Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Dr really fun

Some fun excerpts from my most recent comment interaction with Dr Funkenstein:

none of the gospel writers were actual eyewitnesses to the event as far as historians can tell.

Except for Matthew, the apostle. And Mark, who was at Gethsemane and who was Peter's amanuensis. And John, the beloved Apostle.
No doubt you meant except for those 3 guys.

...
I asked: Let's be careful about investing this with too much power. Is the principle of falsifiability falsifiable?

Technically yes, if someone possessed absolute knowledge

Come on! You are being so disingenuous. The point is lost to you.
Your answer is: "Well, the principle of falsifiability is falsifiable if you're God. Who of course doesn't exist."
Your answer is, no, it's not. Thank you. For someone who claims to be after the truth, stuff like this doesn't inspire much confidence in your seriousness.

...

Some philosophers have proposed that there can be 3 options - true/false/neither.

OK. Let's test it.
1) The LoNC is either true or not true. Or it's neither true nor not true. Please explain.

2) The universe either exists or does not exist. Or it is neither the case that it exists nor that it does not exist. Please explain.

Those 2 will suffice.

there is no debate amongst logicians over the basic laws of logic.

I don't deny that. I just deny that certain debates have any sense to them. But you can clear it all up, starting with those 2 examples I just cited.

...

'atheism explains everything, I just don't know how'.

Fair point. The distinction I'd make is that the mechanism exists in Xtianity to acct for these big questions, even though I don't have a full explanation of every detail. Atheism lacks even the mechanism, and so explains less than nothing.

8 comments:

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Except for Matthew, the apostle. And Mark, who was at Gethsemane and who was Peter's amanuensis. And John, the beloved Apostle.
No doubt you meant except for those 3 guys.


Simply saying something definitively does not make the fact in question any more certain. The truth is, nobody is certain of the identities of the gospel writers. You might as well say, "Of course the Zodiac killer was Arthur Leigh Allen." Unless it wasn't.

Rhology said...


Simply saying something definitively does not make the fact in question any more certain


Neither does repackaging ignorant statements where the person stating them neither understands the evidence nor the way ancient texts are attested to or studied.
And once again, so says the guy who promises that the bones dug up in the ground tell us all kinds of stories about the history of the world. This is an obvious case of special pleading.

Dr Funkenstein said...

Hope you are well, I'm quite glad you cut this down to just a few points, as it had gone off on all kinds of tangents...

Except for Matthew... And John, the beloved Apostle.
No doubt you meant except for those 3 guys.


As far as I'm aware (and I make no claims of expertise on this matter), the acceptance as to the exact identities of the gospel writers varies somewhat depending on how liberal/secular/conservative the scholars or laymen Christians you might ask about it are - from what I've read I got the impression there's not much to say exactly who the writers may have been, but as I say, I'm no expert.

What historical analyses might you point me to that would shed more light on this?

Come on! You are being...in your seriousness.

Haha, don't worry, I was just being facetious (even though it is technically speaking true) - I take our chats seriously enough that I think there are many things worth discussing, but at the same time I try not to get too wound up about stuff on the internet.

OK. Let's test it.
1) The LoNC ...


Sorry, I should have put that with the caveat 'in the appropriate situations' eg paradoxes etc - I've just got a copy of Graham Priest's book 'The LoNC' (Priest is a proponent of dialetheism), so hopefully that should have some interesting ideas.

I don't deny that. I just...

Again, I'm no expert, and I agree that in most situations the 3 basic laws seem pretty much self-evident - but a quick browse around a few refs. seems as if that's not quite so clear cut in some situations.

Fair point. The distinction I'd make is that the...

I read back over the previous blog, and I don't think I did a great job of explaining my argument re: supernaturalism as ameans to offer a mechanistic explanation, so I'll try and put it more clearly:

a. for argument, we'll agree TGOTB exists
b. since he created life, he did so in a particular manner, leaving biological organisms with a series of distinct features at the molecular/cellular/organ etc levels
c. we can investigate these features using the scientific method - our hypothesis is that any features are best accounted for by the mechanism of supernaturalism
d. since this can cover two or more discoveries that can't both be true (eg evidence of a Chrom fusion/no evidence of a Chrom fusion in humans), it must by definition cover a lot of hypotheses that are false.
e. therefore, invoking a theory of supernaturalism to formulate hypotheses is at best as good as just doing a mental coin flip/dice roll since it has no means to offer up potentially accurate predictions prior to investigation.

Dr Funkenstein said...

addendum:

and apparently the best estimate of the dates of the gospels is that Mark is the oldest from about 60 AD or so and the other 3 date to a period spanning a few decades after this- again, this is just from what I've read, so what sources would you cite to show that they were actually written at the time of Jesus' proposed existence?

Rhology said...

Yeah, you're right.
Making a conscious effort to cut down the length, and keep in mind (as I'm doing now) that not everything is a challenge. Sometimes, at least, we'll be in agreement. :-D


depending on how liberal/secular/conservative the scholars or laymen Christians

True.
The fatal flaw in the lib/sec camp is their unwavering and unquestioning presupposition of naturalism. This leads them, by and large, to refuse to take into acct some of the evidence.
There are numerous traditional and intratextual reasons to think that these Gospels are indeed eponymous.
I could wish I had more knowledge of good scholarly books, but I'd point you at 1st to the General Intro to the Bible by Geisler and Nix. Might even be at the library.


I try not to get too wound up about stuff on the internet.

Indeed. One could wish others were so levelheaded.



a - b

Agreed.


any features are best accounted for by the mechanism of supernaturalism

Let me be yet more specific here.
Only some features are 'directly' accted for by a supernatural act. Others have developed, even evolved (gulp!) over time.
That's to be distinguished from a supernaturalist worldview, which takes both natural (which are in turn under the providential umbrella) and unusual supernatural acts into acct.
When revelation from TGOTB exists to the effect that God did X and Y, then someone wants to say that sthg else did X and Y without God, that's where I have a big problem.


it must by definition cover a lot of hypotheses that are false.

Um, naturalistic science makes a lot of hypotheses that end up false as well.
We're trying to figure out how stuff works, right? Trial and error, a lot of the time, is how we get there. It's just science.
In the case of the idea that evolution by nat sel and mutation, etc, from a common ancestor, we can't do that (as I've pointed out many times). no way to observe what happenED.


what sources would you cite to show that they were actually written at the time of Jesus' proposed existence?

Sadly I'm going to have to admit that I can't think of anythg good offhand. This is not my strongest topic.
And no one proposes they were written at the time of Jesus' time on earth. You probably didn't mean this. The proposal is that they were written within the lifetimes of the apostles of Christ, ie, by, say 90-something AD.

Sorry.
I'm not the best person to ask about this. But McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict cites a lot of sources - that is where I, personally, would start, if I were so inclined.

Dr Funkenstein said...

Um, naturalistic science makes a lot of hypotheses that end up false as well.

Yes, and those hypotheses or theories get rejected if that is the case after testing - for example, had observation (4) (null hypothesis) from the Chromosomes discussion been the case, common ancestry between man and chimps etc would have been rejected, since there would be no way to account for where the extra pair of chromosomes had disappeared to in humans (as said, simply losing an entire pair of chromosomes is not a realistic hypothesis). The ToE cannot cover both (3) and (4) - (4) is simply not explicable in terms of the model of common ancestry.

As (3) is what is observed, and is consistent with the experimental hypothesis, we accept it - obviously the hypothesis is not proven 100%, since there could be another explanation noone thought of (although it is hard to imagine any conceivable scenario other than a fusion that would leave Chrom. 2 looking the way it does). Anyway, since the God/miracle hypothesis covers both whatever the correct prediction is and whatever wrong one(s) anyone can think of prior to actually testing anything, it isn't terribly useful, hence the reason it isn't worth considering. However, it's not unreasonable in the creationist model with its proposed strict distinctions between 'kinds', man and chimps presumably being separate kinds, that there be an absence of any markers of common ancestry and so would expect hypothesis (4) - but of course, taking the chance of being shown to be wrong is something creationism is simply unwilling to entertain when it enters the realm of science, in my experience.

We're trying to figure out how stuff works, right? Trial and error, a lot of the time, is how we get there. It's just science.

Yes, sometimes advances in science are off the back of dumb luck discoveries - however, science can take those lucky discoveries and utilise them to generate further hypotheses, which as discussed the miracle hypothesis cannot do. Goddidit hypotheses simply cannot get off the ground in science, since if your expectations are 'just about anything', how are you going to make a specific prediction?

In the case of the idea that evolution by nat sel and mutation, etc, from a common ancestor, we can't do that (as I've pointed out many times). no way to observe what happenED.

in this case we're not examining NS though - we're examining to see whether the hallmarks of a fusion (a well studied phenomenon in many vertebrate and mammalian species) are present in a pair of human chromosomes, which is an expectation of common ancestry as discussed at length. we are observing the outcome of the process as opposed to the process itself - exactly the same way the police dust for fingerprints, hairs etc after a burglary; they are examining the results of the burglary as opposed to the burglary itself, or the way observations of various astronomical phenomena are the result of the existence of an extrasolar planet - but not actually observation of the planet itself.

I mean, consider the number of things you don't directly observe on a day to day basis, but draw conclusions about based on indirect evidence - it's a huge number of things when you really think about it. By the criteria you've set down, there'd be virtually nothing you could know without doing this. I'd also add that the bible is obviously a historical document - I'm reading Bart Ehrman's book Jesus just now where he outlines some of the widely used criteria for historical study of the gospels, and going by your demands on science you'd have to reject all historical study by the same virtue.

And no one proposes they were written at the time of Jesus' time on earth. You probably didn't mean this. The proposal is that they were written within the lifetimes of the apostles of Christ, ie, by, say 90-something AD.

Ok, I wasn't sure if you were claiming that the gospels were written during the time of Jesus' existence (or just after his crucifixion etc). As far as I know, Mark is the earliest from around 55AD and John the oldest at ~100 AD (although, given that this would have to make the writers approx 55-100 years old were they eyewitnesses, is it realistic they are in fact eyewitnesses given life expectancies in these times? I'd have to say no...).

Rhology said...

those hypotheses or theories get rejected if that is the case after testing

Except when they disprove neo-Darwinian dogma. You won't agree, and that's to be expected - the establishment's willful blindness never ceases to amaze.


common ancestry between man and chimps etc would have been rejected

I have yet to see a good argument that chromosomes in common tell us necessarily that we have a common origin. What it tells us is that we have chromosomes in common.


since the God/miracle hypothesis covers both whatever the correct prediction is and whatever wrong one(s) anyone can think of prior to actually testing anything, it isn't terribly useful

1) It's quite useful, if one is interested in truth over 'scientific purity', whatever that is. None of your experiments that have "provided evidence for" nat sel acting on random mutations have been free from intelligent design, so I don't have a lot of confidence in the latter.
2) It's not my position's fault that it covers all the bases. I would expect that from an overarching truth claim such as TGOTB's.
3) The principle of falsifiability is itself unfalsifiable. Guess its truthfulness and utility are worthy of doubt too.


however, science can take those lucky discoveries and utilise them to generate further hypotheses, which as discussed the miracle hypothesis cannot do.

Well and good, but you seem to be laboring under this wrong idea that a supernaturalist like me wants to dissuade everyone everywhere from studying the natural world at all.


Goddidit hypotheses simply cannot get off the ground in science

Since those hypotheses are relatively rare, so what?
And since many of those in question relate to EVENTS, which can't be tested on a repeated basis, with their effects and results observed on a repeated basis, and without injecting intelligence into the equation, you have bigger fish to fry than worrying about Goddidits.


if your expectations are 'just about anything', how are you going to make a specific prediction?

But they are not "just about anything", so there you go. Miracles are very rare.


exactly the same way the police dust for fingerprints, hairs etc after a burglary; they are examining the results of the burglary as opposed to the burglary itself,

Well and good, but a very real possibility in the burglary example is that someone ELSE placed those items there to frame someone else for the crime. It's almost always possible, in my experience, to construct a plausible counter-example scenario. And some of mine include God acting in the world, but that's an eminently reasonable proposition, as we see over and over again on this blog.


By the criteria you've set down, there'd be virtually nothing you could know without doing this

I don't see why, since I grant happily that natural processes are in place, unmolested, the vast majority of the time.


I'd also add that the bible is obviously a historical document - I'm reading Bart Ehrman's book Jesus just now where he outlines some of the widely used criteria for historical study of the gospels, and going by your demands on science you'd have to reject all historical study by the same virtue.

1) I'm demanding consistency.
2) Ehrman is kind of useful, but he has the same anti-supernatural bias that screws up the Jesus Seminar's scholarship. Such a deep-rooted bias, for an irrational position like that, will color the results of his studies.
3) I'm taking Gee's thesis and running it to its logical outworkings. Too bad he's not willing to do the same, but that's how it goes sometimes.
You seem to be talking about "scientific" study of origins and the past workings of evolution, but that's a different animal from studying history. Historical writings are meant to communicate intelligible messages for future posterity. they are intelligently designed, for a purpose, a telos. They are not random gobbledygook. They are historically placeable. They often cross-reference the same events, people, places.
None of this stuff is true (in your view) of physical "evidence" for ToE. They are vastly different.


John the oldest at ~100 AD

Nah, not that old, but it's not outrageous.


is it realistic they are in fact eyewitnesses given life expectancies in these times? I'd have to say no..

Neither is it likely that at any given moment you are going to sneeze. Sneeze you will, but at any one moment the proposition of a sneeze is astronomically improbable.
It's not inconceivable that Mark would be written by a 55 yr old, is it? Matthew and Luke by a 60- or 70-yr old? John by an 80+-yr old man? Some people lived to be that old back then. If you want to argue this, you need better arguments, sorry.

Dr Funkenstein said...

Except when they disprove neo-Darwinian dogma. You won't agree, and that's to be expected - the establishment's willful blindness never ceases to amaze.

I've just spent a period of weeks laboriously detailing a testable hypothesis that could have been shown to be false and that offered a potential observation that could refute the ToE! I've offered examples many times in the past of challenges to the status quo in biology (eg the Hirotsune functional pseudogene paper - it got published in Nature! How can 'the Establishment' be accused of willful blindness when they published it in the most famous journal on the planet for hundreds of 1000s of people to read!?)

It's quite useful, if one is interested in truth over 'scientific purity', whatever that is. None of your experiments that have "provided evidence for" nat sel acting on random mutations have been free from intelligent design, so I don't have a lot of confidence in the latter.

So simply analysing a genome and examining its features is intelligent design? Following your logic, I should therefore be able to make planets move, buildings crumble and dogs turn into monkeys simpy via looking at them or consciously willing it to happen if possessing intelligence is the only requirement. As I've asked before, how do you then explain why control experiments don't do the same as the experimental treatment since intelligence is present in both? Additionally we are far from the only creatures on Earth capable of altering their environment in a directed fashion.

The principle of falsifiability is itself unfalsifiable. Guess its truthfulness and utility are worthy of doubt too.

I think you're missing the point on this principle - falsifiability is used because (for various reasons), science cannot prove certain things to be 100% true. You can support a hypothesis (eg with observation (3)), but you can't prove it. However, you can show it to be false (eg with observation (4)).

Take an example from your daily life - if your TV doesn't switch on, you may hypothesise that it's because the fuse is blown. So to test it, you open up the fusebox but find everything to be OK. So you've shown your hypothesis to be false. Then you make another hypothesis - one of the cables isn't plugged in properly. So you check the sockets - everything is fine. Therefore your hypothesis is falsified, and so on and so forth.

It's not my position's fault that it covers all the bases. I would expect that from an overarching truth claim such as TGOTB's.

It can hardly be an overarching truth claim when you are freely admitting it covers both the right answer and the wrong answer(s)! Overarching truth would imply it only leads us to right answers - when it's as likely to predict a wrong answer (observation (4)) as it is a correct one (observation (3)), how can any claim of overarching truth possibly be made?

Since you're obviously not lacking in intellect, I'm genuinely at a loss as to how you aren't understanding this most basic prinicple of hypothesis testing.

But they are not "just about anything", so there you go. Miracles are very rare.


But I'm not talking so much about miracles - I'm referring to the outline of events in the creation that I listed before. Obviously God made us in one way or another, with a particular set of features. Since the hypothesis you've offered covers both what God did do and what didn't happen in the creative act, it is pointless as a means of enquiry. Of course, since the theory of common ancestry can't cover both (3) and (4), it has a means to either refute or support its claims.

Well and good, but a very real possibility in the burglary example is that someone ELSE placed...as we see over and over again on this blog.

OK, what about the exoplanets example? I don't see that a human could influence the existence and actions of a hypothesised unobservable planet in any way whatsoever. And if God is acting in the world, what exactly should we be looking out for? People have attempted to study this sort of thing with intercessory prayer studies etc that don't show anything.


I don't see why, since I grant happily that natural processes are in place, unmolested, the vast majority of the time.

I know - but even in spite of this, some of our indirect observations are in the face of huge obstacles eg vast distances into space in the case of exoplanets.

1) I'm demanding consistency.

That's fine - but you're not really offering it up I'm afraid to say.

Ehrman is kind of useful, but he has the same anti-supernatural bias that screws up the Jesus Seminar's scholarship. Such a deep-rooted bias, for an irrational position like that, will color the results of his studies.

Although no scholarship is immune from criticism, I've seen this kind of accusation levelled at him (ie that he has an axe to grind as a former evangelical), but as far as I can tell his book seems fairly even-handed and lays out the study of the historical Jesus very well and also that Jesus expected the apocalypse in his own generation. You have to remember that the guy at one time had a very strong pro-supernatural bias, and his studies led him to reject it as ultimately he thought the evidence just didn't add up.

You could as easily level the opposite accusation at someone religious - ie they have a strong pro supernatural bias and can't be expected to disaffirm anything not in line with what they believe.

I'm taking Gee's thesis and running it to its logical outworkings. Too bad he's not willing to do the same, but that's how it goes sometimes.
You seem to be talking about "scientific" study of origins and the past workings of evolution, but that's a different animal from studying history.


I'd argue that the biologist and geologist are at a considerable advantage over the historian precisely because all they have to deal with are genomes, radioactive decay and so on ie things that aren't affected by human desires and agendas the way documentation of history is.

Science such as evolutionary biology is wary of making absolute truth claims - however, everything studied thus far is consistent with the principle of common ancestry. If there is something to refute the idea, I'd imagine most scientists in possession of such evidence would be writing it up and publishing it so fast the keyboard would melt.

Historical writings are meant to communicate intelligible messages for future posterity. they are intelligently designed, for a purpose, a telos. They are not random gobbledygook.

On the former sentence, indeed they are. However, you have to remember that people don't always document events without some kind of agenda in place, and this includes the biblical writers. After all, you rejected the supernatural claim that Richard Carrier offered as false, even though it was documented, close to the proposed time of its occurrence and by someone expected to be trustworthy, as well as not being debated by other authors of the period. We also have to account for other things; life in 1st century Palestine was considerably different to the lives you and I lead 2000 years later ie we have to read things in the context of their time, which is not an easy task.


They are historically placeable. They often cross-reference the same events, people, places.

Again, this is something that in theory is true, but in practice seems considerably more difficult than simply assigning a specific date - obviously noone is going to argue that Jesus lived 50 years ago rather than ~2000 years ago, as the evidence clearly supports the latter conclusion. However, in terms of fine details (google for some of the debates on the Herod/Quirinius chronology to see what I mean - the level of detail in some of them is excruciating in trying to determine the correct ages), which can often be very important in determining the truth or falsity of a historical statement.

None of this stuff is true (in your view) of physical "evidence" for ToE. They are vastly different.

Physical evidence in geology and paleontology can be dated within a margin of mathematical error. Some methods have an error of zero (dendrochronology) - you may say 'omphalos', but I have to ask why it's so inconsistent - Adam had no navel (as he was created not born), whereas trees have rings (as they were created, not grown) and different moutains have variable erosion marks (as they were created, not subjected to millions of years of weather).

Neither is it likely that at any given moment you are going to sneeze. ... arguments, sorry.

It's obviously not the only objection, but I'm just offering up the fact that it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that of the supposed 500 witnesses mentioned by Paul, none survived to their 50s or beyond - apparently women needed to give birth to an average of 5 children just to keep the population steady, which says a lot about how tough times were. The followers of Jesus were probably largely impoverished people who would have led hard lives - dying young wouldn't have been unusual.

Other arguments might be that:

a. They were written in Greek, when likely Jesus and his followers would have used Aramaic and had at best a functional grasp of Greek
b. Most people close to Jesus would probably have been illiterate
c. If they were eyewitnesses, you have to ask why they are written almost entirely in the 3rd person - I don't think there's any mention of 'Jesus and I did this...' or 'I spoke with Jesus regarding that...'
d. Assuming for argument they were eyewitnesses, why wait 'til decades after to document their tales? If true, the life of Jesus was an amazing event - surely you'd want to get it down right away so as not to forget any details?
e. In the intervening 30-50 years post-Jesus, obviously stories pass via word of mouth and thus can get embellished or lost in the retelling. Who's to say the gospel writers weren't influenced by discussions with others?
f. Some of the phrases seem to indicate that other accounts were being summarised rather than original thoughts eg Luke 1
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
g. Some chapters/verses are word for word identical or close enough - this suggests copying rather than telling an original version of a story. After all, if you and I saw something, we could get the details the same, but our descriptions wouldn't be identical.