Tuesday, August 26, 2008

To a sad college student

No, really, look at this guy. He's sad.
Fortunately for everyone, I'm here to save the day.
Or not.
Anyway, being a denizen of Okrahoma, I check the Univ of Okra student paper from time to time. It's not exactly fair to pick on sophomores who haven't decided on a major yet, but my wife pointed this out to me. I had a pretty hard, frustrating day yesterday, so last night I took out some of my frustration on this hapless student's column. I'll share my comment with you:

An awful lot of energy was expended here to hate on Sally Kern and her "ilk".
Taking a look at this young gentleman's face and deducing that he's probably a naturalist, it makes me wonder: Whence cometh his moralistic tendencies? Why is it wrong, on his naturalistic evolutionary view, to indoctrinate children with fundamentalist dogma? Why is it wrong to hate on homosexuals? Why is it wrong to push ID down people's throats?
I'm not saying I'm necessarily for (or against) any of this - what I am questioning is how Mr. Smith decides what's right and wrong, because he certainly assumes it an awful lot. Maybe his next column could tell us all how he knows that, beyond what boils down to "I don't like Action X, much like I don't like broccoli". Can he give a justification for all these calls to action? After all, he's just going to die some day and be worm food. So what if ID is taught in schools? So what if he wrote 10 letters to the governor?

The other flaws in the column are almost too numerous to count.
One wonders whether the OU Daily knew they were getting a cheap Dick Dawkins knock-off when they dispensed their August stipend.

-No Christian or ID-er believes the designer is "magical". Try again.
-This does not fit the proper definition of "superstition". Dictionary.com is a useful tool.
-ID and creationism usually don't get along well. They don't claim each other. If Smith had bothered to read a little bit of their interaction, he might know that. ID thinks creationism goes too far, unjustifiably far. Creationism thinks ID is wimpy and gives too much room to naturalistic presuppositions. They're not friends, though the greater enemy beckons to each of them.
-Smith didn't define "science" for us, so there's no way to know whether ID is science or not. Is "science" a methodology? A conclusion? Is "scientific" a method or a description of a set-in-stone orthodoxy?
-ID-ers don't propose ID as the "default" alternative. Simply as AN alternative. Perhaps Smith could quote an ID-er to that effect.
-One wonders if Smith realises that the principle of falsifiability is unfalsifiable.
-Smith shows no recognition of the obvious fact that the Designer may well have desired to create sub-optimal structures. But perhaps Smith knows something about the Designer that we don't, in which case he's lying to us all about not believing in ID.
-Smith tells us that evolution accounts for the many design flaws. Creationists and ID-ers alike will shout a hearty "Amen!" to that. What they want to know is how evolution accounts for the great deal of GOOD and USEFUL design, without resorting to the infusion of intelligence into the equation. Bring THAT up to an evolutionist and try to count the stutters.
-ID-ers have published quite a few papers in peer-reviewed journals. Smith is simply wrong about this.

That was approximately as easy as refuting a Dick Dawkins or Chrissy Hitchens book. He’s so wrong about so much, but he’s merely a messenger of a sad movement. One hopes the movement is dying, for the good of reason everywhere.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dr Fun

No disrespect to Dr Funkenstein, it's just that, for some reason, discussing with him is edifying. I thank him for his time.

Sexual selection

Those are all (except possibly for endosymbiosis) variations on the same theme. Is he ashamed of his own mechanism or sthg?

But 'supernatural' is neither a mechanism or an explanation, it's an untested assertion

Untested by physical means, of course.
And yet well attested-to in history, and of course thoroughly rational. Indeed, it's necessary to explain such things as the Resurrection of Christ, the origin of the universe, etc.

since any and all observations could be filed under 'supernatural'

Supernatural events are not just bare facts - they come with a historical context and a religious context. Not all events are supernatural.
He himself doesn'tt believe that, since he'd have no way to tell apart natural from super-natural. It'd all be in one category.

what explanatory power does a claim have if it cover absolutely any observation?

It's not my fault that God covered all the bases. He needs to produce a different sort of disproof than the kind he'd like to present or is used to presenting. His discomfort and rebellion are not my problem.

what on Earth do you propose as the next hypothesis from that?

I don't know exactly what he means, but I'd sure be curious as to how, and a lot of the time that how is available to our analysis. Don't set up a false dilemma.

It contains NO mechanistic details. It contains NO explanation.

Almost agreed on the 1st. It tells us that He did it via His supernatural power. That's a mechanistic detail.
The 2nd one is flat wrong - it tells us who did the action, we usually therefore know why (which is in distinction to naturalistic analyses, which can give no why at all), it also allows us how to distinguish between God-based actions and actions performed by others.


Why limit it to just those kinds of questions? There are all kinds of things in the world that people study. Not everyone is as myopic as your line of questioning here and as the topic of this blogpost.
Again, not my fault if God covers all His bases.
Besides, it's not as if the Darwinian establishment is all that welcoming of criticism of their catch-all theory.

PAs seem to think they can make these claims and we're just supposed to accept them simply on their say so without any obvious reason

Well, I don't. I expect you to recognise you have no answer (indeed, you've produced virtually zero defense for your own epistemological position, instead choosing to attack mine) for the criticms I aim against your epistemology and therefore be intellectually honest enough to look for a defensible alternative, and obviously I believe my own is defensible.

1. Atheism can't account for logic (and you've not really defined which atheist worldview(s) that might be)

Let's make it easy - how about yours? Account for logic, please.
If you need help, check out the introductory steps at www.proofthatgodexists.org. it's a decent primer into the kinds of questions I'm asking.

3. Theism accounts for logic, specifically only Christian theism

I wouldn't and don't say the latter half. Islam accts for it just fine - its problems are in other areas. Same for Judaism.

It is impossible that any other viewpoint could account for logic

Strawman. I just haven't seen one yet. I'm waiting and waiting and waiting...

The laws of logic are universal and invariant

Correct. Presumably, you believe this too.
Or perhaps you believe that in other parts of the universe, it is possible that God exists and doesn't exist at the same time in the same way at the same time.

statements like (3) and (4) are just assertions, since many worldviews could potentially account for it, not just mine or yours.

Prove it. Bring forth an alternative. I don't know how many times I've requested such, but it's a lot.

You claim to have examined many, but presumably not all.

It's impossible to examine ALL. Just bring forth your alternative and let's talk.

I'd also bet that scholars of various other religions could do the same process PAs do and jump through hoops to 'prove' their religion as being the one and only account for logic.

And then we'd examine their claims and see if they hold up.
This is not that hard. If you'd stop thinking of all Reformed people as knuckle-draggers, maybe you'd actually make a useful argument rather than floundering about in the kiddie pool, screaming you're Michael Phelps, and you better believe me!

On (2) and (3) I've still not seen an explanation as to how one would prove TGOTB's existence beyond simply asserting it as a fact, or any reason why logic depends on his existence.

Impossibility of all contrary views I've ever seen.

So people would know of TGOTB without the bible/parts of the bible?

Do us both a favor and read Psalm 19, Romans 1, and Romans 2.

It's sufficient, yet doesn't outline the very laws you claim depend on him

Let the reader judge whether that's what I said.

do you not think something that important might have been worth a mention? After all it lists many other laws he considers vital

Once again Dr Funk presumes to tell God how to run the universe.
Maybe you could create one and tell us all how it's gone after the first few minutes.

Anyone could also argue logic is simply implied in the way the universe works

This from the guy who above questioned me on whether the laws of logic are universal and invariant.

Even a quick look on Wiki points out that Nikolai Vasiliev had developed a system of 'imaginary logic' not utilising the LoEM or LoNC.

So dialetheism is both totally inaccurate and completely accurate at the same time.
Go sell your snake oil to some 19 year old English major.

what value is evidence to a PA if you always know what conclusion you must reach no matter what?

It strengthens my faith and gives me more and more cause to praise God.
Once again, Dr Funk makes no attempt to actually answer the question and defend his own position. Seems he's content to assume logic, even though its utility is in doubt both from myself AND from him in two ways, and then attack my position and posit ridiculous possibilities such as dialetheism to stave off scrutiny of his position. Let the reader judge whether this is worthy of any serious consideration.

Your claim was you could "account for" or explain how all this happens.

Precisely. I know the responsible agent and that He did it.
Dr Funk is in the same boat - he doesn't KNOW how evolution got us here, he can't observe it. He guesses it, thinks he has some circumstantial evidence as to the process, etc.
Similarly, he doesn't know HOW the gas in his car explodes to drive it fwd, he just knows it does.
He doesn't know how the Cheerios he had for breakfast fuel his body, he just knows they do.
Outside of his field of expertise, he takes all kinds of things by faith.

Van Til was quite prepared to accept the prevalent idea of his day, that a completely self-consistent non-Christian world view was possible.

OK, that may be. I've never read any VT.
I'd say he's mistaken, if this is the case.

he conceded that science might one day explain away all the miracles of the Bible and anything else which seemed to point to God

Which goes along with his highly presuppositional stance, yes.

He said, "We must allow that it is quite possible that at some future date all the miracles recorded in Bible, not excluding the resurrection of Christ, may be explained by natural laws."

He'd be wrong there.

"All teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory."

And there as well.

Do those sound like the words of someone actually interested in finding out truth

When compared to the utter banality of the atheist worldview, [shrug]. But I don't agree with him on these points, nor is he my authority.

On the second part, so why get bummed out about atheists, criminals, moral relativists, evolutionists, other religions etc if none of us can do anything about it 'til the HS 'zaps' us?

Who's "bummed out"?
I have a standing command to tell all people about Jesus and to defend the faith when called upon to do, and to shut the mouths of unbelievers when they present ridiculous objections to the faith. It's probably tough for you to get a bead on my motivations, and I don't really expect you to understand, which is why I restrict my questions and challenges to the facts and ideas, rather than wasting time with motivations. It's an approach that has much to commend it, and I'd commend it to you.

what does the randomness apparent in quantum mechanics signify? I'm also still at a loss to work out why order would depend on some divine string puller.

Perhaps you think order can just spontaneously arise, much as you believe that human beings evolved from rocks.
That's one reason to get 'bummed out' (not that I am, I'm just saying) - Dr Funk would make a great Christian, since he has a highly-developed sense of faith.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More on moralism-2


Your assertions have died the death of a thousand qualifications.
That's ultimately where any even close to moral statement has to fall in an atheist worldview.

-And do I assert somewhere that this is not stated as _my_ view?

-But you said I said it was “immoral” when I clearly did not?

-I made no attempt to confuse anyone into thinking I am not sharing my own thoughts.

-I promise you that when I give my views, I understand they are _my_ views.

-I don’t get how you perceive I’m asking someone else to adopt my view.

-I think it’s just common sense that if an opinion comes out of my mouth or out of my computer, there is not a need to dumb it down to the level of starting every such statement I ever make in life with, “It’s just my opinion, but …”

-There is no need for me to say “It is my opinion chocolate cake tastes good,” when I understand that people are not so stupid as to think that if I express opinions, I am expressing them on someone else’s behalf or asserting them as universal truths.

-Morality is a personal judgment about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

So, to summarise - such is your view, no one else's. It's not even meant to be subscribed-to by anyone else. You are making no attempt to convince anyone. You do not believe these statements are applicable beyond your own thoughts. It would be incorrect to say that your statements which sound like moral judgments are meant to label Action X "Moral" on an objective, meant-for-everyone basis, and Action Y "Immoral" on an objective, meant-for-everyone basis.
In conjunction with this, if someone asked you if it is OK to torture a little child for fun and no other reason, you would no doubt say it is not OK. But when pressed, you'd have to retreat to these disclaimers. The inquirer would reasonably conclude that you were expressing a private opinion and have no opinion that would be binding on him nor any opinion on how your opinion might apply to him on this question.

That's what I was after, actually. I got what I came here for.

Interestingly, you later go back on your statements with this:
However, the inappropriate behavior must be strongly inappropriate to be labeled “immoral.”

Hopefully you realise that this morality-defining statement carries no more weight than your other statements, which (by your own admission) are meant to convince no one else of your position. It is thus safely and reasonably ignored.

I can assert it’s not good, without raising it to the level of “not good” that constitutes an immorality. Again, the idea that “sin is sin” is a Christian value. Not my value.

You seem to be terribly confused about what "immorality" really is. To you, it's not bad. It's not applicable to anyone else. It's the same quality as eating jambalaya with one's hands, rather than with a spoon, just done many times in a row.
Exactly the same sentiment as this statement:

There is no need for me to say “It is my opinion chocolate cake tastes good,” when I understand that people are not so stupid as to think that if I express opinions, I am expressing them on someone else’s behalf or asserting them as universal truths.

Then apparently, there is no need for you to say “It is my opinion torturing little children for fun is wrong” when you understand that people are not so stupid as to think that if you express opinions, you are expressing them on someone else’s behalf or asserting them as universal truths.
Let's see how consistent you're willing to be.

You said:
the problem of evil—which to this day has no valid response.

Since you have conclusively demonstrated and conceded that you have no way to judge what is evil at all, the alternative alone, which you express, is enough to answer it. To say nothing of the lack of evidence that God DOES NOT have a good reason for the evil that He allows to exist in the world. In short, someone with such an addled moral sense as you is not in a position to lecture others on whether moral questions have solutions or not.
Besides, I quote you: I made no attempt to confuse anyone into thinking I am not sharing my own thoughts.
Fair enough - you weren't stating fact here, you were just stating your opinion. I'm a bit more interested in truth, however, than your statements would lead anyone to believe you are.

You said:
The church, house of doctrine, consists of members, whose beliefs produce the doctrine that promotes the beliefs that promote the doctrine...
Before the Bible there were Christians—according to the Bible.

You might have heard of the Old Testament. It precedes the lifetime of any Christian by several hundred years.

There may be some passage that you believe asserts that.

There are some passage***S***, yes. And I was referring to Jesus. You think I think Paul was divine?

You claim that where Jesus says a faithful person can tell a mountain to move, and it will obey, I am misreading it when I assert it sounds like he’s saying that if you have faith, you can do things that go beyond the mundane accomplishment

Yes, for a few reasons.
You forgot the context.
You apparently are unfamiliar with what the word "harmonisation" signifies, or its place in reading a document.
You also show amazing ignorance of Christian doctrine and beliefs in other areas, so your credibility is strongly tainted.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

YEC exegesis

For those of you who are interested in an example of how one does exegesis, here's one from my pastor, on the subject of the Creation.

It might take a little practice (tracieh), but it can be worth it, if for no other reason than not to look like a fool when discussing with a Christian.

(YEC = Young Earth Creationism/t)

More on moralism

tracieh (of the Atheist Experience) shares deep from his/her heart:

Your response about the idea that god would pick and choose the more deserving is good. Why this child and not that one? Generally I’ve heard “god’s plan” as the answer. But why would an all powerful being, if he was not monstrous, create a plan that required children to suffer and die protracted deaths in hospitals while their families watched on hoping for an intervention god plans to withhold. That’s simply cruel. Unless god was somehow constrained, he could have accomplished whatever he was trying to accomplish without killing children. Why not go that route if it’s just as effective? And if there are more and less effective routes, then god is not all powerful. He cannot, in that case produce a plan with the same effectiveness that reduces suffering.

What a bunch of moralistic whining, no different than what one would find on the laughable whywon'tgodhealamputees site.

That’s simply cruel.

Prove it's cruel. Define your standard.
Then, provide evidence that "cruel" = morally wrong. And make sure to provide an argument as to why that should apply to anyone else.

Why not go that route if it’s just as effective?

Are you arguing for some kind of purpose in the universe? Defined by... whom? Certainly not God - this is an atheist site.
Define the purpose, provide the argument for it, and make sure you understand you stand in variance with many big-name atheist philosophers.

the height of hypocrisy

Provide an argument that hypocrisy = morally wrong. And make sure to provide an argument as to why that should apply to anyone else.

I believed in my own salvation, and I never feared death during my Christian phase.

Your self-deception apparently continues to this day. No time like the present to change, though.

if I believe god has a plan and god can intervene—what does that say about my insistence that the doctors continue to treat me or my loved one after they have indicated that medical science is of no further use?

Please explain why these Christians are justified in thinking this way.
Quote Bible verses, and make sure you exegete them properly.
If you can't, be so kind as to concede the point.

Let’s pull the plug and pray and let the Lord decide.

Which is hardly the biblical standard.
If you want to condemn the sub-biblical view on this, I'm all the way with you.

isn’t anything else a lack of trust in god’s will for the dying/sick person?

Where did God promise in the Bible to heal everyone in this life?

Whereas the Christian parable teaches that with faith, we can have miracles

That is not the correct understanding of that parable. This doesn't inspire much confidence in your ability to understand and correctly interpret the Bible.

If my goal is to heal people, and I want to devote my life’s work to that, and I put forward that System X fails where System Y succeeds…why would I then choose System X to put my energies into? Why wouldn’t I become a faith healer instead of a physician’s assistant or a doctor or an ER worker?

B/c faith "healers" don't heal.
Doctors do. The Bible doesn't provide for the career of "faith healer" and comprehends the usage of medicine and due diligence.

I don’t get it.

Well said, but we didn't need you to tell us.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An infinite (and boring) regress

Paul C, he who believes that an infinite regress is not irrational, opined:

My point is that it's not an infinite regress, it's simply circular questioning on your part. There is no regression; you're just asking the same two questions repeatedly.

He's referring to my discussion with the Jolly Nihilist. But maybe he wasn't paying attention.

Let's go over this again.
The statement is: Evidence is the best way for humans to approximate truth.

I want to determine whether that statement is true.
I therefore subject it to its own test.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?

An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?

An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?
An answer is provided.
I then want to determine whether *that* statement is true.
I ask: What is the evidence for that?

If you have any doubts, just keep going. And going. And going... Let me know when you reach the bottom.
At any rate, we know that the Jolly Nihilist knows something that Paul C does not.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I'm betting he'll run away

Take a look here and see reason #6.

Since there's no logic unless there's a god, you can't prove to me logically that there's no god. Ergo, there is a god.

That's close to what I'd call a part of the Transcendental Argument for God's existence. Not exactly, but we'll let it slide for now.
I've posted a challenge in The Exterminator's combox. Perhaps he'll take the opportunity to actually engage the issue and come join the fun, or maybe he'll just blow me off, insult me, and make perverted and offensive statements like he often does, thereby reinforcing the reason why and the category under which he is listed on the sidebar.


He ran away. Well, like I've said before, we can't all be rock stars.

Flying Catfish, continued

The discussion with the Jolly Nihilist continues.

First off, I'd like to point out that he hasn't answered the questions raised here.
As he said here:

My First Principle—that being, evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth—is materially different from the mathematics example because evidence (relevant facts) can be marshaled to demonstrate evidence’s utility. Because of this, my postulate is self-subsisting.

That was a while ago, and he's had several chances, but all he's done is to raise questions about my own position. That's fine with me, but it certainly doesn't get him anywhere. No one who reads his blog or his comments would think that he is unsure or agnostic about whether he's right, about whether he is pretty sure that evidence is the best way for humans to approximate truth, but if he doesn't defend his own position and if he destroys mine, then he's left drifting in a morass of agnosticism.
Unfortunately and interestingly, by way of reminder to everyone, he won't have any way to get there b/c he won't have any argument showing that his argument is valid. This is all about how he proves anything.

And notice how he's vacillating. One moment he's crying "axiom!" to get out of the infinite regress of asking for evidence for the evidence for the evidence for the evidence for the evidence for the idea that evidence is a good way to discover truth.
The very next minute he's saying "evidence (relevant facts) can be marshaled to demonstrate evidence’s utility", thereby utterly begging the question.
The next minute he's differentiating between a "Cosmic" 1st Principle (CFP) and a "Philosophical" 1st Principle (PFP) and claiming that his PFP is useful for observing and living in this universe. This... "cosmos", if you will. Hmm. Seems a little arbitrary.

Of course, we could just take the JN's word for it, in which case we grant, apparently with his full assent, that his PFP is totally abstract, and therefore we must question its worth as regards the real world. I brought this up before as well and the JN has not responded.

He goes on:

I do not have to deal with the “brain in a vat” question because the location of my brain—inside my skull—is manifest.

This deals with the concept in point 4 here. He's begging the question again.
"Well, obviously I'm not a brain in a vat. My brain's right here!"
For one thing, he's never directly observed his brain. He's observed his SCALP, not his brain. I don't encourage him to try it, but to stop begging this question, a bone saw would need to be involved.
Also, if you're a brain in a vat, you are simply being deceived by the electrical stimuli being fed into your brain by the evil alien/demon in charge of creating your illusions. Go ahead and marshal evidence that this is not the case.
Note that this brain-in-a-vat question directly follows without obstacle from his evidentialist principle, but is proscribed by a Christian worldview. The fact that the brain-in-a-vat worldview is self-refuting and is yet easily incorporated into the JN's atheistic worldview simply serves further notice of the invalidity of both.

that the bare facts of reality cannot be the bare facts of reality, but, instead, require “grounding.” The cosmos exists—this is manifest.

1) Prove the cosmos exists, and that you are not being deceived by a grand illusion.
2) I love it - the JN wants me to bring forth evidence all the time for the existence of TGOTB, but when it comes to other things that make him uncomfy, all of a sudden, things are just "manifest". Arbitrary, again.
3) Very well then - TGOTB's existence is just a bare fact of reality. It doesn't require grounding. See, wasn't that easy when we just invoke the ipse dixit? Perhaps the JN thinks he's the infallible Pope of Reason. He's already shown he's willing to put on and take off the Pope of Morality hat when it suits him; now his authority apparently extends to even more areas of life than I originally realised.

Abstract concepts such as principles can be dealt with by the human species—this, per the pattern, is also manifest.

Humans may be able to "deal with" these concepts, but this speaks not at all to the question of whether they're true or not. The JN may have lost track of just what we're arguing here.

As to my "CFP": First, I share Russell’s concern that such musings exist solely in the land of metaphysics, having no real relationship with the world of experience.

Your PFP is also 100% metaphysical, as we've seen and as you've admitted, sometimes (when it suits you). You can't prove evidence is a good way to discover truth by bringing forth evidence. What is your evidence for that?
See how he's forcing us to regress in our conversation? Suddenly we're where we were 3 months ago!

Ultimately, in terms of voluntary actions, one always follows one’s desire.

I had asked him a question about morality - what one SHOULD do. He responds with a long paragraph about what humans DO. Apparently what IS is what OUGHT, but he doesn't always believe that. If he did, he would never, ever criticise any action, ever, b/c it IS. He does criticise certain actions, however, on moral grounds, so he doesn't really believe this. It's hard to talk to someone who's so inconsistent.

The ever-helpful Anonymous steps in with an aside:
Does the evidence that is considered to validate these truths fulfill your preconditions for evidence or not ?

Hmm, let's see. Should I accept evidence that evidence is a good way to discover truth?
Since the question of whether evidence is a good way to discover truth is not yet decided (on atheism), that would be pretty silly, wouldn't it? Welcome to the wonderful world of begging the question, Anonymous. Say hi to the JN; he's been here a while.

Moving to the JN's comments on my rebuttal of the Flying Spaghetti Monster...

The JN said:
I believe the Ethereal Cosmic Catfish (hereafter “ECC”) escaped entirely unscathed

It's only a matter of time. All of these so-called alternatives fail upon varying degrees of examination. But the FSM and the ECC are the exact same thing - ad hoc rhetorical gimmicks to try to beat up one specific argument. No one respects these made-up-on-the-fly devices in real life anywhere else, really.
Dr Funkenstein didn't accept something that is very similar from Plantinga just 2 days ago. One wishes that Dr Funk were consistent enough to call the JN out for doing the same thing he dislikes in Plantinga, but you can't have everything, I guess.
I'd argue that the Plantinga thing is plausible, actually - you don't know what Nick Caveman was thinking when the tiger approached him. You can't go back in time and attach electrodes to his brain or perform a Vulcan mind-meld with him when the tiger approached him. You assume he thinks "tiger - danger - escape = run away", but you don't know that. You're projecting your thoughts onto Nick Caveman without justification.
But, as was pointed out in the ECC/FSM post (and the JN apparently didn't feel the need to interact with this point):

But in this case, we know that no man has ever been between Earth and Mars (except perhaps fleetingly while in orbit around the Earth—a situation that would not be the case for the "ancient books" used in the analogy), and that no one has ever lost their teapot there. The existence of the teapot becomes irrational because the origin of teapots is Earth-bound and likewise bound to humans.

You also referenced self-revelation through the Bible, but I do not see how that is a core essentiality.

It is not an essential attribute for God, but objective revelation is essential for our epistemology. If we don't know anything about God, then... we don't know anything about God. This will be a very important point as these discussions advance.

mixing and matching variables with the core list of essentialities, I could confect 1000 gods…all of them functional Cosmic First Principles.

Go for it, but I only have patience for, say, 3 or 4. Make sure they're your best. Once you will have failed on those 3 or 4, why would anyone have faith in you to get it right eventually?
Such would be rivalled only by evolutionists' faith in natural selection blindly acting on random mutations.

The Green God

1) Maybe TGOTB *does* see everythg tinted green.
2) How is the Green God omnipresent if he has physical eyes with which he sees "green", like we do?
3) How do you know this god exists, and more to the point, how do you know he sees everythg tinted green?


The Melodic God

1) TGOTB *does* have endless background music.
Rev 4:8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY {is} THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME."
Rev 4:9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever,
Rev 4:10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Rev 4:11 "Whorthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created."
2) You even admitted: "It does not dominate the consciousness". Precisely.
This god is no different from TGOTB.
2 down, 2 to go (or, none to go, but again, you can't have everything). Not a good initial showing from the JN.

Finally, Anonymous added another tidbit:
The YHWH won't fit unless he is identical to FSM, in which case he IS FSM and is a little irritated that you've been acting like such a clown and taking His name in vain.

1) How do you know the FSM is the true God?
2) If he's exactly the same as TGOTB, why should anyone believe that the name "FSM", which was made up a few years ago, should take precedence over the extremely early names of God?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

ECC/FSM/fad of the month

The Jolly Nihilist said:
if you believe Yahweh works as a C(osmic) F(irst) P(rinciple), he must possess certain character traits (which Zeus lacks) that make him suitable as one. And, because you have never proved that every dot and iota of Yahweh's nature is critical for this job, one must assume it comes down to a set of core essentialities. This being the case, I could define the Ethereal Cosmic Catfish (hereafter “ECC”) so as to possess all those core essentialities, and then sprinkle in sundry variables, to taste. [This step ensures ECC is materially different from Yahweh and other deities.] Through this exercise, ECC would transform into a CFP—the singular source of a comprehensive, complete, consistent worldview. And, yet, I would remain pitifully ignorant of the cosmos’ actual natural reality.

Yeah, I knew I'd have to write a post on the Flying Spaghetti Monster at some point, but it's difficult to get emotionally jacked-up enough for longish posts sometimes. Today is one of those hard days, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

For the uninitiated, the FSM is a gimmick thought experiment construct that, in its origin, was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek counter to the claims of Intelligent Design. "You think Goddidit, eh? Well, I posit the Flying Spaghetti Monster did it. He created the universe in 3 slightly-hungover days. I know this b/c he touched me with his noodly appendage. Ramen and ramen!"

In fact, I even met some "Pastafarians" about a year ago. In keeping with the 100% ad hoc nature of their gimmick, they were obviously playing games, but it was interesting to engage them. Additionally, and informatively, they kept straying from pure FSM-ism into atheistic and ridiculous comments such as "There is no absolute truth" and "We can't know history". Well, maybe they were young and naïve. Goes to show you that shallow argumentation and poor thinking skills are not limited to the Christians coming to college. It could be anyone!

Anyway, here's the FSM's website. I recommend anyone read thru the "Evidence" section, to see why I put "evidence" in quotes.

Now, in the vein of "Why do it worse if someone's already done it better?" I present selections from a longish thread that took place a year ago (and is linked-to in my sidebar as "With Touchstone about the Celestial Teapot". The ECC/FSM/teapot/whatever argument gets its comeuppance as the thread progresses. Also, as a side amusement, Touchstone (who was masquerading as a Christian, but has now revealed himself to be an atheist, to no one's surprise) regresses into near incoherency, to the point that he asks "Who made God?", earning himself a great deal of contempt in the process.

From the original post:

First is the fact that the analogy is impossible to take seriously. What I mean by this is that the only reason the analogy works as an attack against faith is because nobody (granted the exception of a few kooks) would affirm the existence of a teapot orbiting between Earth and Mars on the basis of it being in "ancient books." Such a hypothesis would not be taught "as the sacred truth every Sunday" because reasonable people would never submit to such a stupid idea. Russell’s analogy works because what no one accepts as reasonable (a teapot in orbit between Earth and Mars) is supposedly linked to what the vast majority of people accept as reasonable (the existence of some form of deity). Dawkins uses the analogy to show that simply because we are agnostic about something (after all, we cannot disprove the existence of the teapot without having omniscience), that does not mean we have to give equal odds to both sides of the question of existence of the teapot (i.e. there’s a 50/50 shot it actually exists). Says Dawkins:

The point of all these way-out examples is that they are undisprovable, yet nobody thinks the hypothesis of their existence is on an even footing with the hypothesis of their non-existence. Russell’s point is that the burden of proof rests with the believers, not the non-believers. Mine is the related pointed that the odds in favor of the teapot…are not equal to the odds against.
(quoted in Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co. p. 53)

But this brings up an immediate question. Why are these "way-out examples" to be taken seriously in the first place? If "nobody thinks the hypothesis of their existence is on an even footing with the hypothesis of their non-existence" then in what way do these examples cohere to the concept of the existence of God?

Such counter questions are far from trivial. Consider for a moment why no one believes in the teapot orbiting between Earth and Mars. First, a teapot is a man-made object. Very few men have ever been to space, and the odds are that exactly none of them brought a teapot up when they made the trip. Further, even if we stipulated that someone now threw a teapot into orbit, Russell’s analogy requires that it be an ancient belief.

If you do not think the man-made feature of the teapot matters, consider what would happen if I changed the hypothesis slightly. What if instead I said: "There is a rock the size of a teapot that orbits between the Earth and Mars." Suddenly, the analogy (as used by Dawkins) breaks down. The odds that there is a teapot-sized rock in solar system are so high as to be certain. The odds that this rock could be between the Earth and Mars are only slightly diminished—after all, we know of many asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, and it would not be illogical to assume that some of these asteroids meander and could get trapped in orbit between the Earth and Mars.

Thus, if we simply switch from viewing a man-made object to viewing a natural object, the analogy immediately breaks down. While we still cannot prove the existence of said rock, it very well may be "intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it." This is why the analogy must rely on the use of a man-made object. But in this case, we know that no man has ever been between Earth and Mars (except perhaps fleetingly while in orbit around the Earth—a situation that would not be the case for the "ancient books" used in the analogy), and that no one has ever lost their teapot there. The existence of the teapot becomes irrational because the origin of teapots is Earth-bound and likewise bound to humans.

But while this deals with Dawkins’ use of the analogy, there is another point we need to address regarding the original use of it by Russell. Russell claims that the burden of proof is on the believer of the teapot, which is true so far as that goes. After all, there is simply no phenomenon that needs to be explained by the existence of a teapot between Earth and Mars. The teapot’s existence is completely gratuitous; it serves no purpose other than for the analogy. This is why stipulating the existence of a teapot would be so ridiculous—there is no reason for us to believe in the existence of a teapot because there is nothing that needs to be explained by the existence of a teapot.

So we see that we are justified in ridiculing the existence of a teapot between Earth and Mars. The problem is that Russell and Dawkins then want to transfer the ridicule on the teapot analogy toward belief in the existence of God. This immediately fails, however.

God is not a man-made object (note for the atheists: this is not saying that God is not a man-made belief, for indeed all false beliefs of God would be man-made beliefs of God). If God exists, His existence is not due to the existence of man; He exists apart from man. Thus, Dawkins’ use of the analogy immediately shows discontinuity between the teapot and God. We are not speaking of the existence of an object that we know would not normally appear between the Earth and Mars. We are speaking of the existence of an object that would transcend the universe. This is hardly analogous.

Further, there are phenomena that are explained by the existence of God. Most obviously, He fits as the answer to the question: Why is there something instead of nothing? The very existence of the universe screams out for a reason for being. Why does the universe exist at all? While a teapot floating between Earth and Mars answers no questions, the belief in a God does answer questions.

This is why the analogy does not work at all. The (admittedly) bogus analogies are not even in the same ballpark as the question about the existence or non-existence of God. While it is certainly the case that atheists will dispute the necessity of God as an answer to the question of why existence exists, the odds question that Dawkins brings up with his use of the teapot analogy is immediately thrown into disrepute. As for Russell, if God does answer the question of why we exist (as the vast majority of people believe He does) then we have a reason for stipulating the existence of God. This does not even touch the subjective experiences that many people claim to have, which would provide personal reasons for those people to believe. Further, it ignores other evidences (such as classical Christian evidences, like the missing body from Jesus’ tomb, etc.). None of these extra evidences are much relevant to the point that Russell’s analogy and Dawkins’ rehashing of it are in no way coherent to the question of the existence of God.

From the comments:

From Peter Pike:
The Flying Spaghetti Monster does not have the attributes of God, which is why you cannot replace the word "God" with Flying Spaghetti Monster. If God and the Flying Spaghetti Monster have exactly the same attributes, then they are the same being and you do not need to replace the label. In such an instance, it would be akin to calling God by the name Jehovah or Elohim. Both are synonymous because they refer to the same being.
(in answer to Touchstone's comment): He must replace the attributes of God. But, pray tell, T-Stone, how is it that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is actually an answer to anything?

From Paul Manata:
(Touchstone said) - "Well, let's just suppose that the Flying Spaghetti Monster has two attributes: a) a "universe creation capability" and b) a desire to create universes. Keep things minimal."

Non-sequitur. That he can "create a universe" does not mean he can create *this* universe. You believe that *this universe* is rational and understandable - after all, you're a "scientist."

So, that a deaf, dumb, and blind kid has the capability to "create" a "banana split" that does not imply that *this* beautiful banana split, with all its order and fine tuning, was created by the deaf, dumb, and blind kid.

Thus by saying that the FSM *only* has those *two* attributes, your argument flops. Indeed, it stretches the limits of credulity to say that this kind of universe which seems understandable to humans, displays order and fine tuning, etc., was created by something that can simply "create a universe" and "wants to do it." I mean, what is the probability that *that kind* of being created *this kind* of universe? Low; or inscrutable at best.

From me:
If we were to replace "The God of the Bible" w/ "The FSM" in the original (ie, not minimalist, but where He is the answer to everythg) way T-stone proposed, then we have no problem at all.
We have a being who goes by FSM, but who is actually omni-present, -potent, -scient, self-reveals thru the Bible, created the universe, and is the grounds for all logic, rationality, induction, and morality.
Sounds suspiciously like The God of the Bible, w/ a name borrowed from blasphemous skeptics.
Only God doesn't like to go by the name FSM; He prefers YHWH or Jesus.

From Peter Pike:
Creative power is not the only attribute the FSM would need to have. He would have to have the ability to create ex nihilo. A being that could create ex nihilo must also transcend that creation, so the FSM must be transcendent as well as creative. Further, since the creation is based on the power of the FSM, the FSM must be more powerful than what he has created (there is no inherent power in the creation; all the power in creation is merely derived from the power of the creator, no matter what you wish to call him).

Thus, the FSM logically must be far more than merely a being able to create something, and such is blindingly obvious to any theist who has bothered to actually think about these issues.

Your FSM is an empty label; as soon as you provide attributes, suddenly you have to assume the FSM is an awful lot like the God of the Bible.

Philip M chimed in with a pithy comment:
Thus, in equating him to the FSM all a theist need respond is, "Yes, I believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, except that he is neither flying, nor spaghetti, nor a monster."

From me:
FSM hasn't made any claims to being revealed through the Bible.

1) how do you know?
2) does FSM, as omni-3things deity, like to reveal himself to mankind? If not, you can't say much about him. If so, what did he say and how do you know it? how do you know he DIDN'T reveal himself thru the Bible? And if he did, well then, of course, he's YHWH.

All we know, here, is that he is a) capable of universe (like this) creation, and b) interested in creating universes (like this).

Again, he sounds exactly like the God of the Bible.

Maybe our third would-be, reified-by-Peter's-argument deity has a) and b) characteristics of FSM, but also c) denies the Bible and the existence of the God it reveals

Except that this would lead to internal inconsistency. To use Douglas Adams' words: He'd "disappear in a puff of logic."

Finally, even if FSM did exist w/ these characteristics, as PP has already said, it invalidates atheism. And you can't seem to figure out whether that disturbs you or not...

I continued:
(The FSM) claims whatever I want him to claim.

Ah, there's the rub.
Then his claims are subject to internal critique. If the differ in any substantive way from the God of the Bible, then FSM stands disproven, and a dumb example.

We can just understand that his creation of the universe is a de facto revelation of himself to man, if you'd like.

That's biblical though - Romans 1.
You haven't strayed substantively from YHWH, but you must so we can examine whether your claim holds water.

He's just imaginary,

Ooops, OK, so FSM is imaginary.
YHWH is not.
The analogy fails.

Paul Manata said:

So, can the FSM create a universe where the FSM doesn't exist since he can create "any kind" of universe? No? Okay, add "necessarily existing" to your list. :-) (As we whittle away, the statue will come out looking an aweful lot like Jehovah :-)

And, since he created *this* universe, then let's ask some questions: why does man do bad things? How does man get out of his problem? Is there any hope for man? How should we live? What happens when we die? Why think our minds "hook up" to the real world? What is the probability that the FSM is not systematically deceiving everyone in almost all of their beliefs, but is guiding man and the world in such a way that all the false and possibly fatal beliefs and decisions do not result in death, for the most part?

I dare say that if these aren't answered then it would appear that just on explanatory power alone, Christianity would be preferred over FSM religion. Indeed, without knowing the answer to some of those questions, it appears that the belief that our cognitive faculties are reliable is low or inscrutable. Thus if FSM is true, we should reject it...You told Rhology that there was no FSM revelation. Thus your ability to resolve the problems is epistemically useless. Thus positing FSM is no kind of serious counter to a Christian who posits God in Christ reconciling himself to the world.

Paul Manata continued:
When you moved it into *this* universe, that when your big problems started. All you've done is simply *posit* that he created *this* universe. But when I try to be the good scientist and test your claims according to the observable data, which would seem to undermine your claim, you say the questions are "irrelevant."

Rhology said:
So I say he's got four divine sisters who rule other galaxies, far from here.

But you had agreed he was omnipotent.
Once again we see your assertion fail when pressed for a few more details. The moment you stray from the God of the Bible's attributes, you end up in internal inconsistency, and this is a perfect example.
You are trying to posit an imaginary god for THIS universe, as Paul Manata said. Only the God of the Bible, we'll find, is the peg that fits the hole. The FSM won't fit unless he is identical to YHWH, in which case he IS YHWH and is a little irritated that you've been acting like such a clown and taking His name in vain.

Peter Pike continued on the same vein:
The fact is, as soon as you have more than one "god" you are stuck with tremendous difficulties. Is there a hierarchy amongst the gods? If so, in what sense can the "minor gods" be considered actual "gods"? If there are really coequal gods, then in what sense are they coequal? Would they ever disagree with each other? If so, what would happen? If they always agreed with each other, then what would be the difference between two identical gods doing the same thing and one identical god doing the same thing (other than parsimony, which is your favorite concept anyway)?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Manata Primer on EAAN

I haven't had much brainpower or bandwidth for blogging this past week (and I can spare precious little of that), but I've been listening to Paul Manata's utter and ruthless pasting of Christopher Hitchens' god Is Not Great on The Narrow Mind podcast.

Anyway, Manata gives a very good primer of the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism during series episode #8 at minute 33:45. I recommend it.

Monday, August 04, 2008


John Evo posted a quote from Victor Stenger in "response" to my post on evidentialism.
Just stop for a moment and consider the irony of posting a guy's complaint about a lack of evidence to reply to a post that demolishes the very foundation for the existence and utility of evidence if his worldview is true. Let it sink in.

Now, I've listened to a couple of Stenger's debates, and he never justifies this argument. He just says we "should" expect this and that, but I don't grant him those "should"s. They are questions that deal a priori with the identity of God - Stenger expects and assumes the god he's denying, but to do that, wouldn't he need to tell us that up front? Why so amateurish about this, expecting his audience to read his mind? Where is the exegesis of the god's purported self-revelation?

Stenger said:
The God worshipped by the billion of followers of the monotheistic religions either exists or he does not.


And his existence is a legitimate scientific issue.

1) How would we go about proving/disproving a metaphysical question by physical means? What possible science experiment could be performed to test whether God exists?
2) Without God, I'd like to see Stenger/someone respond to the critique of the evidentialist worldview I've laid out in this post. W/o such a defense, no appeal to "science" is even worthwhile; the idea that scientific study could lead to true beliefs is hamstrung w/o such a justification.
3) Stenger then goes on in this quote to make UNSCIENTIFIC statements. If he doesn't take his proposed method seriously, why should I or anyone else?

If God is the intelligent designer of life on Earth, then we should find evidence for that in observations of the structure of life

What is the argument for that?
1) TGOTB is under no obligation to reveal anythg to anyone. He doesn't have to leave His fingerprints.
2) As it stands, TGOTB *has* left fingerprints, but He has specifically said that He hides Himself from the unrepentant, blasphemers, and sophists among the ranks of the unbelievers. John Evo 100% qualifies.

We do not.

Of course, I don't grant that either, but again, this is not even worth discussing until an answer for the evidentialist problem is brought forth.
John Evo seems not to understand this at all, which is too bad. His position is in jeopardy from the metaphysical side, and he's giving me (very shaky) physical opinions. Not too impressive.

If God has endowed humans with immaterial souls and is the source of morality, then we should find evidence for that in observations of human behavior. We do not.

Where is the argument?
1) What kind of evidence is he looking for? Evidence that minds survive death?
2) Don't the vast majority of people in most cultures think that it's wrong, for example, to kill one's own child? Etc.
3) Haven't the vast majority of people throughout human history been (mono/poly/pan)theistic, not atheistic?
4) We've seen over and over again on this blog how atheists can't get even close to being consistent with their atheistic stance, which allows the justification of no moral system as objective but only person-centered. Again, if they won't take their own beliefs seriously, why should anyone else?

If God answers prayers, then we should see miraculous effects of prayer. We do not.

What is his argument for why God "should" answer prayer?
And of course, we don't grant that God doesn't answer prayer, but that's another topic.

If God has revealed truths to humanity, then those truths should be empirically verified. They are not.

Again, no argument as to why we should expect that.
The Bible says that God created the world in an instantaneous process. Just for the sake of argument, doesn't the Big Bang fit that? Why would Stenger say categorically "they are not".

If God is the creator of the universe and the laws of nature, then we should find evidence for that in astronomy and physics. We do not.

I'm not sure what evidence one could expect to find for this.
Although I would like to know Stenger's argument for why we shouldn't presume a Lawgiver where laws exist.

If humans are a special creation of God, then the universe should be congenial to human life. It is not.

Um, the earth is pretty congenial to it.
Therefore, the universe is congenial to human life - the earth exists and humans live there.

This quote from Stenger, if it reflects most of his argumentation in his larger work (which it certainly does of his debate material), shows how out of his depth the man is in this line of argumentation. Better to stick to his branch of physics than to carry on with such continual self-embarrassment.
Thanks to John Evo for posting the quote. With opponents like these, who needs friends?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Evidentialism's bloody nose

A little history, since this has been percolating in my head for some time now.

Here is the last time the Jolly Nihilist and I discussed this particular topic, that of evidence, epistemology, and how we know stuff on this blog.

The JN later responded with this post. I didn't have time then to get to it, and so I just read it, interacted a little in the combox, and let it go and kept thinking about it.

The important thing about this post is that the JN has laid out his First Principle, that "evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth". He says, "Because a First Principle is foundational—that is, it cannot be deduced from any other assumption or proposition—it cannot be 'split' or independently proved."
He goes on in the post to contradict himself: "evidence (relevant facts) can be marshaled to demonstrate evidence’s utility. Because of this, my postulate is self-subsisting."

I agree with the 1st statement, so here we are going to analyse his FP to see if it is indeed self-subsisting. As an aside, let us remember that the God of the Bible as FP is fully self-subsisting and takes care of all these questions. It's good to follow Jesus.

Onto the points:

1) First of all, it's gratifying that the JN would say that his First Principle is a faith position. I have known that all along, but it's been quite a chore to get him to admit it. Such is obvious to the rest of us and I'm not used to seeing atheists admit stuff like this. In fact, "faith-free zone" seems to be an atheist shibboleth these days, so the JN is definitely breaking ranks with his atheist compadres, but that's OK - he is entitled to do that.
This is, in fact, partially a notification for said compadres - this guy is not exactly on your team. Don't get me wrong - the JN's approach certainly gets him out of the infinite regress (kind of) that I pull out on anyone else who claims they're an 'evidentialist', but it only gets him one step farther. Better than nothing, I guess, but two nuthin's is nuthin'.

Basically, it goes like this.
Atheist: Evidence is a good, maybe even the best, way to discover truth.
Me: What is your evidence for that?
Atheist: That I ask questions, formulate hypotheses, and then test them. The evidence that I find then allows me to form a conclusion.
Me: What is your evidence that formulating a hypothesis, testing it, and forming a conclusion is a good way to discover truth?
Atheist: It just is. It works.
Me: What is your evidence for that?

I simply continue to apply what is (by the atheist's own claims) a really good/the best way to discover truth to the each answer given by the atheist. Unfortunately, the buck never stops - it is an infinite regress that no person can exhaust.
Quite unlike the Christian worldview, where we know that evidence is a very good way to discover truth b/c God is a logical God. He thinks like that and we think like Him. Thus, we can have confidence in evidence. The atheist has no reason to have confidence in evidence (on atheism) - he simply has faith in it. The JN admits this. Most atheists to whom I've spoken won't.

2) Why choose this position? Just because? Does it make the JN feel better? Does it help him sleep better at night?
There is literally no reason (that I can think of) to choose "evidence is the best way to discover truth" rather than "fortune cookies are the best way to discover truth" and hold to that (again, by faith), and go through life that way. It's completely arbitrary.
To make an argument that it is right is to attempt to employ evidence in its favor, which can't be done as we've seen.
Moreover, there's certainly no reason to think that anyone should hold to it. Let's even grant that it's true. There remains no reason that I can think of to believe it, and even less reason to attempt to convince anyone else that it is true. Why even express it out loud, given the situation?

3) His choice of a First Principle is arbitrary in another way.
Can the JN's worldview pass its own test?
Obviously not - we just went over that in the examination of the infinite regress. So he believes that this is true, but has no evidence for it.
Since he has chosen a faith-based position for his First Principle, why not just go with "faith is the best way to discover truth"? Obviously evidence failed him in this question and faith resolved the problem. Why not just stick with that? Why go with what failed him in this most important, overarching question of First Principle?
This reminds me of the following conversation, for another illustration:
Richard: There is no absolute truth.
Matt: You mean, except for that statement?
Richard: What?
Matt: The statement "there is no absolute truth" is an absolute statement in itself.
Richard: Ah. OK, well, there is no absolute truth except for that statement.
Matt: So now there are at least 4 absolute truths: 1) the statement itself, 2) the idea that statements can carry meaning, 3) you exist to make the statement, 4) the idea of "except" exists. Etc.
Richard: Fine. There are however many absolute truths that are required to sustain the statement that "there is only one absolute - that there are no other absolutes," but no more.

Richard would be well-advised to shop around for a better worldview, not to mention a better catchphrase. So would the JN.

Incidentally, the Christian worldview passes its own test just fine. God is self-existent and is logical, good, holy, and transcendent. "I am that I am." "He is before all things and in Him all things hold together." Etc. We ground everything in the timeless, infinite, wise, intelligent, personal, communicative God of the Bible.

4) The JN is cheating. I asked him for a, one, (1) First Principle, and he provides one that is totally inadequate, to the point that he has to smuggle in numerous other concepts that he didn't mention.
He does not define evidence; the definition of evidence as "data interpreted within a grid to bolster a particular point of view" requires that there is such a thing as "data", "interpretation", "worldview grids", "bolstering", "particular" (as opposed to "general"), and "point of view".
His FP must smuggle in the concept that mind exists. Why didn't he mention that? How is data transformed magically into evidence without a mind to interpret it? Is there some sort of Cosmic Automatic Data-to-Evidence-Transformer Principle? Why didn't he mention it as part of his FP?
His FP must smuggle in the concept that he is not a brain in a vat. Certainly such a concept cannot be determined to be true or false by evidence, so one must take it on total blind faith or have a coherent worldview presupposition that rules it out (which I as a Christian do).
His FP offers no solution to the one and the many, which, again, evidence cannot speak to.
This is no FP at all. It is but a fragment, a shard, a tiny piece busted and pried out of a working worldview (that is, my own), with the hope that no one will notice or be able to analyse it to see it for what it is - a sham. It is Principle 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D...1n.

Basically, he pretends to offer a FP, a complete automobile, that will take us to the realm of proper and rational living. What he has in reality is a chassis with no tires, no engine, no steering wheel. He has to bring those in from a different manufacturer and file off the "biblical worldview, Serial Number 48590230" engraving on each item, until he has assembled a whole car. But that fails the question I asked him. My own worldview is a complete car. The JN apparently doesn't like its style (because he has an unregenerate and unrepentant mind and heart) though he has no moral reason to dislike it and, as we've seen, no rational reason to dislike it either. He has to use Christian parts to get anywhere close to a working car, and then he wants to race me?

5) This FP says precisely nothing about how to inform any sense of morality. Period.
When asked about what evidence one can use or that he uses to prove that, say, raping a child is wrong, he begs the question repeatedly and says that it's wrong b/c it causes pain. So what? What's your evidence that pain is wrong? And on and on it goes, as we've recently seen.
By contrast, the Christian FP comes complete with all sorts of moral guidance. Misinterpretations, misapplications, or partial/total abandonment thereof by the objects of its revelation (human beings) have nothing to do with the fact that the moral laws laid down by it are objective, unchanging, and definitional.

In short, the gauntlet has been thrown, the JN tried to pick it up, but wound up instead dropping it, breaking all the toes of his right foot. The Jolly Nihilist has nothing. I challenge him to do the only rational thing - flee to Jesus Christ, ask Him for forgiveness, and trust Him and Him alone for salvation.

Was Jesus a masochist?

My wife teaches English as a 2nd language to international students, and this term she has advanced students. One of them asked her: "Was Jesus a masochist?"

Good question. We sat down last night and wrote up an answer, which follows.

To examine this question, first we must define the word "masochist". From www.dictionary.com, we find the following definition:

mas·och·ism –noun

1. Psychiatry. the condition in which sexual gratification depends on suffering, physical pain, and humiliation.

2. gratification gained from pain, deprivation, degradation, etc., inflicted or imposed on oneself, either as a result of one's own actions or the actions of others, esp. the tendency to seek this form of gratification.

3. the act of turning one's destructive tendencies inward or upon oneself.

4. the tendency to find pleasure in self-denial, submissiveness, etc.

However, this definition does not tell the whole story, for in American usage, the word almost exclusively carries the connotation of #1 and #2, and #3 to some degree. #4 is a very general use of the word that most Americans think does not fit very well.

Next, we must consider the life and sayings of Jesus of Nazareth. We know virtually nothing about this man outside of the writings of the Four Evangelists known as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Fortunately, these four men's books contain great and wide detail about the life of Jesus. Each is a fascinating study in the history of the life of Jesus, and each comes at the historical account from a particular angle, since Matthew, Mark, and John were very different personalities but each lived with Jesus for years. Luke might not have known Jesus personally but interviewed many close friends and family to find the information for his Gospel (book). When we read these books, and I certainly recommend it, especially Mark and John, we discover that Jesus had a lot to say and was not afraid to say it. He told the future, he explained the present time, and he made it clear what his mission was. "(Jesus said), 'For the Son of Man (Jesus himself) came to seek and to save what was lost'" (Luke 19:10).

Jesus' actions were always based on love. He set a perfect example of life to everyone because he never made a mistake, never told a lie, never broke the law. He never sinned. "Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?" (John 8:46). But to discover why he came to save people, we must first understand why people are lost.

At the beginning of the world, God created animals, plants, and the world. Then he created a man and a woman and gave them a wonderful garden in which to live. He told them they could eat from any tree in the whole garden except for one tree. But they decided not to obey God and ate from that tree. God was angry with them for breaking his command and sent them out of the garden. He had warned them they would die if they ate from the tree, and that day they died spiritually. They could no longer be close to God the way they were before. They were separated from God forever unless someone could rescue them. When the man and the woman had children, they discovered that their children also preferred breaking God's law sometimes instead of always obeying. Then they had children, and their children had children…all the way to the present. And what do we see today? People still hurt each other, still lie, still kill, still steal. Everyone's behavior shows that they prefer to break God's law instead of always obeying.

The Bible says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Then the Bible explains what the result is: "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). So, if we sin, if we break God's law, the payment is death, separation from the loving God who created us. But God did not want everyone to be separated from him forever, so he sent his son Jesus to live on earth. Let's look at some of the things Jesus said about the reason for coming:

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).

"I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again" (John 10:18-19).

John 12:23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name!"

Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." 29The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." 33He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

John 12:47 (Jesus said), "For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day."

John 3:16 (Jesus said): "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."

Jesus' mission is clear – he wanted to save people from separation from God in Hell forever. The way to do that was to take the punishment – death – in the place of those who deserve death because of their sin. So he knew he would die on the cross when he came to earth, but he was "delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, (and) nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put to death" (Acts 2:23). The plan of God has always been this way, since God knows all the future and knows everything. Jesus volunteered for it, as he said in John 12:27.

One last piece to the puzzle – even though Jesus volunteered for it, he still did not welcome the thought of the pain of dying on a cross. The night before he died, Jesus went to pray with his friends in a garden, and prayed.

Matthew 26:28 - Then He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with me."

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as You will."

What did Jesus mean by "this cup"? It was the suffering of being killed on the cross, which is a very painful way to die. Jesus did not want to have pain, but he accepted it because he could finish his mission, which was to rescue many people from death because of their sin. We can recall the definition of "masochist", seen above, and Jesus certainly did not receive any sexual gratification for his pain. He did not welcome it, but he accepted it because he had a higher purpose.

However, the story did not end there. Keep reading: Acts 2:24 – "But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power." Jesus predicted before he died that he would only be dead for 3 days, and he was right! God made him alive again after he died, and so he defeated death. Death is the enemy because of sin, but because Jesus died and then came back to life, people who love Jesus do not fear death.

Everyone is sinful – everyone breaks God's law. Jesus once told a man: "only God is good" (Luke 18:19). Romans 3 says "all have turned away, they have become useless. No one seeks God, no one does good. Not even one." Deep down, everyone is bad because everyone breaks God's law. Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me" (John 14:6). If you put your trust in Jesus and ask him to forgive the times you've broken (and will break) God's law, he will forgive you and change you, and he will be your friend and your Savior (he will save you from spiritual death forever). He is the only way to be free from the prison of sin and separation from God, which we deserve because of our behavior.