An Email Discussion With Dr. Dan Lambert

Dan and I are friends and he's using my book WIBA in his college classes. We carry on a discussion from time to time and with his permission this is one of them I thought was interesting.

I'll begin with this comment from Dan:
I am rather dismayed by the quality of thinking in the writing on both sides of the “debate.” If anything, I become more and more convinced that agnosticism is the only honest and inevitable outcome of pure intellectual inquiry into the existence of God. Humans are so much more than our intellect, however.. Our choice to believe or not believe in God comes from those other domains (emotional, social, cultural, experiential, vocational).

It sounds like you could write a ground breaking book on this topic from an evangelical stand point. You would have to denigrate reason in favor of personal (mystical? pentecostal? properly basic?) experience, and then come out of that experience with some doctrinal content when all is said and done.

Not denigrate at all. What I’m saying is that human decision making is not all intellectual about anything. It is but one aspect of the decision making process. Very few Christians, however, give any effort to the intellectual aspect of Christianity. That’s the whole thing, John, we do not make any decisions about anything in life based on 100% intellectual information only.. Every decision is informed by our other domains.

In science, relatively few theories eventually become totally accepted facts or laws. All scientific discovery begins as a question and eventually a hypothesis. I think Stenger is totally wrong about the existence of God being testable. It’s too easy theologically to explain why he will never find empirical evidence for God. And it’s not because is hiding or doesn’t want to be found. It’s because God doesn’t live in a test tube, a lab or controlled experiment.

I totally agree with you on the lack of intellectual reasons for accepting things. We humans are woefully inadequate at this. That's why in my debate with Dinesh I said we should demand hard evidence for what we'll accept. I'm becoming more and more like W. Clifford, a hard rationalist, because of this. That's interesting to me. While this makes me demand "hard" evidence before I'll accept anything, it makes you demand, well, less?, or what?

I actually think the cumulative case method is best for deciding anything. That combines all domains of the human experience and requires that we put effort into our decision making. Is that too much to ask?

A hard rationalist, really John? You have to realize how totally impractical that is. How much intellectual evidence is “enough” to make every single decision? Or is this just relative to the existence of God? If so, hard rationalism seems to hide from truth because there’s always the possibility of more information being out there somewhere. Always gathering data and never making a decision. With your philosophy education I’m sure you know the weakness of that standard so you don’t need me to remind you.

I am glad that you’re still searching for an appropriate paradigm to filter the world through. It’s not an easy or clean process. Every possible lens seems to lead to some untenable conclusions. That’s probably too nihilistic.

Yes, cumulative case. We agree on that. It's the best we have. No, I'm not quite a hard rationalist, just closer to that camp than before. Being "closer" doesn't force me into any contradictions.

But just think of all the claims being made, from psychics to alien abductions, to resurrections to well, you name it. Cumulative case approaches can still be used but a greater weight placed on hard empirical evidence. Without demanding that kind of evidence how else can we decide about these types of claims?

Coin flip maybe? Actually I think this has to do with how we teach people to make decisions. I think about it like the Myth Busters TV show. They use science to try and determine if a myth is confirmed, plausible, busted or unconfirmed. They realize that science will only take us so far for some questions and that the truth of some claims can’t be scientifically confirmed or busted.. Sometimes a degree of likelihood can be estimated, though. Science is imperfect and incomplete. Philosophy is imperfect and incomplete. History is imperfect and incomplete. Human experience is imperfect and incomplete. Logic and reasoning is imperfect and incomplete.

I just don’t see why hard rationalism answers some questions better than “soft” rationalism (by that I mean using the cumulative case method and putting the emphasis on whichever domain seems to have the most/best to say about the given question). If a personal God exists, science, philosophy, history, and experience all have something to say about that God, but which one will give the most conclusive evidence? I think if it’s a personal God, then the most important factor is personal experience.

I know I’ve suggested this before, but let’s take your wife’s love for you as another case. (Gwen if I remember correctly, but I may not.) How have you determined if her love for you really exists? It’s not tangible or empirically measurable or testable, so science can’t say for sure. Philosophy has many pithy sayings about love that may give some guidance, but it won’t bring you to a conclusion. History? Not very helpful. What’s left? Your personal experience with her. Even in those occasions when you argue with each other and say things you would like to take back (which, to an outside observer would be evidence of a lack of love), her love for you is never in doubt because of your experience with her.

You know what I’m getting at.

And therein lies the rub:

I think if it’s a personal God, then the most important factor is personal experience.

But you know I can criticize personal experience as wish fulfillment, so now what? Surely there is evidence for Gwen and my love, if love is caring for each other. There is evidence we do, you see.

But a nurse at an emergency room cares for patients as well. Everything you can think of that Gwen does for you, you could get a paid professional to do. Where’s the evidence of love? Sure personal evidence could be wish fulfillment, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s no way to know empirically; that’s why it’s not within the realm of science to prove/disprove God (or Gwen’s love for you for that matter, which you choose to believe in despite the lack of hard rationalistic evidence).

Do you really think this? Do you really think neither you nor I can tell when someone loves us? That there is no evidence distinguishing a nurse's actions from my wife's actions? Surely not.

As far as empirical evidence goes for other kinds of supernatural claims check this out

Yes, I am convinced that you and I are convinced that our wives love us due to our experience with them and the feelings they give us (possible wish fulfillment there). What could a scientist possibly observe that could empirically prove that Gwen loves you? It’s the cumulative case method. You consider the things she does for you + how she treats you + what she says to you + the way she makes you feel + her responses to you + how you feel when you’re not with her + a few other factors and determine that she loves you. What is the unique factor there that make Gwen different from all other women in your life? It’s how you feel about her based on experience. That’s not empirical at all.

Thanks for the link you included below. It’s a pretty tired atheist claim that’s sadly misleading. Take this statement: "Faith has a number of features, but principle among them is that it describes cases where we believe that something is true even though the evidence on the whole does not support it. If there were sufficient evidence, after all, there would be no need for faith."

That’s just patently untrue. “Sufficient evidence” involves a lot more than what that author implies, and he’s being dishonest by claiming otherwise. The principle feature of faith is not at all what he claims. Faith takes many different forms and has many different rationales on various maturity levels. I am sure that he would quickly object to any similar absolute statement about atheists or any other subgroup to which he belongs. It’s a straw man at best.

People who see us around as outsiders to our experience all say we love each other. It's obvious to them as outsiders. A social scientist would conclude the same thing if she observed us, as would a psychologist who interviewed us both separately and together.

Could they all be wrong? Yes. Could I be wrong? Yes.

So? We're never looking for certainty.

And this faith thing is troubling me. What is it? In my opinion faith is what fills in the gaps of the probabilities. If, say there is a 70 % probability something is the case then to conclude more than that 70% probability is faith, and I reject faith based reasoning like that. To reject that kind of faith is to live and operate based on the probabilities. If there is a 70 % chance of something then that's all I can conclude and that's all I can use to base my decisions on. And so I could never give my whole life over to a 70% probability. I could only give 70% of my life over to a 70% probability. This is Lessing's ditch when applied to the past, as you know. Kierkegaard responded by acknowledging Lessing's point and therefore decided faith must go beyond what the evidence calls for. And that's what I must reject.

" is what fills in the gaps of the probabilities."

I actually think that’s a great definition and is the clear implication of Hebrews 11:1. So if your standard is 100% probability, what in life or about the world meets that standard? Certainly Gwen’s love for you doesn’t. You may be able to gather opinions from friends and trained professionals, but could they be wrong? Certainly. Why are you certain of her love for you? Not because there’s 100% probability that she loves you. It’s because you’ve gathered evidence using the cumulative case method and reached a perfectly reasonable conclusion based on a high probability. You have faith that she loves you because it’s impossible to get to that 100% plateau. If you really mean what you say in the previous paragraph, then you must reject the proposition that Gwen loves you. Be honest here, John. Your faith that Gwen loves you goes beyond the probability of the evidence (unless you redefine what evidence is, in which case you must apply that same definition of evidence to God as well).

Good point! I do go beyond the evidence sometimes when I am emotionally attached to Gwen's love. yes, you're right. We are not Spockian when it comes to responding to the actual evidence. But we need to be, how's that?

In my book I got burned with love and passion. When Gwen and I first met I was skeptical about her love below what the evidence called for. She had a rough go of proving she loved me. I doubted it at every turn. But she convinced me. And I still can be skeptical so I don't get burned again. Skepticism is still a virtue when it comes to our love.

There are a lot of women whose husbands are cheating on them but they are not skeptical enough. Many of them deny the evidence in front of them preferring bliss instead, until the bombshell explodes. Then they are shocked.

I don't think we need to be Vulcan-like. (I didn't use Spock because he is half human and exhibited emotions on occasion!). At least in matters that are not totally scientific. Even then quantum mechanics is raising a lot of questions about what we think we know. Sometimes I wonder if we can really ever know anything. Now I've taken a complete metaphysical turn.

See, it is possible to have faith and still be skeptical. I totally agree with that. I think we've just solved a lot of issues. :-)


Clare said...

I think that Don's use of the word "love" is a poor example. Love and like are the same word in French. Other cultures -is it Japanese? have no word for love at all. In other words "love" is another subjective experience, just like belief in God or morality.

J. Quinton said...

One of the more annoying apologetics I read and hear all of the time is the assertion of "personal experience" of god. Obviously, a personal god should be having personal relationships with his subjects, but I've never seen any evidence of such a relationship. Christians have redefined "personal relationship" to mean something other than what it is.

I have a personal relationship with my girlfriend. I don't have a personal relationship with President Obama. This means that there are things I know about my girlfriend that I didn't read in a book or had a chosen interpreter or some other third party tell me about her. On the other hand, there's nothing that I know about Obama that I didn't read in a book or had some third party tell me.

If Christians have a personal relationship with their god, they should be able to enumerate some things that they know about god or Jesus that they didn't read in a book or had a third party tell them. Things about Jesus' personality.

Questions you should be able to answer if you actually had a "personal" relationship with Jesus:

What does Jesus do in his free time when he's not saving souls?
What kind of things does Jesus joke about?
What's Jesus' biggest secret that he doesn't talk about to the unsaved?
What was Jesus' childhood like?
When was Jesus' first kiss? His first crush?

I obviously wouldn't be able to answer questions like these with Obama (without reading it in a book or having a third party tell me), but I would be able to answer questions like these with people I do have a personal relationship with. The fact that Christians cannot answer these questions must mean that their definition of "personal" is something other than what it means in normal conversation.

Rob R said...

If there is a 70 % chance of something then that's all I can conclude and that's all I can use to base my decisions on. And so I could never give my whole life over to a 70% probability.

John, I assume you are not a statistician. I recall in your book that you made the claim that it's even more unlikely that God should be three in one let alone that he should exist. But where are the formulas? The appeal to probabilities most of the time in these issues is a subjective one which is itself an act of faith that is not based upon actual careful calculations.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

2 things I see John:

1- You assume that because of your relationship to Gwen that her love is authentic. Life Dr. Lambert points out others can do things that display love to you, but the actual evidence that makes you conclude that she loves you are coming from other faculties or places other than those based on empirical evidence. You response to this was simply:

Do you really think this? Do you really think neither you nor I can tell when someone loves us? That there is no evidence distinguishing a nurse's actions from my wife's actions? Surely not

That's a wholly inadequate level of argument from one closer to a "hard rationalist" as you claim to be. How are those actions distinguished? Only based on relationship and what you perceive to be intent and neither of those areas can be empirically verified.

I suggest that you're only a hard rationalist when it comes to claims for God because you perceive him to be far away from you and uninvolved in you life and immediate circumstances.

The second thing you did was revert back to this probabilities argument again. That's about the weakest argument that one can render and cross up all kinds of facts. For starters you cross up the standards of historical research. You take the biblical narrative into another standard and create a case of special pleading against it.

Then, the fact is that recent history is filled with all kinds of improbable events. Saints beating the Colts in the Super Bowl...improbable, but it happened...While we're on football, Doug Flutie threw a pretty improbable and impossible pass now didn't he?

There are all kinds of things that are improbable but they are factual. So John your reasoning regarding these things I believe is somewhat flawed, and althoughe we couls say it that certainly doesn't make you deluded as you claim that Christians are, which is about the worst argument that you've made yet.

Prometheus said...

I completely agree with J.Quinton's comment above.

David McBride

isom kuade said...

Even as an agnostic, Dr. Lambert makes excellent points.

Although, I must say that one of the problems I have w/ faith is that usually w/ the acceptance of one faith, you must reject another by default. I just don't see a high enough probability of evidence that supports any one faith well enough to confidently deny the truth claims of another faith.

J. Quinton said...

The second annoying apologetic is the equivocation between subjective feelings like "love" and objective things like the existence of the person doing the loving. The objectivity of the person doing the loving has to first be established before engaging the subjective feeling of "love". It edges pretty close to a fallacy of reification.

I don't have faith that my gf exists. I have faith that she won't cheat on me - they're two very different things. If my gf didn't exist, then the question of whether I have faith that she won't cheat on me is irrelevant. Theist attempt to extrapolate the faith that we have in loved ones to faith that the loved one exists. Existence is an objective dilemma (barring the fallacy of reification), and has to be solved objectively. Attempting to solve an objective dilemma subjectively only leads to sophistry - and is the sole reason why there are millions of different religions on the planet.

I don't have faith that my gf exists. My gf's existence is based on facts. In order to prove the existence of something objective, we have to first doubt it and then test it. For instance, if someone said "it's snowing outside" in the middle of the summer (an objective statement), then I would first doubt their assertion and then go outside to test their statement: I'd check to see if it was snowing.

Trying to apply the same methodology for subjective "facts" (like love, trust, etc) would drive someone crazy. Like if I wanted to find out if my gf was really faithful to me - I'd have to doubt her first and then set up a whole bunch of surveillance, watching her every move etc. It's a lot easier to trust that she's faithful.

The difference between the two situations is emotional investment. I have an emotional investment in whether my gf is faithful, I don't have an emotional investment in whether it's snowing in the middle of summer. In order to find out the objectivity of a fact of life, we shouldn't be emotionally invested in the outcome. If we do have emotional investments in something, then it's easier to pander to our emotions to make it more palatable - this is why we rely on trust when in human relationships. The emotion invovled is at the heart of the matter.

This is why I say that faith in the existence of god is intellectually bankrupt - because it's using subjective methodology for an objective question. Objectivity is determined intellectually, not by emotions or fuzzy feelings. On the same side of that, faith that my gf won't cheat on me is also intellectually bankrupt... but it's not supposed to be intellectual in the first place!

However, trying to determine by fact and objectivity that my gf is faithful to me would be emotionally bankrupt. Of course this is a bad thing because the nature of the relationship is supposed to be emotional. But the objective existence of my gf has to be established first before appealing to how much I trust her. I would get strange looks if I simply asserted that I trust my gf yet she didn't even exist... and then said that the feeling of trust I have for her establishes that she actually exists. It's putting the horse before the cart, so to say.

Subjective, or emotional dilemmas require subjective/emotional solutions. Objective/intellectual dilemmas requre intellectual/objective solutions. The same reason why I wouldn't get drunk (subjective, it makes me feel good) before taking a math test (objective and requiring intelligence) is the reason why I wouldn't have to believe in god first and/or have faith (subjective, it feels good) in order to prove that god exists (objective and requiring intelligence).

Whether god exists or not shouldn't affect you emotionally - just like the big bang theory or the theory of evolution.

If you couldn't tell, these two apologetics really irk me :)

Richard H said...

I think the "What could a scientist possibly observe that could empirically prove that Gwen loves you?" thing reveals a pretty big understanding

Scientists are not in the proof business. That's mathematics.

Scientists are focus on "we can conclude with an exceptionally high degree of confidence".

Anonymous said...

J. Quinton, you're conveniently ignoring the fact that if God exists, he is supernatural, and as such cannot be objectified. You have to be a hard rationalist to reject that notion out of hand. If you are a hard rationalist in reference to the existence of God, then why not be a hard rationalist in regards to your girlfriends faithfulness? God's existence is not the same as her existence. That's the fallacy of your point. You have faith in your girlfriend's fidelity because of your personal experience with her. I have faith in God because of my personal experience with Him. I don't have faith in her fidelity with you because I don't know her. You don't have faith in God because you lack personal experience with Him.

The existence of God is objective, you're absolutely correct. But it's also empirically nonfalsifiable. That means that typical tests for existence don't work. That decision is personal and subjective, just like your decision to trust your girlfriend's fidelity.

Anonymous said...

" I'm becoming more and more like W. Clifford, a hard rationalist, because of this."

Here's van Inwagen on Clifford's principle.

Steven said...

Interesting discussion, and it got me to thinking about the role of the standard of evidence that I employ when I'm evaluating claims of one sort or another. I think the thing that is missing from this conversation is the notion of where does one get a "70% certainty" that some claim is true. In some sense, that is even more important than the conclusion itself.

The fact is, my standards of evidence in evaluating claims are very Bayesian in their make up, and I think just about everyone does this.

For example, the standard of evidence that I employ when accepting the claim that my best friend might have had a sandwich for lunch is very different from the standard of evidence that I employ when I consider the claim that the last time I lost my keys it was due to a ghost that hid them from me. The standard of evidence that I employ in these two different cases varies considerably for what should be very obvious reasons.

Dan, in making his comment that human decision making is not intellectual at all is, I think, a bit wrong about this. In a Bayesian sense, I think human decision making can be well understood at least in principle (if not in practice) if one can understand all the different standards of evidence (and biases) that are employed by someone in drawing a conclusion.

In this, I think Harvey is wrong in his first objection to John's conclusion that his wife loves him. At the risk of getting all Rob R on everyone ;), John's conclusion is based on the totality of the experiences he has had with his wife. Those experiences are, in fact, empirical in nature, but they are fundamentally different from the entirely empirical experiences John would get from a different sort of caregiver such as a nurse.

In this sense, I think John is well justified in drawing the conclusion that his wife loves him. Now, we as outsiders in John's relationship, would necessarily have to apply a different standard of evidence to this question, but unless we're all sociopaths, the standard of evidence here shouldn't really be all that high simply by virtue of the fact that we have all experienced love in our lives, we know it is like, we know what it looks like, and we can observe the same behavior others. We can't be 100% sure about it in any particular case, but we can have enough certainty conclude that it is probably true.

In a way, I think that this is one of the reasons we keep going around and around with Rob R. Rob, in bringing up his epistemology is trying to show a distinction in his epistemology vs. ours, but in fact, I think it is a distinction without a difference. I have yet to see where Rob's epistemology is fundamentally different from my own, but I can clearly see where the standard of evidence that he is employing in drawing his conclusions are very different from my own on the subject of the veracity of the Bible.

Brad Haggard said...

"There is nothing outside of the text." (or, all of our knowledge is personal experience)


Steven said...

you're conveniently ignoring the fact that if God exists, he is supernatural, and as such cannot be objectified.

jbudranl, this statement is incoherent. It is not at all obvious that the supernatural cannot be objectified. In fact, the major goals of theology is in fact to define the properties of God, which is, in essence objectifying God in at least a definitional sense. The supernatural may not be objectified in the sense of the desk I'm setting at, but theists most certainly do give properties to the supernatural that treat it as a thing, a non-physical thing, but a thing none the less.

mchang said...

I think the discussion comparing it to love is misleading, because in mr. Loftus' case, he objectively knows his wife exists, because he can see her, etc. Other people see her, and can validate her existence.

Whether she "loves" him is secondary, because he has already recognized her existence. With any divine being, that level of confirmation does not exist, and as such, they're having to ask "does god love me" while at the same time asking "does god even exist?"

So I think the parallel is not apt.

Jim said...


You need to read your own post:

. . . if God exists, he is supernatural, and as such cannot be objectified.

The existence of God is objective, you're absolutely correct.


Jim said...

You can't put "wind" in a test tube, either, but you can test for the effects of wind in the real world. The "wind" interacts with measurement devices.

We can measure the effects of prayer on sick people.

They fail . . . oops.

mchang said...

And just one small addition to the point of personal experience being the most important criteria in relating to a personal god- I think that is looking at it far too narrowly. The personal god is also, according to believers, the creator of the world, so it's not just one aspect.

But for those believers (I'm talking judeo/christian), personal experience would certainly not trump the believed revelation from god contained in their bible. That, according to believers, is the ultimate revelation, so any personal experience, if it contradicts that, would be invalidated.

Jim said...

J. Quinton,

You mentioned that Christians have "redefined personal relationship . . ."

I don't know if this a new Christian apologetic paradigm or if it's been for eons, but it seems I'm seeing more of it.

Redefine, redefine, redefine. Steal a phrase from common English and use it in regards to a question of faith. But the phrase doesn't have the same meaning.

"God loves everyone"

Ummmmm, he drowns innocent kids in Noah's flood; he orders Abraham to butcher Isaac, etc.

"You just don't understand 'Love' in this context"

Ummmmm, yeah, I understand very well what "Love" means and it ain't that.

This is why Breckmin loves to say we can't have a meaningful discussion about God until we recognize that words are imperfect. (At least I think that's what his intention is).

Christians need this "fuzziness." They need lots of wiggle-room to avoid the inevitable fact that any attempt to describe God in any meaningful agreed upon way is futile.

J. Quinton said...

Heh... well Jim, according to Nietzsche(Genealogy of Morals), Christians have been redefining things for millenia.

Intelligence is stupidity, stupidity is intelligence!

Nobility is evil, servitude is holy!

Maybe this is just another instance.

Chuck O'Connor said...

I find it interesting that this series of observations was noted,"Science is imperfect and incomplete. Philosophy is imperfect and incomplete. History is imperfect and incomplete. Human experience is imperfect and incomplete. Logic and reasoning is imperfect and incomplete."

Yet what was conveniently left out of this series was, "theology is incomplete." or even better, "the bible is incomplete."

I'd accept Christians opposition to natural means of knowing if they applied the same level of skepticism to their revealed knowledge as they do to objective knowledge.

Jim said...

"The Necessity of Christians to Redefine Terms" sounds like a good topic for a book.

Does anyone know if a book with this theme has been written?

Maybe I should get to work--I could make millions!

Nah . . . I'm probably too lazy.

Anonymous said...

To Chuck who wrote -- "Yet what was conveniently left out of this series was, "theology is incomplete." or even better, "the bible is incomplete.""

You're correct, I should have included that. It was not intentionally left out. All theologies are imperfect and incomplete and our understanding of the Bible is imperfect and incomplete as well. I fully agree.

Anonymous said...

The criticism that Christians are always redefining terms to win arguments seems hypocritical and insincere to me. name a single discipline in which that doesn't happen. Every academic disciple changes, readjusts and redefines terms, ideas, and hypotheses all the time. That's what's required for intellectual integrity. As we gain more complete knowledge, we assimilate and accommodate that into our existing knowledge and adjust as deemed appropriate.

If all other disciplines do that, what do not allow theology to do that?

Chuck O'Connor said...


You said, "our understanding of the Bible is imperfect and incomplete." I see you are unwilling to say that the Bible itself is "imperfect and incomplete" and it is this level of logical gerrymandering that leads one to objectively conclude you don't seek truth but rather, confirmation of your presupposition.

Jim said...


The criticism that Christians are always redefining terms to win arguments seems hypocritical and insincere to me.

You may be right. It would take some scholarly undertaking to see if religion is uniquely different in this endeavor. If one took it as an hypothesis to be tested, then it would hardly be hypocritical or insincere.

It just seems that the incidences stick out like sore thumbs with religion.

God "loved" all the children in Numbers 31 that he ordered to be hacked up with swords--screaming to their deaths, no doubt. That is pretty radical.

Post-modernists re-engineer the meaning of words, but everyone is laughing at them, for the very reason that they are re-engineering the definitions of common words.

If I just had the time . . .

Gandolf said...

I think we use the cumulative case method,because its "playing safe".

Its how we help ourselves decide probabilities of what might possibly be most likely.

But working out probabilities and what might likely be possible doesnt cancel out the random matter of chance,So as Harvey pointed out -->"Saints beating the Colts in the Super Bowl...improbable, but it happened." yes of course we still has a percentage of random chance to happen.

People place bets on these teams so most folks use cumulative evidence thats been observed to help decide,its about playing safe.But that doesnt simply cancel out the random chance of some fluke win by the Saints.

Thats why its not surprising faiths evolved,to early man lacking information and knowledge,the cumulative evidence available at that time with observation of random killer lightning bolts and tsunami etc pointing more towards likely possibility of it being work of gods.

This (at that time) was still a matter of "playing it safe",because the cumulative evidence available at the time still leaned far more towards probabilities of gods.

Though i dont see how we could quite compare the random chance of the possibility of gods to the case of the random chance of the "Saints beating the Colts " happening.

The lengthly amount time spent waiting! for verifiable evidence of gods,combined! with better imformed information for understanding certain elements like what causes lightning strike and death by tsunami and earthquake etc....Has now changed the cumulative evidence available.

We see evidence of random chance things like "Saints beating the Colts ",ACTUALLY HAPPEN !,far more often than we have ever observed any verifiable evidence of any gods.

The two very different situations still just cannot honestly be compared.

Playing it safe and calculating the verifiable cumulative evidence thats available this way is not about ruling out all possibilities of random chance.Its more about having better chances for survival,and about trying to be calculative! rather than simply faithful.

And when we have experienced through time just how experimentation with ideas about simple faith,has killed many folks by sacrifice or witch burnings,exorcisms or even suicide through the heartbreak of shunning and excommunication etc etc etc....Surely!! the reason for (our need) to try to learn to lean more towards (scepticism and need of being more calculative) and looking for decent verifiable cumulative evidence, becomes quite obvious!...Yes!?

Theist of course armed with their amazing infinite imagination and mere (human standard), then set off to conquer the world and try and dream up all manner of HUMAN ideas of gods to fit HUMAN ideas of god. who according to their infinite visions seemS have reason to hide from us?,in effect disallowing us evidence?.Yet still somehow connects to being loving?.

Classic !! theism they call it im told.Quite classically! too, its killed many folks in the past! ...Love is where its at?.

What i find quite funny also, is here we have theists arguing for random chance of possibilty of gods etc.

Yet many of them somehow find it hard to considder random chance? with regards to beginning of the universe etc.

Im still agnostic/atheist because of possibility of random chance,however i dont see any reason why i should think loving gods, would want us to faithfully guess matters of gods?.

Specially when time has already taught us! how very dangerous and deadly it often is.

Hendy said...

You're conveniently ignoring the fact that if God exists, he is supernatural, and as such cannot be objectified.

I've been thinking about this one a lot and rolling it around in my head. On one hand, I was tempted to allow it... on the other hand, I think that it's yet another double standard employed. Let me explain:

Since Christmas I've been doubting my Catholic faith quite heavily. It began with a simply idea to google the historicity of Jesus and the authenticity of the Bible -- so I googled them and I've been engrossed in research, discussion, and debate ever since. Many times, I've brought up my hunt for tangible evidence of what I would expect to find if there were a god. I am very interested in this, as it would certainly be part of the cumulative case method. One can look for God in any number of ways: philosophical, theological (kind of), historical, moral, etc. One of these, though, is certainly in the realm of the tangible. On to the point:

- Me: wow, did you read about this prayer experiment with heart patients where prayer was shown not to produce any difference? That's really interesting.
- Response: that proves nothing. God saw through the study and would never bend to that level for our observation.
- Summary: God won't answer prayers under scientific study. If He wasn't being watched, he would definitely have helped those patients.

- Me: I'm really having trouble believing. I just can't find any reasons to believe anymore now that I'm looking at things with an outsider's perspective.
- Response: what about the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano (the Eucharist is said to have become actual flesh in the presence of a doubting priest at Mass)?
- Summary: here's a scientifically studied example of something that proves God is true.

- Me: if you say that universal morality is because of God infusing it into us, why is the concept of God not geographically universal? Couldn't he infuse the right concept of himself into us?
- Response: obviously that's not how things work. He's not out to make automatons; he wants people to love him out of choice.
- Summary: God can do something magical in the area of morality to help us not kill each other, but not be expected to manifest himself in the tangible world by revealing the 'true' (which God?) source of why we shouldn't kill each other.

- Me: So, I was researching the 'incorrupt saints' and it turns out that they were only 'kind of incorrupt' -- maybe mummified at best. Two of the most famous ones (Bernadette and Pio) wear wax and silicone masks because their faces were kind of black and sunken...
- Response: what are your sources? Well, I'm sure they were somewhat incorrupt and I'm sure the Church clearly labels this so that people aren't duped. But have you heard of the Shroud of Turin? Science hasn't been able to explain how Jesus' face is in it!!
- Summary: if it's really, really tangible and the Church rests on it... I must be wrong about why I doubt it. Also, here's another bit of evidence to help you believe from a scientific standpoint.

My point is that I think that the constant issue theists I talk with bring up about my desire for evidence is a blatant double standard. Don't expect evidence, but when it appears it's definitely from God Himself.

To be cont...

Hendy said...


From this standpoint, Christianity actually runs into a fatal flaw: it's very essence is sustained by the fact that God is claimed to have intersected the natural, tangible realm via his son Jesus and continues to do so. So far, I have only found that God exists in the natural realm if I believe in Him from an a priori standpoint.

So... I think it's reasonable that if I can't expect God to do anything to prove himself to me because of my doubt, it is a double standard for believers to claim that he does things for them because they believe. Also, I challenge the very idea that God does not want himself proven. Here are some reasons:

- John 10:38: "But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father."

- Exodus 4:5: "Perform this sign," the LORD told him. "Then they will believe that the LORD, the God of their ancestors--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob--really has appeared to you.:

- Numbers 14:11: The LORD said to Moses, "How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?

- Mark 16:14:Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

- Mark 16:17:And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues;

- John 1:50: Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that."

- John 2:23: Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.

- John 4:48: Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe. (Right after this, Jesus brings a boy back to life from the dead. I take this mean he acknowledges their need for proof and gives it to them even if he is disappointed by this fact)

- John 11:15: Lazarus is dead, 15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him. (he's glad he wasn't there so that he can bring Lazarus back to life that they will believe)

- John 14:11: Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (probably the best case for my point...)

What is the point? I find plenty of evidence to suggest that God actually does really want us to believe in him via evidence. This coupled with (paraphrase from John 13 or 14) 'It is better that I go, for if I do not go I cannot send the Holy Spirit who will teach you all things and bring to mind all that I have said' says to me that it was not intended that Jesus' acts stay dead when he rose. They were intended to carry on as shown by Peter and Paul's continued miraculous deeds (raising of a cripple, being led out of prison by an angel, seeing mystical visions, teleporting after teaching eunichs about scripture, etc.).

So, which is it? Always hidden, supernatural and undiscoverable? Or very concerned with being discoverable via the evidence left when the supernatural impacts the natural? Surely evidence is evidence both to the nonbeliever and believer. The only options I can figure to be viable are:

- you can only see the evidence the right way if you have faith, aka you already believe the hypothesis that God exists
- there is no evidence whatsoever because God is not subject to the test tube
- there was a ton of evidence, but the only way to access it now is through a book written 2000 years ago

If it's the middle one, Christians have to stop giving glory to God in situations where they think he answered their prayer.

ZDENNY said...

The foundation of all knowledge is faith. Faith is the foundation of all thought.

Faith in our senses informs us about the physical world.

Faith in Jesus informs us about the love of God.

The logic is very simple and you guys are making it too hard.

No one knows everything with 100% certainty. In fact we don't even know things to 70% certainty because knowledge has to be known 100% before the 75% rule can be applied.

The fact is that we do know many things such as, "My wife exists" I am very, very certain that this is true; however, my knowledge of this fact is grounded in faith.

John's is making a mistake in affirming absolute certainty for scientific knowledge and then blind faith for spiritual knowledge. The fact is that both rely on faith as faith is the ground of all knowledge.

God Bless...

Steven said...


Does it take faith to know that 1+1=2? Your first assertion is simply wrong. Faith is not the foundation of all knowledge, you're just playing the usual lame games of a believer to protect yourself from thinking critically.

You're an ignorant fool who wouldn't know a valid argument if it you over the head.

Chuck O'Connor said...

I agree. Z is ignorant and an asshole.

Gandolf said...

ZDENNY said... "The fact is that we do know many things such as, "My wife exists" I am very, very certain that this is true; however, my knowledge of this fact is grounded in faith."

Get a hold of this.ZDenny knowledge of his wife is still "grounded on faith".In other words ZDenny is still only grouded in "ideas"(faith) of having a wife.Maybe when ZDenny is in bed bonking his lady,his "thoughts,ideas"(faith), is all he feels he has.

Maybe ZDenny believes he has not verified this thought,idea,faith,by use of any physical experience.

If so ZDenny would be honestly and faithfully speaking the truth here.Maybe he is suggesting he has simply (not yet scientifically verified) the presence of his wife by actually "pysically bonking"cross referencing between observation-and actual physical experience ...ZDennys dreams,thoughts,ideas,faith in having a wife remains firmly grounded in merely dreaming/faith.

I suspect this might be the case because ZDenny suggests he is only "very certain".In other words seems ZDenny honestly feels it hasnt actually been verified.

Some folks can be "very certain" about all sorts! of things that havent been verified to exist,like fairys,goblens,ghosts,pink elephants,talking donkeys,talking snakes etc.You name it! some loon who dont verify matters, has his/her faith,ideas,dreams about many things.

Maybe ZDenny is just trying to be honest and explain he has not! yet used all scientific methods available for observing, experiencing, cross referencing, with friends opinions etc,and verifying all the cumulative evidence.

Gandolf said...

I would suggest to ZDenny,please take a camera and use some photographic scientific evidence to cross reference and double check to try to see if maybe your wife actually exists.

If he gets the same photographic picture of his wife, as he does when trying to photograph gods.

Then maybe its correct at best! ZDennys idea,faith of having a wife, remains for now only a certainty of his mind.

Hendy said...

@zdenny re. knowledge being based on faith: I will actually grant you this depending on your definition. Everyone must have some a priori foundations for their starting point of knowledge based on faith. This is absolutely the case. These would be things that cannot be proven, but if not taken a priori lead us nowhere. This is akin to trying to decipher anything form the natural world if we do not accept, on faith, that we actually live in a 'real' world, not in a dream or matrix-like scenario. Accepting that what we experience is actually happening and real is a necessary a priori argument.

This is the caveat: I can't recall the source, but I recall an excellent distinction I came across about what types of statements/beliefs are allowed to be a priori. I believe that the gist was that these a priori statements essentially may be made but need to be proven by our experience. This allows for 'faith' in experience itself, but would not allow you to extend 'faith' to anything not provable.

For example:
- if I state a priori that I will put faith in the fact that when I leave a room, those who were in it don't disappear, this can be tested. I would presumably have come across others who have tried to study this phenomenon with cameras, by asking friends if they disappeared when I left the room, etc. Since I can find no evidence contrary to the faith based assumption that things remain in existence whether or not I'm present -- my a priori belief holds.

- To say that God is in this category would be a mistake. For one, non-belief in God does not utterly cripple the advancement of thought and analysis of the world around us. I'm sure this will be met with disagreement, but it is nowhere near the same as the necessity to believe that we actually are 'real.' I cannot proceed to study, analyze, participate in discussions on this blog fruitfully, etc. if I don't first believe this is all really real. I can do so without belief in God. For there to be a reason to assert an a priori claim on faith, it should be fundamental to the ability to study all other claims. I do not see God falling into this category as scientists, researchers, thinkers everywhere go on with their work all of the time without needing the a priori God principle to complete their tasks.

I think God fall much, much more into the hypothesis bin than the a priori faith based claim bucket. Knowledge of God is not necessary for me to study the world around me, but he/she/it IS a hypothesis to explain some of the currently unknown phenomenon we experience: coincidences (miracles), where the universe came from, what happens after we die, etc. God is merely a hypothesis to answer these questions, just as God was once a hypothesis put forth to assert exactly how we came into existence. Science, without the a priori faith in God's existence, brought forth fossils, carbon dating, and evolutionary theory to disprove this former theory.

Anyway, this seems to challenge the thought that one can hide behind God as a necessary, basic, unprovable, and non-disprovable belief based on faith. My thinking is that only those arguments which indeed cannot be proven or disproven but without which knowledge can never be attained or pursued are to fall into the necessary/basic a priori faith based belief category.

Jim said...

Zdenny doesn't actually even "know" that he has faith.

He has faith that he "knows" that he has something running around in his head called "faith."

Faith must therefore be the foundation of . . . FAITH!

mdg583 said...

"So, which is it? Always hidden, supernatural and undiscoverable?"

I was thinking about this the other day, from that other post. I thought of this verse, where it looks like Jesus talks about something like this:

John 14:21-24
(Jesus:) "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"
Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

This says something about the biblical model of faith. I'd say it says something like that people who love him and obey him will see him. I guess faith trusts first, sees second.
And of course there are exceptions - Paul saw first, believed second. And there were many people like that.

With miracles, I would just suggest the Bible says you can believe without them, and that this is (often) better. And that it is (typically) wrong to ask for them as a reason to believe. (God knows people's hearts, and knows those situations where it is and isn't wrong.)

I also would suggest that not everyone sees the same evidence. For instance, Thomas doubted until he saw Jesus after he had been raised. But if we assume God is just, I think everyone must have seen sufficient evidence, at least to believe in God and to choose what is right. (Obviously not everyone has enough evidence to believe in Jesus, simply because many people don't even know about him.)

So from your 3 options, I would suggest something like the first one:

- you can only see the evidence the right way if you have faith, aka you already believe the hypothesis that God exists

keeping in mind that not everyone sees the same evidence, and I would suggest everyone sees enough evidence for belief in God and an understanding of morality.

mdg583 said...

Just to make sure I'm not understood: Christian faith does not work against/without evidence. I'm not saying you have to believe first and then you will see evidence. Everyone sees the evidence for God's existence, and I believe historical & scientific evidence will ultimately conform to the truth, within the scope of their natural error. As a result I expect there to be historical and scientific evidence for my Christian faith. I'm not saying you won't see evidence for God until you believe.

But there is still something to faith - to believing in something you can't see.

Anonymous said...

...Every academic disciple changes, readjusts and redefines terms, ideas, and hypotheses all the time. That's what's required for intellectual integrity. As we gain more complete knowledge, we assimilate and accommodate that into our existing knowledge and adjust as deemed appropriate.

If all other disciplines do that, what do not allow theology to do that?

For what reason does knowledge change though? In the sciences, knowledge is adjusted because of evidence much of the time. In theology, it seems, "knowledge" is modified to just not look so stupid as it did previously.