Daniel Mocsny's Rebuttal of Paul Moser's Definitional Apologetics, Which Obfuscates the Fact That Christianity is Utter Nonsense!

Christian apologist and philosopher Paul K Moser is wrong, dead wrong, but at least he allows comments that disagree. I got to him though, when I said at the end of some extensive prodding, that what he believes is "utter nonsense." That comment was deleted. His main problem was that I refused to state what "objective evidence" is, putting it in quotation marks, as if he might not know. Then he chides me, saying "Note how you have ignored this key issue."

I have refrained from doing so, because doing so is an endless quagmire of me chasing him down the rabbits hole of this, then that, then this, then that, getting no closer to the truth. It's something believing philosophers of religion are experts in, and it's a trick called definitional apologetics, which obfuscates the truth. Here's a quote I wrote in my book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End (p. 28):
Over the last decade I have found that one bastion for Christian apologists has been philosophy, especially the philosophy of religion. The scholars have honed their definitional apologetics in such a fine-tuned manner that when engaging them in this discipline, it’s like trying to catch a greased pig. Or, to switch metaphors, trying to chase them down the rabbit’s hole in an endless and ultimately fruitless quest for definitions. What’s an extraordinary claim? What constitutes evidence? What’s the definition of supernatural? What’s the scientific method? What’s a miracle? What’s a basic belief? What’s a veridical religious experience? What’s evil? They do this just like others have done over questions like, “What is the definition of pornography?” And then they gerrymander around the plain simple facts of experience. I would rather deal in concrete examples like a virgin who supposedly had a baby and a man who supposedly was raised from the dead.
The reason why I prefer to deal in concrete examples is because of how Christian philosophers use definitions to obfuscate their own theology. It isn't because I'm anti-intellectual. Nor do I think definitions are unimportant. I just want truth to prevail.

Anyway, Daniel Mocsny has written a nice rebutal of Moser's attempt which I highly recommend.
Moser: [...] Start with saying what 'objective evidence' is? Note how you have ignored this key issue.

It's hard to define lots of things, like "chair." Can Moser or anyone else write a reasonably compact definition of the word "chair" that clearly demarcates all chairs from all non-chairs? It's hard to precisely define the concept of "chair" in a way that is more compact than an exhaustive list of things that someone considers to be a chair.

However, that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of clear cases. Most people would not mistake most cats for a chair, for example. There are lots of chairs that most people would agree are chairs. Problems arise at the boundary, as we start adding things like writing surfaces to an arm of the chair and end up with a classroom desk. It still has all the elements of a chair plus some added stuff; is it a chair? Or if we bolted a chair onto a flatbed truck, is the whole amalgam now a chair? But most people don't demand rigorous compact definitions of things like "chairs" because most people have a working understanding of what a chair is, and it's good enough. In other words there's no need to play dumb about what a chair is, and similarly no need to play dumb about what evidence is.

John gave examples of things that are not evidence, but Moser could do with examples of things that are evidence. So I'll give some:

1. Whatever a court of law uses to establish my existence. I.e., if someone challenged me to prove my existence to a court of law, I could show up at the court and readily prove that I am at least a real person who exists. Since we are still living in the era before hyper-realistic anthropomorphic robots, you don't even have to cut me open to convince yourself that I am a real person. I can do lots of things that no robot can do (yet) and which are easy to observe from across a courtroom. It might be harder to establish beyond doubt that I am the specific person I claim to be. I could bring my documents, and we could do DNA tests on me and on all my living relatives. Of course all of them could be faking their identities to pose as members of a fake family, but the multiplication rule from probability theory makes that harder to do as the number of them increases. In practice, courts of law seem to have little difficulty insuring that the people in court are who they say they are.

2. Whatever science uses to establish the truth (or near-truth) of its theories, sufficient to allow highly improbable devices such as smartphones to be built. I assume Moser plies his trade from an office and never applies his thinking to solving problems in the real world - such as how might we collect raw materials and transform them into a working smartphone. Given the astronomical number of ways to combine materials at random, the overwhelming majority of which will not result in a working smartphone, presumably Moser will agree that for scientists and engineers to manage this trick billions of times with a very low failure rate, they must have rules for evidence that are stupendously good.

It's trivial to show that no religion has evidence as strong as either the law or science demands. No religion can prove its supernatural claims in a legitimate court of law, and no religion relying on faith builds anything like a smartphone. What has any religion produced besides words, and manipulating people? There is nothing to suggest that any religion has the kind of deep insight into reality that enables science to work actual near-miracles.

Perhaps even worse, no religion is able to meet the bible's own standard for evidence from Deuteronomy 18:
18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. 19 And I will hold accountable anyone who does not listen to My words that the prophet speaks in My name. 20 But if any prophet dares to speak a message in My name that I have not commanded him to speak, or to speak in the name of other gods, that prophet must be put to death. 21 You may ask in your heart, “How can we recognize a message that the LORD has not spoken?” 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD and the message does not come to pass or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.
The bible's own standard of evidence is plain and simple: we can tell the true prophets of God from the false prophets by keeping track of their predictions of the future, and the results. And we are to kill the false prophets, i.e. those whose predictions of the future don't come true.

Therefore, by the bible's own rules for evidence, Moser can demonstrate his qualifications to speak for God by making some falsifiable predictions about the future. Such as the next five Super Bowl winners. (If Moser is clever, he could actually do this, by using the "Baltimore stockbroker" trick, although he would need a very large starting pool of marks, 32 to the fifth power or 33,554,432 I believe - and that assumes the number of NFL teams remains stable. The scam consists of mailing out predictions to the mark pool with each recipient getting a prediction of a specific team winning the Super Bowl, and each team getting 1/32 of the marks. The scammer discards all the marks who received a losing prediction and keeps the winners - thus reducing the mark pool by a factor of 32 each year. He repeats the scam each year until he ends up with one mark who just received five correct Super Bowl predictions in a row. To that mark, the scammer looks like a genius, having just made a prediction with a 1 in 33,554,432 chance of being correct - assuming the mark can be kept ignorant of the 33,554,431 other marks who got bad predictions. However, it's easy to defeat this scam by raising the number of Super Bowls to be predicted accurately, or by requiring more detailed predictions that have much lower odds of being guessed randomly, such as predicting the winning and losing Super Bowl teams and final scores. Then the required pool of marks can easily exceed the global human population.)

The Deuteronomy standard for evidence is still a bit problematic, because predictions can be vague enough to fit whatever happens (the technique astrologers use). And gaslighters like Trump and Vivek Ramaswamy can later deny that they said what they have been videorecorded as saying, or claim they're being "taken out of context" etc. But surely, if God is omniscient, he knows who is going to win all future Super Bowls, so it should be easy for Moser to demonstrate his bona fides to speak for God. If Moser wants to shift that burden onto someone else - Christianity only needs one prophet to tell every Christian what's what - then who is it?

Note that the bible Moses anticipated the need for living prophets, by prophesying that God would replace him. (Of course we know that the Moses character described in the bible is almost certainly fictional, along with everything in the bible up to around the 7th century BCE when some of the mundane events start to become at least partly historical.) A prophet must be living to pass the Deuteronomy test for evidence, because once a prophet dies he can no longer make testable predictions of the future. A Christian might retort that some bible prophecies have not yet been fulfilled, so Jesus for example is still "making" predictions, such as of his own second coming (although he already got the timing of that one dead wrong, since all of his original followers are long dead). But a prediction of the future with no clear date is not falsifiable as such, because (a) almost anything can happen eventually, given enough time, and (b) you yourself can never falsify the prediction if the predicted event doesn't occur while you are alive.

Deuteronomy itself doesn't deal with the falsifiability problem, likely because the Iron Age authors wrote long before Karl Popper came along and got that discussion started. Instead, Deuteronomy just assumes it will be plainly obvious when a prophet is making accurate predictions vs. BSing people. That is, I think it's fair to say that a legitimate spokesman for God should make predictions that any sane person can verify as having come true or not, within a reasonable time limit. I.e. the predictions should be specific enough to wager on. You can't very well run a sports book in Las Vegas unless everybody agrees on what's being predicted and whether the predictions come true.

I think it's abundantly clear that no religion makes predictions of such quality and is right every time. When religions do make predictions that are specific enough to be meaningful, their track record isn't good. See for example the Great Disappointment.
Now if Paul Moser wants some good examples of objective evidence, I have put together a massive amount of suggestions right here.


John W. Loftus is a philosopher and counter-apologist credited with 12 critically acclaimed books, including The Case against Miracles, God and Horrendous Suffering, and Varieties of Jesus Mythicism. Please support DC by sharing our posts, or by subscribing, donating, or buying our books at Amazon. As an Amazon Associate John earns a small amount of money from any purchases made there. Buying anything through them helps fund the work here, and is greatly appreciated!