Quote of the Day By Mattapult, On Gaps to Gods Arguments

I've been thinking a lot about god-of-the-gaps and method.

Science has a lot of tools as part if its method: modeling, hypothesis, falsifiability, null hypothesis, testing, peer review, and so on. We've learned over the centuries, that these are the best methods to prevent ourselves from fooling ourselves. The standard of proof in science is fairly high, and even then, we often call the findings "provisionally true".

A god-of-the-gaps argument starts with the assumption that the best methods have failed; that no matter how hard we've tried to reach the standard of proof required, it is impossible to reach the standard of proof.

So let's punt to Authority and Revelation.

The CEO of Google is probably a pretty good authority on the next product Google will produce. But if he claims to knows what dark matter is, then we should demand evidence as expected of any scientist.

By the same standard, if you have a hypothesis of "God", then by all means, follow the same standards of science to test and validate your claims. You don't get a free pass based on authority to get around the level of proof. Model your god, hypothesize, test, and peer review. Oh, and please have at least one Hindu, Muslim, Jew, and Christian on the peer review panel.

What of the "method" of revelation? Revelation is nothing more than intuition, guesses, dreams, or the output of any other creative process. The number of revelations throughout time are uncountable, people had revelations ranging from where th eir lost car keys are to when it's right to start a war. How many of those are truly a divine inspiration? Answer: model, hypothesis, test, and peer review. It's important to set your pass/fail criteria in advance--another lesson from science.

For the sake of example, let's say there is a divinely inspired revelation out there somewhere. How do you know which one it is? There is no method to find it or identify it. Perhaps ask an authority, but that just substitutes one failed method for another.

God-of-the-gaps will never be a valid argument because there is no method to fall back on when the best methods have failed.

Dr. David Madison on the ignorance of Christians

No matter what denomination or creed, there is indeed massive ignorance about Christian origins and the Bible. You can ask 100 believers, “What is your opinion about the turmoil in Jesus studies during the last half-century?” and 99 will give you a blank stare: “What turmoil?” They have no idea. They are unaware—and just as happy to be in the dark. I can easily pick out at least 10 quotes attributed to Jesus (and 10 for Paul as well) that Christians would find incredibly stupid or horrifying: it is their ignorance of their own faith that is truly a scandal. John W. Loftus is not exaggerating when he speaks of the "epidemic of ignorant believers."

My Blurb for David Silverman's Book "Fighting God"

The paperback of David Silverman's book, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World, is coming out in August and he asked me for a promotional blurb to help launch it. Here 'tis:
Silverman's manifesto is a needed approach given a world with an epidemic of ignorant believers--and they're all ignorant--who are infected with the God virus so much they feel certain their God wants them to be cruel, misogynistic, gay bashing, racist, warmongering theocratic bigots. This is not a God we can placate or accommodate. It's all out war--a war of ideas, arguments, litigation and persuasion--for truth, humanity and the planet. If you love all that's good you too must fight this fight. God must die if we are to live.
John W. Loftus, Editor of Christianity is Not Great: How Faith Fails.

I'm Now the Senior Editor of the "Secular Nation" Magazine

I'm the new Executive/Senior Editor of the Secular Nation, the magazine of Atheist Alliance of America. LINK. Yep, I'm pumped! We offer a print and a digital version. As with everything I set out to do, I aim to do this well.

Quote of the Day on the Resurrection of Jesus, By JP415

;-) Any questions?

Quote of the Day On Gaps To Gods Arguments, by im-skeptical

There are gap arguments because there is science. If there is no science, there are no gaps in our scientific understanding.

If God made the world, he made it completely consistent with naturalism. That's why science works, and that's why we are naturalists. And it's why all the evidence we ever see is consistent with naturalism - and we don't expect to ever see anything that is not consistent with naturalism. There has never been a single exception to this. EVER. (your mythical stories notwithstanding).

God could have made a world where naturalistic science does not work. Maybe we could actually witness things like rotting corpses rising from the dead, and we'd have no science to tell us that couldn't happen, because it does happen. It would then be reasonable to seek some other explanation for what we observe, which might be some supernatural entity (especially if we observe that such entities exist). That's not what I call God of the gaps. It's simply a matter of inferring the best explanation for observed evidence.

Dr. Victor Reppert Is Our Gullible Person of the Day, Part 3

This is the final post of three on Victor Reppert, our ignorant gullible person of the day. [See the "Gullible" tag below.] Reppert again, about the gaps to god argument:
Look, when I raise this kind of question, I mean show us by providing evidence. Yes, God could sovereignly perform the act of causing Loftus to believe by going "Loftus, believe," and the next Sunday, Loftus will show up in church on his knees praying to God. But providing evidence is by definition not coercive. Of course God could shove belief in his existence down your throat if he wanted to. But could he give us a good reason to believe in his existence, such that no matter how disinclined we were to want to believe in a being greater than ourselves (so that we would have to admit we were not the supreme beings) whose commandments to us are our moral duties (however much we would like to avoid performing them). Wouldn't there be an escape clause available, no matter what we did?
Reppert says he has reservations about coercive belief, that his god only wants non-coercive belief. For one thing I don't see anyone refusing to believe in Reppert's god because he's bigger than they are. What utter indoctrinated ignorance that is!! Would Reppert say he rejects the existence of Allah due to the fact Allah is bigger than he is? I do however, see a good reason to disbelieve in any god that has commanded and taught the kinds of morality ISIS does, which can also be found in this religion. Any god that allows or commands or regulates slavery, or allows or commands or regulates how that women are to be treated as chattel, is not one I could stomach, much less believe.

Perhaps more to the point of non-coercive belief, if Reppert's god coerced belief in Moses, the Egyptian Pharaoh, Gideon, doubting Thomas, or Paul on the Damascus Road, which the Bible says he did without abrogating their free wills, then he could do it again and again. Surely Reppert knows of Theodore Drange's argument (from memory) that if there are people who want to know the truth it's not coercive to provide them with what they want. I find it extremely difficult to accept the faith-based claim that only a small number of people want to know the truth, such that only evangelicals like Reppert receive the needed evidence to believe.

Dr. Victor Reppert Is Our Gullible Person of the Day, Part 2

These are Vic Reppert's two atheist talking points:
Here is my real point, which I think has gotten lost here.

There are two atheist talking points that don't mix. Here they are:

1) Look, guys, if God would just give us evidence of his existence, we'd believe in him. The only reason we don't believe is because he hasn't provided evidence of his existence.

2) God of the gaps arguments are always wrong. Any gap in our naturalistic understanding of the world should be dealt with by waiting for science to produce a naturalistic explanation, not by appealing to God.

But anything God might do to reveal his existence could be dismissed as a gap, thus leaving the atheist unaffected. The ban on god of the gaps arguments would allow the atheist to escape no matter what God did to convince us of his existence.

Dr. Victor Reppert Is Our Gullible Person of the Day, Part 1

"Gullible Person of the Day" is a new feature here at DC. Enjoy. I recently argued that differences between believers and nonbelievers are not primarily about worldviews. My contention is that believers are simply ignorant! I did so here and I mean it. To believe is to be ignorant to some degree. Our differences are not centered in disputes about the rules of logic either. We can all agree about them. They are centered in the accumulation of knowledge that in turn produces a reasonable/healthy skepticism. This skepticism leads knowledgeable people to apply the rules of logic consistently across the boards without any double standards, or special pleading on behalf of one's own particular religious faith. So believers are naively gullible. They aren't sufficiently skeptical people. Their subconscious brains are lying to their conscious brains about the quality and quantity of evidence for their faith. Their subconscious brains even lie to make their conscious brains see evidence where there isn't any at all.

Think of the saying, "It's as easy as taking candy from a baby." A gullible person is not sufficiently knowledgeable enough to be skeptical of the motives of someone else. So a gullible person can be taken advantage of easily. We can see it in recognized defenders of faith, like Victor Reppert, who is today's Gullible Person of the Day. I intend nothing personal here. Yet I maintain Reppert is ignorant. Like the baby in the aforementioned aphorism, he's but an intellectual babe. No matter how much knowledge he may have or retain, and regardless of whether he knows more than I do, Reppert lacks the knowledge to be skeptical of his inherited religious faith. Like the Sophists in the days of Socrates he's pretending to know what he doesn't know. As an intellectual babe he's playing a childish pretend fantasy game of faith, one that in my book is indeed a dangerous idea.

If People Forgave Like God | Penal Substitution Atonement Theory


"What is the origin of matter?"

I was contacted by a Christian to discuss the origin of matter. Mark is his name, and I'll email this link to him if my readers wish to add anything. He said:
I am a Christian and I hope you'll discuss this topic with me. I want to discuss what is the origin of matter? Wouldn't it have to be either natural, nothingness/null/void, supernatural, or paranormal? One might argue "we don't know" which I can appreciate, but it would have to fall in one of those four categories, right? I enjoy researching this stuff and I thank you in advance for your response.

Quote of the Day On Theism, by ephemerol

There is no such thing as "theism," in the same way as there's no parents with 2.4 children and you can't walk into a general store and purchase a nonspecific item. If you're trying to make a case for Jesus, you should do exactly that and nothing less than that, and not dither about. You're just wasting everyone's time pretending to argue for deism and agnosticism as though that would ever advance the case for Jesus. It can't.

Victor Reppert asked what it would take for his god to convince us

OK you tell God (just in case he exists) what it would take for him to give you sufficient evidence of his existence, so that you would be on your knees at your local church this Sunday. The stipulation here is that he has to use evidence to get you there, so he can't just fix your brain and make you a believer. We know an omnipotent being can do that. But what you would be asking him to do would be to give you sufficient evidence of his existence.

Conclusion Driven Philosophy of Religion: Victor Reppert's God of the Gaps Argument

I wrote the book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. Christian apologist Reppert has not read it, and I don't expect him to, even after reading this post of mine where I explain why he should. Maybe others will. He recently put forth a God of the gaps argument which begins by acknowledging some sort of puzzling phenomenon that science cannot explain, which is supposed to lead to the existence of his sect-specific god. This argument is one example among many of conclusion driven philosophy of religion used in defense of Christian faith. It's Christian apologetics plain and simple, something taught by him as an instructor at two of Arizona's secular colleges, Arizona State University and Glendale Community College. Today's lesson, boys and girls, is to present this concrete example of what I mean when I say philosophy of religion must end.

The New Testament’s Biggest Lie


It’s Jesus’ Second Tomb They Should Be Looking For

Seminaries exist to manufacture clergy, hence none will ever make a top-ten list of academic institutions committed to critical/skeptical thinking. The Existence-of-God Question (does he or doesn’t he?), naturally, is off the table. Well, they may pretend that it isn’t, but the hordes of those destined for the pulpit don’t get an immersion in atheist thought; they learn the robust defenses of the faith spun by apologists.

Jesus as a Violent Zealot

Bible & Interpretation has published my essay on “Jesus as Whippersnapper: John 2:15 and Prophetic Violence.”
This essay challenges a pacifistic interpretation of John 2:15. In particular, it addresses the linguistic, historical and literary arguments of N. Clayton Croy, who argued that Jesus should not be portrayed as committing any act of violence in John 2:15. More recently, Andy Alexis-Baker concludes that Jesus did not even strike any animals with a whip, which was made of materials too soft to injure anyone or any animal. A violent portrait of Jesus is consistent with the Deuteronomistic view of divine anger and prophetic zeal that may have influenced the portrait the Johannine Jesus. Otherwise, the temple episode in John exemplifies another case where some streams of Christian scholarship seem reluctant to characterize Jesus’ behavior as unjustifiably violent or characterize it as an example of social justice.

Richard Carrier Easily Rips Into Timothy Keller's Book, "The Reason for God"

Dr. Carrier calls Keller's book "Dishonest Reasons for God" and I agree. It's a NY Times Top Ten Bestseller. Is this the best Christian apologists for Jesus can do? I wrote a book detailing the dishonest ways Christians defend their faith. I informed them how to defend their faith honestly, if it can be defended at all. The problem is their faith cannot be defended honestly, so if they want to be honest they shouldn't defend it at all, or they should find new and better ways to defend it. Carrier:
It used to be C.S. Lewis. Then Josh McDowell. Then Lee Strobel. Now it’s Timothy Keller, whose The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (published in 2008) is the number one most read defense of Christianity. So here’s why it’s bunk. LINK.

"Faking Jesus" by Robert Conner

That Jesus Studies is rife with flawed scholarship, special pleading, fideism, rank speculation, manufactured relevance, careerism, homo‑phobia and the misogyny that homophobia implies, sectarian allegiances, personal agendas, fraud and simple incompetence should come as no surprise to anyone conversant with the field. Indeed,whether Jesus Studies is even an academic discipline as usually understood is debatable, and that Jesus Studies has precious little to do with history is certain. Mainstream scholars have understood for quite some time that the gospels are not history by any modern definition. It is widely con‑ceded that the gospel authors were writing decades after the events they purport to relate, that the writers were pseudonymous, that they were not eyewitnesses, that both the provenance and intended audience of each gospel is a matter of conjecture, and that the primary sources on which the gospels are ultimately based are unknown and unknowable. It is universally conceded that no original exists for any gospel and that the gospels that have survived are copies of copies that preserve variant wording. LINK.

"Myth Versus History: Playing hide-and-seek with Jesus" by Robert Conner

An essay that examines "soft" versus "hard" mythicism, the theory that Jesus was not a historical character and that the gospels are complete fabrications.

Did Yahweh Have a Wife?

Of course God had a wife, and Dr. Karen Garst neatly summarizes the evidence right here.

Those who do research and then present their findings often discover that there is more work to do. Such was the case in 2010 when David Fitzgerald published a little book called Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed. His award-winning foray into mythicist studies left readers clamoring for more, but serious historical investigation takes time. Now, the long-awaited follow-up is finally available. Fitzgerald’s Jesus: Mything in Action is a three-part work that his fans will undoubtedly agree was well worth the wait.

On the Hunt for Other Theologians in the Galaxy


To escape the mindless speculations of those on Earth

Humans have been hoping to find neighbors in the Cosmos for a long time. “Are we alone?” has been a haunting question. Are there other thinking creatures ‘out there’? It was astronomer Frank Drake who, in 1961, first proposed a formula to stimulate thought experiments on the matter. Known as the Drake Equation, it includes the factors we need to know in order to determine the probabilities: How many stars are there in our galaxy? How many have habitable planets? On how many of those has life actually arisen?

Why Do Most Christians Believe?

Here's me summing up a discussion I saw here on Debunking Christianity:

Jim: "I believe what I was raised to believe and/or what a set of ancient pre-scientific writings say and/or what I feel must be true about the origins of the universe. In other words, what I believe is based on utterly unreliable means with little or no objective evidence."

Him: "When it comes to the origin of the universe I will wait for the final results of science since it has solved, and continues to solve, so many unanswered questions."

On Solving The Problem of Induction, Revisited

Many times I'm accused of not understanding a particular problem merely because I disagree with how it's best answered. In today's case I'm accused of being ignorant about the problem of induction. I understand a great deal about the philosophical quandaries involved, which I briefly wrote about earlier, and which can be read at the Online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. My Christian self reveled in this problem along with other apologists, since our goal was to show that science is only possible given a creator god of the Christian kind, and that even scientists need faith. I now vehemently disagree with my former Christian self on these counts.

I think the problem of induction is just a philosophical puzzle for philosophers interested in solving philosophical puzzles, and that's it. The philosopher who can solve it wins, you see. But solving it in it's current form means coming up with a theory of everything and/or in explaining the problem of our existence itself, that is, why this particular universe exists rather than nothing at all. Philosophers will never solve these problems because only scientists can solve them, if they can be solved at all.

Does inductive reasoning work? Most emphatically it does. In fact, no scientist has ever documented a single case where it didn't work to increase our knowledge of the universe. Could good inductive reasoning fail to work? I don't see how it could, for to show it didn't work at a given time means using inductive reasoning to show that it didn't work. At the very best, the odds of my being wrong about inductive reasoning are almost infinitesimally small (and even if I'm wrong about this, it doesn't change the fact that scientists should continue reasoning inductively).

Faith is not involved in reaching this conclusion, nor do I need certainty before claiming to know something, anything. All that reasonable people must do is the one thing most believers cannot bring themselves to do. They should think exclusively in terms of the probabilities based on solid objective evidence. When reasonable people think this way there's no room for faith, nor any need for certainty which usually goes with it.

So can I explain why inductive reasoning works in our particular universe? Basically, yes.

Inductive reasoning works in this universe
because it works in this universe, and that's it.
In other universes it might not work.


Any questions?

On Solving the Problem of Induction

[Redated post from 11/27/13]
Vincent Torley takes on Sean Carroll, Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins and myself when it comes to justifying scientific knowledge. He spends some time on the dreaded problem of induction and goes on to pretend to know things he doesn't know, by asserting his particular god makes science possible such that, without pretending to know what he does, science has no justification. LINK.

The problem of induction was brought to the attention of intellectuals by David Hume. Atheist philosopher Stephen Law is on record as saying:
Hume’s argument continues to perplex both philosophers and scientists. There’s still no consensus about whether Hume is right. Some believe that we have no choice but to embrace Hume’s sceptical conclusion about the unobserved. Others believe that the conclusion is clearly absurd. But then the onus is on these defenders of “common sense” to show precisely what is wrong with Hume’s argument. No one has yet succeeded in doing this (or at least no one has succeeded in convincing a majority of philosophers that they have done so). LINK (see his conclusion).
Law concludes that no one has succeeded so far, which includes Vincent Torley's god hypothesis. Law refuses to pretend to know things he doesn't know, which I find admirable. However, we shouldn't forget that Hume lived in an era where philosophers were looking for certainty, following in the footsteps of Descartes. Hume brought the quest for certainty to an end though, showing that if we seek after certainty we cannot observe cause and effect, or that we have a self either (as opposed to a bundle of sensations). This is the difference that makes all the difference. The quest for a certain foundation for knowledge is, or should be, dead. But because of the lack of certainty Torley erroneously inserts his unevidenced mysterious miracle god-hypothesis into the equation.

"My modernized compassionate God is the true deity. Christians are to blame for the wrong done in his name."

I edited a huge book of 558 pages attacking such nonsense, called, Christianity is Not Great. In an announcement I made when it went to print you can see the chapter titles and authors. Below you can see a few recommendations/blurbs:

Former Pastor Joseph: "It was all in my mind. God doesn't talk to people."

After 40 years as an insider, what I saw was:

1) a legion of believers fervently praying to "know the will of God" only to end up making their own decision that they "sensed" God was "leading them" to make. The reality: It's all in their mind. God doesn't talk to people.

2) Ditto to everything above but from another angle. Since God was not saying anything to them, they sought the counsel of the "aged saints" to instruct them on what to do. The reality: It's all in their mind. God doesn't talk to people.

3) A common complaint that I heard over four decades was "God seems so far away." To which the "great saints" would retort "This is a normal occurrence in the life of a believer. This is why its faith." The reality: It's all in their mind. God doesn't talk to people.

4) No two believers agreed on all matters ethically and doctrinally. There are roughly 1000 commands in the Bible. No two believers observe and ignore the same ones. The reality: It's all in their mind. God doesn't talk to people.

5) believers would hold dearly to the invented tenant that the Bible is "how God talks to us now." Why? Because of reality. It's all in their minds. God doesn't talk to people.

Without exaggeration, I have spent hundreds of hours in prayer during my lifetime. It truly was one directional. Any feedback internally was nothing more than imagined and conditioned amygdalan responses.

I'll never forget the awakening moment I had walking as a pastor in a forest preserve in the burbs of Chicago. It was at that time that I realized there was no one of the other side of my prayers. It was all in my mind. God doesn't talk to people.
In a 2009 study done by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago we now know it's all in the mind of the believer. "God" (the English name of the Christian god) doesn't talk to people. Believers simply create their own religion, their own Gospel, and their own God in their own image. This has been shown TO BE A FACT. The study, as reported by Discovery magazine, needs to be shared more widely than it has BEEN so far. It proves that it's all in the mind of the believer. God doesn't talk to people. Why? Because its been shown he agrees with every single believer on a host of different unrelated issues. Given that God cannot agree with everyone then God doesn't talk to anyone. To continue maintaining God talks to any given believer, or any select group of believers, is utter madness, a delusion, given the number of people God agrees with in the world.

“Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance.”


It remains the study of human guesswork about god(s)

I was a Bible geek when I was in high school and college, but when I arrived at graduate school, Boston University School of Theology, my study of the Bible moved into higher gear. In my PhD program, among other things, I had to achieve reading competency in German, because German-speaking scholars were at the forefront of biblical studies and theology (if theology can be said to have a forefront)—and had been for generations.

Quote of the Day by Karl Gilberson (with comment)

Gilberson wrote a nice blurb for my book, How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist. Yesterday on Facebook he wrote this gem:

Given all that science has explained from its inception, what are they waiting for, the day science can explain everything? *Sheesh* So what would they say if it could explain everything? Will believers say their god created the universe perfectly without any gaps at all?

Where is the Virgin Mary When You Really Need Her?


There’s some really big sin to slap down

One of the bullets that struck Pope John Paul II on 13 May 1981 is now attached to the crown of the Lady of Fátima statue in Portugal. The thirteenth of May, you see, happens to be the Feast Day of the Lady of Fátima, and the pope had been an ardent devotee of the Virgin Mary his whole life. So he was convinced that Mary had saved his life; she had guided the bullet to miss a major artery. We’re tempted to wonder if Mary’s effort hadn’t been half-hearted: why didn’t she guide the bullet to miss the pope altogether? Piety has a way of blunting common sense.

I do have to wonder what prior century I’m living in—or may have been suddenly transported to—when I read a National Geographic article titled 500 Years of Virgin Mary Sightings in One Map.

At the top of the map we find this explanation:

“Starting in the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church instituted a strict vetting process for miracles like the 2,000 sightings of the Virgin Mary claimed since A.D. 40. To be worthy of belief and church support, apparitions must be deemed miraculous with a high degree of certainty and in line with church doctrine, and found to have had a positive impact.”

“…deemed miraculous with a high degree of certainty…” ? They only wish.

I don’t know if the ardent Catholic investigators check out all reports of Mary appearing on tree bark or toast—one piece of Virgin Mary toast brought $28,000 at auction—or if they seek to verify all of the Mary statues that supposedly bleed or weep.

If this is how Mary chooses to use her time and talents, I suggest that she should apply for a job upgrade. There are much bigger things to worry about. Yes, an attempted papal assassination is worthy of attention, but is there any way we can petition the Holy Mother to take her role as Queen of Heaven more seriously?

THIS is where she really needs to show up: every time a priest is about to rape a child, Mary should pop up in the room, scowling like the most severe nun ever. There could be variations on her message, “You will rot in hell,” “Put it back in your pants,” “Don’t even think about it,” “Not even my son can save you if you do this.”

The problem, of course, is that the Holy Mother doesn’t have a strong role model. Pope Francis, that smiling master of public relations, has fallen down on his job as well. He likes to have informal chats with reporters on the papal plane, but it would be far better to hold monthly news conferences at the Vatican, with the sole purpose of bringing the world up to date on what he’s doing to prevent priests from raping kids. We need to know how many priests have been handed over to local police; how many predator priests have been fired after being moved on to other parishes; how many bishops and cardinals have been fired for helping with the cover-ups. The pope also needs to give the world an update on how the church has improved its vetting processes to detect priest candidates who remain stuck in sexual adolescence; also, Holy Father, describe the resources that have been gathered to help celibate clergy understand human sexuality.

Maybe we’re expecting too much of a church that counts on Mary worship to coddle the gullible; actually, Mariolatry is big business, so no doubt they deem it best to keep that product as far away as possible from the criminal activity responsible for the collapse of the church’s moral authority.

David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years and has a PhD in Biblical Studies. His book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was published last year by Tellectual Press.