, I could do the same thing regarding whatever his non-theistic account of morality is. Using his logic, a theist can respond to non-theistic accounts of morality by saying “Non-theistic accounts are just naturalism of the gaps.” It is all circular reasoning since I could turn it around on him. In reality, we argue to the best explanation from the data, and I have done that in my videos [insert hyperlinks to videos]. If he claims he doesn’t know how morality can be explained then he has no explanation and theism is the best inference.

 

Ending at 6:52, EOT seems to claim the supernatural (or non-materialist explanations) is magic. This is what happens when one equates their metaphysical view as the only one that doesn’t include magic. Non-materialistic metaphysics (such as idealism, or dualism) are not magic, they simply put a priority on the mind rather than matter. It’s clear that EOT does not understand metaphysics at all and unfortunately, this is probably why he likes to equate his metaphysical views as the only non-magical (whatever that means) explanations. We will get more into this later, however, by making this claim it is really showing his ignorance on how metaphysical theories actually work.

 

Starting at 6:55-7:55, EOT says, in speaking of materialistic versus theistic worldviews that, “it’s a massive false equivalence. We have evidence that both the naturalistic and material exist. Meanwhile, we have exactly no evidence to even suggest that the apparent non-naturalistic, non-material exist. Now based on those facts there is absolutely no justification to assert that things we lack currently answers to are not are simply the product of the unproven non-naturalistic, non-material entities…Arguing from our testable knowledge as the counter-apologist does is not equivalent to arguing from willful ignorance as the apologist does… I base my materialistic perspective on the scientific basis that all we have yet observed is naturalistic and material but I am happy to change that if you supply evidence for the supernatural and non-material.”

 

First, we have argued for a theistic worldview. I have done several prior videos on the evidence. By EOT just asserting his conclusion (non-theism) and not even addressing the evidence (I hint to throughout my original video) it just shows his dishonesty or bias against the evidence. I don’t care if he is not convinced, I care about the evidence, and just crying “god of the gaps” when theists present evidence is a bad argument. That was the whole point of my video, which he seemed to have missed.

 

Second, it is interesting what EOT’s definition for the material would be, because given what modern physics has shown what space-time is, it will lead to equivocations. Typically, matter is defined by everything that takes up space-time as it would make no sense for matter to exist in a non-spatial location. So given that we actually do have evidence for the non-material, if we define the material as that which only exists in space-time. For example, the collapse of the wave function requires a conscious mind as it is the simplest explanation of the data and before people start to make objections, we already have videos that respond to these criticisms (3). Even biology (4) and cosmology (5) give us strong scientific reasons to consider the fact that there is more to the universe than space-time and matter. These are dealt with in other videos, but the claim that science can only study matter has been challenged with the advances in modern physics for quite some time now. We can only observe matter, but what we are able to study may go beyond that.

 

Second, even without modern physics, it is actually wrong to assert we only experience the material. I don’t think EOT realizes that we only ever interact with a mental world. This is one of the main points of idealists. As Keith Ward explains:

 

“Any physicist will say that brains are mostly empty space, in which molecules, atoms, electrons, quarks, and other strange particles buzz about in complicated ways. It seems as though physical objects, when not being observed, have no colors, and no sounds, smells, or taste or sensations. Things do not smell like, taste like or feel like anything when nobody is smelling, tasting or feeling them. The physical world it seems is totally vacuous. No colors, sounds, smells, taste or sensations. What on earth is left?” (6)

 

The point that Keith ward is explaining is that we only ever experience a mental world and not a material one. So it’s simply wrong to assert that we only experience a material world when the opposite happens to be the case. All in all, EOT is still just assuming his conclusion of naturalism/materialism, the very fallacious reasoning in identified in my original video. His very words are proving my point, that atheists just assume the conclusion of non-theism when they cry “god of the gaps,” instead of addressing our arguments.

 

Ending at 9:32, EOT tries to say that whenever “secular” philosophy fails to account for something then God must be the explanation and then he compares God to random entities like the flying spaghetti monster (FSM) and says there is no difference. Then he asserts that theists have a bad understanding of how science works.

 

First off, if we are comparing God with a FSM people can already see the problem. A FSM (if it did exist) would exist in space-time as well as lacking the attributes that God would have. So the comparison doesn’t work. Also, a FSM fails to account for things like morality and fails to explain the evidence for theism in general. The fact that EOT didn’t go on to explain why a FSM (or any other of his examples) would be a better explanation than theism only shows his ignorance on how explanations in metaphysics work. So just like theism can better explain the evidence over non-theistic accounts, theism also explains the evidence better than a FSM, or the magical fairy, or whatever random possibility he wants to make up.

 

Ending at 10:16 EOT asserts that cosmological arguments are gaps in understanding the origin of our universe.

 

First off, as I explained in my original video, he has not given a non-theistic model of the universe’s origin that can better explain the data than that of theism. While we cannot deny the possibility of there being a non-theistic account for this it is dishonest to claim that non-theistic accounts are more probable. Especially if you cannot provide a better inference. All the evidence leads to classical space-time having a beginning and that would include all the matter in the universe. This can go deep into things like quantum gravity, however, even in that field theism explains the evidence far better than non-theism. This is explored more in the videos linked before, but since the evidence can be better explained on theism then theism is the more probable option than non-theism with regards to cosmological arguments. If EOT disagrees, then at this point, after we have provided a theistic explanation, the onus is on him to provide a better non-theistic explanation.

 

Ending at 11:40, EOT makes some objections to fine-tuning by saying that we always observe complexity arising from simplicity and then claims that I have confirmation bias (sounds like a psychological project from him). He then talks about how the mind not being explained by the brain is a gap argument for the soul and therefore god of the gaps.

 

So I guess he just going to continue to keep assume naturalism is true, doing exactly what I said atheists do in my original video when they cannot offer a better explanation of the data (just mischaracterize the arguments from natural theology and cry god of the gaps). Now, complexity from simplicity happens because of the laws of nature. However, fine-tuning has to do with the physical constants (a.k.a. laws of nature) we have in order for life to emerge. The mechanism by which complex things emerge from simple things only happens because of the laws of that mechanism. However, that does not explain why the mechanism is even there, to begin with. Fine-tuning has to do with what chose the mechanism that was needed for life to begin. So EOT stating that complexity arising from simplicity refutes fine-tuning is extremely flawed. Even the multiverse would require fine-tuning of its own so this does not explain fine-tuning on a non-theistic account. This shows how little he understands natural theology and the arguments that are made, yet he wants to lecture theists on how to do proper philosophy.

 

Second, regarding the mind, EOT doesn’t get into that much. I doubt he has even studied philosophy of mind, which gets into things like the hard problem of consciousness for how subjectivity arises from objectivity. If the mind is not the byproduct of the space-time universe and if our minds arose at one point then it must have a personal source which we refer to as God. This is simply the best explanation of the data (7). EOT calling it a gap is dishonest, especially if he doesn’t have an alternative explanation. But as we have seen he doesn’t care to provide one. He instead wants to follow the script of the fallacious reasoning I said atheists follow in my original video when they cry god of gaps, instead of looking at the evidence. Again, it is like he didn’t even watch it.

 

Ending at 15:40, EOT makes multiple points which will be listed out.

EOT claims:

  1. The effects of gravity are observable and theism is not so the two are not alike.
  2. Theism has zero explanatory power.
  3. IP has not explained why theism accounts for the evidence.
  4. Theism requires too much, such as consciousness without a mind (he clarifies it in the description), the existence of the supernatural, and has to assume it’s their God.
  5. Good explanations should have predictive power and theism lacks predictive power  
  6. Good explanations should be falsifiable

 

Response 1. Theists do not claim God is the best scientific explanation rather he is the best metaphysical explanation. Did he forget the first part of my video already? Again, we are comparing gravity because gravity is the best explanation in science regarding how things fall to the earth. Theism is the best philosophical explanation for why reality exists and why things are the way they are. It’s an analogy. Try to keep up, EOT.

 

Response 2. Theism again is not a scientific theory it is a metaphysical theory. It will explain the nature of reality, whereas something like quantum mechanics will explain subatomic particles. You can have the scientific theories integrate with a metaphysical theory but they are still not the same since the metaphysical theories will explain the nature of reality as a whole rather than only specific areas of physical reality.

 

Response 3. They are explained in my other videos, which I hinted to throughout my original video on abusing god of the gaps fallacy. Again, did EOT pay attention?

 

Response 4. First, arguments in natural theory do not argue for any specific God only that there is a God that created reality. With regards to which religion is true, there are different arguments for that.  The evidence that favors theism would imply the existence of what he calls the supernatural. It is simply the conclusion (best explanation) of the evidence. If the evidence favors theism it is on the burden for non-theist to come up with a better explanation, of which EOT has failed to do time and time again.

 

Response 5 & 6. We cannot stress this enough theism is not a scientific theory, so it does not follow the same rules as a scientific theory would. Both materialism and naturalism are not falsifiable, yet EOT doesn’t mind assuming they are true. All theism requires for it to work is that it’s the best explanation for reality as a whole and that is true for all metaphysical theories.

 

Ending at 16:38, EOT continues to push the false idea that theism should be treated as a scientific theory. Once again, showing how bad he is at philosophy. Again, of course, God won’t be mentioned in scientific journals. That is because God IS NOT a scientific theory. That’s why God is mentioned mostly in philosophy journals and theistic philosophers and atheist philosophers offer their arguments in those journals (8). Theism explains all the scientific theories as a whole but is not itself a scientific theory.

 

At 17:14 EOT says “All we are actually saying is that shared ignorance of humanity on certain topics is no justification to assert God.”

 

I am not going to quote what he said right after that since it is just an immature insult. Anyway, at this point, I am just repeating myself. We are only ignorant if we have no explanation for something. This idea that God is equivalent to magic comes from a false idea of what God actually is. Theism explains nature as a whole, if non-theists can come up with something that explains reality as a whole that is better than the theistic explanation then they should present it, otherwise repeating “god of the gaps” does nothing to discredit the theistic account. The theist can do the same exact thing against any non-theistic explanation. Finally, once again, no one is arguing for God’s existence from ignorance. This mischaracterization and straw man is pathetic. EOT clearly has not even bothered to look at our arguments.

 

At 18:20 What EOT says next is very ironic “That’s the whole basis for the god of the gaps that what we currently don’t know as a species what will at a later date turn out to confirm God. Of course, throughout history, this has never turned out to be the case. Every advancement in science has shown nothing but purely naturalist and material processes without the need of magic. I don’t assert that what we will know in future will validate non-theism, maybe we will one day discover evidence for your God but that possibility no way impacts reality right here right now.”

 

The funny thing is science has actually given us data from over the past one hundred years to advance some of the best arguments for God existence. Science is not burying God but revealing Him. EOT didn’t even bother to mention that things like the big bang, fine-tuning, or emergent space-time have only been discovered recently and have given us stronger cases for theism. But we can already predict his reply, “that is is just a god of the gaps argument!” He should watch the original video he is attempting to respond to because it is clear from his response he did not pay attention and just asserted the objections that video already dealt with.

 

Second, it’s ironic because EOT keeps mentioning in the past that we have found non-theistic explanations for phenomena and keeps making that comparison. His biggest failure here is that he does not provide a non-theistic explanation for the current arguments for God that theist often use. We have already gone over why there is evidence for the non-material and why materialism fails to account for certain data. The only way EOT can win here is to defend his metaphysical position of materialism, however, he has failed to do that, which makes theism more likely than non-theism.

 

After 21:00 and for the rest of the video EOT goes on a big rant about why things non-theist cannot account for are “just the ignorance of humanity.” Of course, at the end of the day, this is circular reasoning. He accuses us of lying without showing evidence for this. He continues to think that theism must go through the “peer review process of science”. Of course, we already went over why God is not a scientific theory. Finally, EOT asserts that the gaps are theistic gaps and that God is just a filler and is not an answer but just an assertion. This has already been refuted repeatedly since God is the METAPHYSICAL explanation for reality as a whole. It would be like me saying that any explanation for consciousness under materialism is not an answer but an assertion. That would be fallacious for a theist to say, but atheist like to pretend its solid reasoning when they do this.

 

The rest of the video is just a bunch of insults and appeal to ridicules, so it’s no use in trying to respond to someone that acts like a child. EOT has only confirmed the argument of my original video, that atheists don’t even look at the evidence for theism, assume their conclusion of naturalism or materialism, that they are lazy when they cry god of the gaps, and the evidence doesn’t support their worldview. Perhaps one day EOT will make a reasonable and respectful video on philosophy and won’t act like a cyber bully, throwing a tantrum, but that seems to be a gap in abilities and knowledge.

 

Endnotes

  1. “Abusing the God of the Gaps Fallacy – YouTube.” 5 Oct. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1hY3o6G37c. Accessed 21 Oct. 2018.
  2.  “Are Atheists Abusing The God Of The Gaps Fallacy? | RE – YouTube.” 21 Oct. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuYs025H-8Y. Accessed 21 Oct. 2018.
  3.  “The Death of Materialism – YouTube.” 4 May. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM0IKLv7KrE. Accessed 21 Oct. 2018.
  4.  “Was Life Inevitable? – YouTube.” 1 Jun. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_H0yoBiBM5s. Accessed 21 Oct. 2018.
  5.  “The Emergent Universe – YouTube.” 6 Jul. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFEBOGLjuq4. Accessed 21 Oct. 2018.
  6.  “More Than Matter?: Is There More to Life Than Molecules?: Keith Ward,” Page 24https://www.amazon.com/More-Than-Matter-There-Molecules/dp/0802866603. Accessed 21 Oct. 2018.
  7.  “The Cosmic Conscious Argument for God’s Existence – YouTube.” 20 Jul. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2r74vcMxwUk. Accessed 21 Oct. 2018.
  8.  “Journals // Center for Philosophy of Religion // University of Notre Dame.” https://philreligion.nd.edu/cpr-resources/journals/. Accessed 21 Oct. 2018.

 

Godless Engineer Explains How Jesus and Inanna are Perfectly Vaguely the Same!

Average Reading Time: 26 Minutes

Have you ever watched someone attempt to do something they aren’t good at and fail horribly, and then surprised to find out they think they nailed it? This is what it is like watching Godless Engineer (GE) attempt to find parallels to the life of Jesus. I recently did a video on Inanna and featured some of GE’s arguments in my video, just to show how bad the argument is that Jesus is connected in any way to Inanna. GE (to my amusement) decided to respond. It was so bad I had to post it to my Facebook page to share with followers. GE then got on there and started to converse we me in an attempt to clarify his position. It did not go well.  None of us should be surprised by how bad this response was. After all, when GE made his original video on Inanna and posted it to his Facebook page, this is one of the things he said in the comment section:

Godless Engineer Egypt History.png

I know, I’m bordering on an ad hominem, but I couldn’t resist because the worship of Ra dates back to the Old Kingdom and might be even older. So let’s dive into this wonderful response so we can see how well GE is able to defend a connection/influence between Inanna and Jesus.

He starts off in the typical lines I get from mythicists. He says I intentionally misrepresented him and Richard Carrier. Ironically, you will see that GE does the same to me later in his own video. It is never that two people can disagree or there may have been a misunderstanding. No, its always intentional misrepresentation by people who attack mythicists and purposefully being disingenuous. Head on over to Carrier’s blog and you can see what I mean. The fact of the matter is GE simply did not define what he meant and was very vague.

He takes offense because I attacked him for saying Inanna is a perfect skeleton of Jesus and I pointed out that is simply not true. They do not perfectly match in any way or in any structure. So GE in his response says what he meant by saying a “perfect skeleton” is just that, “some subsets of a story that primarily make it up are the same,” and he says he specifically cited the resurrection and passion narrative.

Now it should be obvious GE never actually defined this in his original video. Saying something is a skeleton typically means they follow the same plot. However, neither story (Jesus and Inanna) shares the same plot sequence or structure Which is why I had to call him out in my response.

However, now we can see that this was not what GE meant. This is a common tactic of his, where he is vague on purpose in order to never really commit to anything. If you think I’m exaggerating watch this debate he had with the Distributist where he could not even define what a religion or theocracy is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sbOA9usp9U

But his new definition just makes things even stranger, because what specific subsets of the story are the perfect skeleton; the plot, the character, the lessons? I tried to press him on this on Facebook and all he said was this and gave me a link to a google search:

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 5.08.55 PM.png

https://www.google.com/search?q=skeleton%20of%20a%20story…

Ok, that doesn’t really help clarify what he means. So I looked at the first two links and they basically said all this means in the general plot or structure is seen as the same. When I told GE this, he clarified and said:

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 5.11.09 PM.png

So a skeleton is not a plot, but a plot outline. That doesn’t really help either. A plot is a vague structure and sequence for a story. An outline of a plot is even vaguer. So is GE basically saying Inanna is a perfect skeleton, meaning a perfectly vague, generalized outline of Jesus? Yes, they are perfectly vaguely the same. That makes total sense!

Of course, I bet GE would probably say:

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 5.13.50 PM.png

Because it is not that he is not clear about what he means, it is that when we ask him questions to define his terms and what he means we are purposefully being disingenuous, and then he runs away before you get a straight answer or a clear definition. GE spends a large amount of time during the rest of the video claiming I’m being disingenuous (like a broken record) and I’m going to ignore that because I really want to focus on Inanna and his attempts to connect her to Jesus. These were the parts that were quite enjoyable, and he doesn’t realize we can use his same reasoning to connect all sorts of unrelated stories.

GE then takes offense when I noted there is not a scholar who would agree with the claim Inanna is a perfect skeleton of Jesus and he says he rejects the authority on this matter and somehow thinks it is bad to appeal to authority. It is not. It is only fallacious when you appeal to an authority who does not specialize in this field. By rejecting legitimate authority you are basically saying your opinion is a better authority. So I would love to see where GE shows he is a better authority on Inanna than Sumerian scholars. Proclaiming boldly (as GE does) that he rejects authority looks foolish, not intelligent. Why should we take GE’s word over Sumerian or New Testament scholars?

GE goes on to say “all of the elements of the Inanna story are in the Jesus story.” This is just false as I pointed out in my video and will point out here in more detail.

After this is when things start to get bad. GE says, “there is indeed a solid link between Inanna and the Jewish people. . . these basic patterns affected the Jewish culture and people, and therefore influenced the later resurrection story they told about the Messiah.”

And how does he know this? Does he have documentation or inscriptions which show the Jewish Christians were influenced by Inanna? If you are going to make the positive claim of influence you need to show some direct connection. You can’t just assume influence when there is no paper trail or ancient manuscript claiming influence. You don’t get to just assume influence without evidence.

For example, both Socrates and Confucius where teachers of wisdom, rejected by the ruling authorities and had disciples carry on their teachings which made them famous. Clearly, Confucius is a “perfect skeleton” of Socrates. I don’t need to show any direct evidence of influence, I just need vague similarities, and clearly, I can show Socrates never existed and his legend was just influenced by Confucius. Both Thutmose III and Rameses II were long-reigning and wealthy pharaohs, both were military men that campaigned in Canaan, had successors that did not live up to their resumes, and fought against large northern empires. Clearly, Ramses II never existed and Thutmose III is the perfect skeleton for the myth of Ramses II.

If you realize how idiotic this reasoning is you can see why GE’s argument is bad. You don’t just get to claim influence, you have to show it. For example, we know Roman mythology was copied from Greek mythology because the stories are identical and authors like Cicero tell us this was happening. In other words, we have evidence of a connection. We don’t have this with Inanna and Jesus.

But wait, GE thinks he has evidence of this because in his original video he notes that the Jews were aware of Inanna/Ishtar because she is mentioned in the books of Ezekiel and Jeremiah. The reason I didn’t mention this in my reply is that it doesn’t relate at all. The Jews were aware of Inanna/Ishtar worshippers. So what? The fact that they were aware of pagan deities, like Inanna/Ishtar doesn’t prove the gospel writers were influenced by the descent of Inanna or borrowed themes or elements from it. Ezekiel doesn’t say this. He doesn’t even mention the legend of the Descent of Inanna. What is GE’s point supposed to be here? Is it because the Jews were aware of Inanna that proves it influenced the life of Jesus or affected Jewish theology? How does that even follow? The acknowledgment of the existence of this goddess doesn’t follow that they decided to craft stories in themes they got from her, let alone that they were even affected by her. This is a non-sequitur at best and GE offers no evidence this myth affected the Jewish Christians. Again, you need evidence of borrowing. If all you have are generalized “subsets of a story” that you think are connected, you don’t have evidence.

GE then moves to try and support the connection of Jesus’ crucifixion to Inanna. First, he admits the Roman version of crucifixion did not exist in ancient Sumer but then makes the odd claim, “but that doesn’t mean some form of crucifixion did not exist at the time.” This is nothing more than an argument from ignorance. If we have no evidence of crucifixion in ancient Sumer you can’t assume it was practiced then.

The best part is, just after this, GE rants on about practices like impaling one on a stake, or how crucifixion originated in other cultures that pre-date Rome. However, for some odd reason, he seems to think this proves crucifixion could date back to ancient Sumer. None of that can logically follow, since all the cultures he listed came into existence centuries after ancient Sumer collapsed. This is also a non-sequitur and he fails to demonstrate any connection between crucifixion and ancient Sumer. Just pointing out the Roman did not invent crucifixion doesn’t magically mean Inanna was ever described as a crucified goddess, let alone provide any evidence such a practice existed in Ancient Sumer. So his claim at the end of his video (where he says that my claim that crucifixion just did not happen in ancient Sumer is factually false) just shows how little research he did (while he ironically claims I did not research the history of crucifixion). GE, yet again, has not provided adequate evidence for his claim, therefore all he has to argue that crucifixion was in ancient Sumer is an argument from ignorance.

Furthermore, Inanna was not even executed in any of these ways that GE mentions. So even if GE could dig up some evidence of crucifixion in ancient Sumer, that wouldn’t matter, because she was not impaled or crucified. She was just pronounced dead by the judges of the underworld. Therefore, her death doesn’t even match the crucifixion of Jesus. Her dead body was only placed on a hook after she was executed. The very deaths of this “perfect skeleton” don’t even line up.

GE realizes this and tries to get around this by saying, “any hanging up, or suspended in air, in any kind of way would have by deemed crucifixion.” Does GE cite any sources for this? Does he cite any scholars or ancient texts? No, he just claims this, ad hoc, and expects us to take his word on it. In reality, there is no evidence to support this. There is no evidence any hanging up (especially a dead body) would have been seen as an execution by crucifixion. Were criminals in Victorian England crucified when they were hanged by the neck? Are deer being crucified when hunters hang their corpses up to drain the blood? I should not even have to explain something so unbelievably obvious. There is not a dictionary, scholar, or ancient text that says any “any hanging up, or suspended in air, in any kind of way would have by deemed crucifixion.” There are other types of “hanging,” so to speak. Its possible crucifixion could be seen as a type of hanging, but not all hangings are crucifixions. GE just made up this baseless assertion to attempt to rescue his argument and I challenge him to back this up with a source. I want to see an ancient source that says a dead body that is hung on a hook is a crucifixion, and even if he could do that he still needs to show this is what is in the Descent of Inanna. 

I checked his sources on this, and what he gives is a wikipedia article Captial and Corporal punishment which doesn’t say the hanging up of a dead body was seen as a crucifixion. Also, Wikipedia is not a credible source. Another link goes to an article by someone named Dan Hayden (who seems to just be a Christian theologian) who also doesn’t give any ancient sources claiming any hanging up of a living or dead person would have been deemed a crucifixion. So I am not sure where he got this claim, but as far as I can tell he just made it up.

After this GE says, “Whenever he [referring to me] says, “No historian would say that is was.” I mean I agree with you because no historian in their right mind would call that the Roman form of crucifixion.”

No, GE. The fact is no Sumerian or New Testament historian would call Inanna’s dead body on a hook a crucifixion. Even if GE is correct and being impaled is a form of crucifixion, hanging dead bodies on a hook is not a type of execution any more than a hunter hanging up a dead deer would be.

GE then unknowingly admits a problem with his theory when he says, “The Inanna story also doesn’t have to use words like resurrection or crucifixion because you can describe something and know what it is, like in the words that we use. Just because they didn’t use our words for things, doesn’t mean that is not what it was.”

No, GE, not only did they not use keywords like resurrection or crucifixion, they didn’t even describe these practices. That is the whole problem with your little theory. The Jewish idea of resurrection (anastasis) or an execution by crucifixion simply do not exist in the Inanna story and that blows your hypothesis out of the water that they are a “perfect skeleton.” The very themes you claim are connected are not part of the Inanna myth.

GE then makes a claim he doesn’t realize is meaningless and yet hilarious at the same time. He points out completely different Jewish works, like the Ascension of Isaiah, contains 7 heavens, just like the there are 7 gates to hell in the descent of Inanna.

So let me get this straight, because the descent of Inanna mentions seven gates to enter hell, and because some unrelated Jewish/later Christian texts mention seven heavens that means Inanna influenced the passion narrative of Jesus? In what realm of stupidity does this logic follow? The fact that some Jews/Christians believed in seven heavens doesn’t mean Gospel authors did, let alone that this idea came from a Sumerian idea of gates in the underworld. By his logic, the mentioning of seven seas in pirate literature must have been influenced by the descent of Inanna. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs must have been influenced by Inanna. Clearly, Snow White is the new Inanna, living in a dark forest (seen as a parallel to the underworld) with seven dwarfs, each representing a gate, just before the evil queen kills her and she is resurrected. See, I’ve found vague similarity. Surely that is enough to prove a connection or influence, right?

The reality is, Jesus didn’t traverse seven levels of anything in the Gospels, so how is this suppose to be evidence of his “perfect skeleton”? If you watch his video from 13:10 to 13:42 he rambles on about these 7 gates and then says, “It seems to fit.” Yet GE never actually says how these seven gates matchup in the gospels. How does this fit, GE? The Sadducees and Essenes were part of the same Jewish culture, yet clearly had different beliefs from each other and from the Christians. We have another non-sequitur from GE. He seems to have been wondering why I was laughing at his video when he shared my post of his video. This I can tell you is one of the main reasons. Especially since he rambles on about this for some time, not realizing he is not demonstrating how this is supposed to show influence on the Gospels.

After this GE says to me, “You seem to require an exact match for this to even make sense as a parallel.” To answer that, yes, that is correct. You don’t get to just find generalized patterns and claim influence without any evidence of influence. Again, scholars know the Roman pantheon was copied from the Greek pantheon because it is an exact match. We know the Hebrew Scriptures influenced the theology of the New Testament because the New Testament authors quote over three hundred times and directly tell us. We don’t think Socrates was copied from Confucius or that Ramses II was copied from Thutmose III because we can find some vague similarities. 

Ironically, we can’t even find adequate patterns between Jesus and Inanna. Let’s review how bad this connection is so far. Jesus was executed by crucifixion on a cross, whereas Inanna was killed by judges then her body was placed on a hook. No match. Inanna traversed seven gates, Jesus did not. No match. Jesus was stripped once for execution. Inanna lost a piece of jewelry at each gate she chose to go through. No match. Where is this “perfect skeleton” we keep being told exists? I can only assume it is in GE’s imagination.

Don’t worry, because right after this GE explains how we know Inanna was dead for three days and three nights. As I said in my video, the descent of Inanna never said she was dead for three days and three nights, and a careful reading of the beginning of the story shows it corresponds to her trip down to the underworld and before her death. Instead of GE realizing this or offering a proper way to translate the beginning of the story (different than what scholars provide) he doubles down on his misreading of the story and says when I pointed this out to him in my video it was “blatantly obtuse” and, “this story is told in a linear fashion. There is no reason to think it was told in parallel.”

As you would expect GE gives no evidence for this claim. We are just supposed to take his word for it. The text itself doesn’t say Inanna was dead for three days and three nights. It connects this time period to the tasks of Nincubura. I am not sure if GE even knows what this story says. Inanna specifically tells Nincubura to wait until she arrives in the underworld.

Let’s recap what it says. In lines 32-36 Inanna tells Nincubura, “On this day I will descend to the underworld. When I have arrived in the underworld, make a lament for me on the ruin mounds. Beat the drum for me in the sanctuary. Make the rounds of the houses of the gods for me” (1)

Okay, pretty clear statement. Nincubura is to wait until Inanna gets to the underworld to start her lamentations on her behalf. We then read of Inanna descent and then we get back to Nincubura and it says in lines, 173-175, “After three days and three nights had passed, her minister Nincubura (2 mss. add 2 lines: , her minister who speaks fair words, her escort who speaks trustworthy words,) carried out the instructions of her mistress (1 ms. has instead 2 lines: did not forget her orders, she did not neglect her instructions).” 

The story never connects “three days and three nights” to the death of Inanna. It is used in context with the tasks of Nincubura and the time period is of her waiting for Inanna to get to the underworld. There is no better way to say this, GE did not read what the actual source said and when I pointed this out he just ignored the problems with his theory and doubled down. Plus, it not just my word against his (in reality it is what the text says against his assertion), here is what an actual scholar has to say on Inanna:

“…it seems clear that Ninshubur’s delay is to allow sufficient time for Inanna to arrive within the nether world. The “three days (and) three nights” are intended to cover the time of travel to the chthonic depths.” (2)

Three days and three days refers to the length of the journey, which is actually a common theme in the ancient world. Now, I can already hear GE whining on how this is an appeal to authority as if it is a bad thing to refer to the experts. When GE just blatantly rejects what actual scholars have to say he is suggesting he is a better expert on the translations, and therefore he needs to explain why we should take his word over the word of actual historians. Anyone can read this story from start to finish and see the days correspond to the time it takes to get to the underworld, not the death of Inanna. The irony is GE has the audacity to say I am the one being disingenuous. He needs to just fess up and realize his mistake. Doubling down on this misreading of the text just makes him look like a poor researcher.

Finally, he gets the alleged resurrection connection. He says, “IP is requiring super-specific points in order to say, “oh, well this is a parallel.” But you see, the whole idea of a parallel is the fact that it is not super-specific points that perfectly match up.”

What, now? If we have no evidence of influence and if the points don’t match up you can’t claim they parallel. That should be obvious. If they don’t share the same theme, elements, or plot, you can’t claim influence. At best you are committing a hasty generalization, and mere association doesn’t show one influenced the other. You need evidence of a connection for that. What you find to be vague similarities doesn’t prove influence.

The fact is Inanna is not resurrected in the Jewish sense. If Jesus was (or at least this is what the Christians claimed) resurrected in the Jewish sense then it doesn’t parallel Inanna, because the Christians were drawing from a different culture and source material, namely the Hebrew Bible. Again, just because we see similarities between Socrates and Confucius does not mean one influenced the other. This is exactly why scholars do not see a connection between Inanna and Jesus, and as GE shows us, he never provides any evidence there was an influence. Hasty generalizations do not cut it.

GE then says, “The fact that she died and came back to life is resurrection.” Actually, it is not resurrection (anastasis) by what the Jews meant. To go through a resurrection (anastasis) you have to be human, die, and your mortal body has to come back to life immortal and glorified. People like Lazarus did not resurrect (anastasis), they simply resuscitated. The Jews and Christians had a very specific idea in mind and unless you can show they were getting this idea from Inanna you don’t have evidence. Just committing a hasty generalization doesn’t prove a connection. Resurrection (Anastasis) in the Jewish culture, does not just mean to bring something dead back to life. This is a case of a layman forcing his English definition onto a different culture’s meaning.

GE then contradicts himself from what he said at the beginning of his response. Early on, he rambled on about how he was only saying the passion story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is a “perfect skeleton” of Inanna. Then he admitted at 22:23 in his response video that Jesus is not depicted in the gospels as descending into hell as part of his passion story. But then he thinks (for some odd reason) that Jesus came back after his resurrection and revealed he went to hell. However, GE never gives a place where it says this in the New Testament. Jesus’ proclamation of victory over hell is actually not supposed to come in until after the ascension. So there is no clear evidence it is part of the passion story and therefore doesn’t fit his alleged, “perfect skeleton” for Jesus’ passion narrative.

Then the guy who has been whining the whole video about misrepresentation and being disingenuous says that I said Jesus’ descent into hell was a later invention of man, which I never said. So GE only proves here he is a total hypocrite about misrepresentation. He wonders why I was laughing so much at his video.

GE also claims there were several dying and rising gods as part of this motif, which is false. This is a fringe theory among Jesus Mythicists, but actual scholars do not take these claims seriously. If GE thinks they are wrong he has to show us why he a better authority than the experts, and he never does, he just assumes he is. He also tries to cite Osiris as a dying and rising deity, which only proves he has never studied ancient Egyptian mythology and what their word that we translate as “resurrection” actually meant to in their culture. See my series where we cover Osiris.

GE then says, “There is no evidence whatsoever to support the actual death of Jesus.” Except for the passage in Tacitus’ Annals, Josephus’ Antiquities, the passion narrative in Mark, and the letters of Paul, as well as a number of later sources, like Celsus. I’ll link to a great article by atheist and historian Tim O’Neill who debunked this nonsense. As Bart Ehrman has said, (paraphrasing) this nonsense that Jesus never existed might sound good to mythicists, but when you get out of that echo chamber no one is taking it seriously.

Let’s also remember the whole reason GE is doing this to somehow show Jesus never existed. What he doesn’t realize is it is a big waste of time on his part. Even if he could somehow show the Inanna cult influences the gospels it would not follow that Jesus never existed. New Testament scholars have speculated for years that the Gospels were written in a way to follow individuals and events from the Hebrew Bible. N.T. Wright argues Matthew is deliberately painting Jesus as a second Moses. Whereas, Luke is trying to make him look like another King David. Is this a problem for Christianity? Of course not, because ancient authors often looked to the past to see what was similar to the current events so they could draw connections. This doesn’t imply they simply made everything up.

Oral Tradition specialist, Albert Lord says, “Traditional narrators tend to tell what happened in terms of already existing patterns of story… When I say that an incident in the gospel narrative of Jesus’ life fits in a mythic pattern, there is no implication at all that this incident never happened. There is rather an implication that traditional narrators chose to remember and relate this incident because an incident of similar essence occurred in other traditional stories known to them and their predecessors. That its essence was consonant with an element in a traditional mythic (i.e., sacred) pattern adds a dimension of spiritual weight to the incident, but does not deny… the historicity of the incident.” (3)

Other ancient historians like Tacitus and Virgil also made use of this style, but never once have I heard a skeptic conclude that means they made things up. Dr. Rhiannon Ash says about Tacitus that he “…embeds such points in the very language which he uses,” and uses “linguistic echoes and structural similarities.” (4)

Jan Bremmer and Nicholas Horsfall note Virgil borrowed from Roman legends to paint current events of his day. (5)

Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh say, “To be able to quote the tradition from memory, to apply it in creative or appropriate ways . . . not only brings honor to the speaker but lends authority to his words as well . . . Luke 1:68-79 is an example. It is stitched together from phrases of Psalms 41, 111, 132, 105, 106, and Micah 7… The ability to create ouch a mosaic implied extensive, detailed knowledge of the tradition and brought great honor to the speaker able to pull it off.” (6)

So even if GE could prove beyond a shadow of doubt the Gospels authors were influenced by pagan cults that would not even prove his main point, that Jesus never existed. It would only show they connected events in Jesus’ life to something in pagan literature.  His whole argument would at best show the story borrowed elements from paganism, not that it was entirely made up.

But as we have seen GE cannot even give an ounce of evidence there are any good connections demonstrating influence. He thinks the acknowledgment in Ezekiel about the existence of an Inanna cult somehow translates to evidence it influenced the gospels. He erroneously claimed “any hanging up, or suspended in air, in any kind of way would have by deemed crucifixion,” and he doesn’t give any sources to show this. He doesn’t demonstrate how Jesus traveled seven layers of anything in the Gospels, like Inanna. He doesn’t demonstrate how the Jewish idea of resurrection (anastasis) related to a fertility goddess coming back to life, he doubled down on his misreading of the Descent of Inanna on the use of “three days and three nights.” He did not show how Jesus descending into hell was part of the passion story. His argument is laughable, which is why I was happy to share his video. I hope he keeps it up so I can refer people to it when I need to show them how bad Jesus mythicists are at history.

 

Sources:

  1. http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section1/tr141.htm
  2. George M. Landes, The “Three Days and Three Nights” Motif in Jonah 2:1, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 86, No. 4 (Dec., 1967), pp. 446-450  Page 449
  3. B. Lord, “The Gospels as Oral Traditional Literature,” in The Relationship among the Gospels: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue, Page 39.
  4. Rhiannon Ash, “Tacitus,” Pages 85, 87.
  5. Bremmer, Jan. Horsfall, Nicholas. Roman Myth and Mythology. University of London, 1987, 99-100
  6. Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, “Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels,” Pages 293-294