Why revelation fails

One of the dogmas underlying Murk’s belief system is the idea that divine revelation is required in order for us to have any knowledge of the truth, as he himself has recently shared.

I have written that to know anything a person must either know everything or someone who does who is good and shares. I cannot make this any simpler.
You cannot have any knowledge unless you are God or trust what He has revealed.

This is a false statement, since I can and do know that I exist, and I cannot be mistaken in this knowledge—if I did not exist there would be no one to make the mistake. Every one of us possesses the ability to know at least some material truth, without any need for divine revelation. But more than this, there are at least three good reasons to conclude that divine revelation is not, in fact, a reliable means of knowing the truth about the real world.

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Ultimate authority

Whatever it may sell itself as to believers, presuppositionalism in practice usually boils down to a loose collection of contrived and superficial “gotcha” dialogs in which the entire skeptical worldview ends up “exposed” as self-contradictory and invalid. The catch is that creating this illusion requires that the unbeliever stick to some rigid and narrow constraints on what they’re supposed to say. It’s a schtick that works best with 1-dimensional bad guys, who oppose the hero only to make the hero look good.

Real skeptics don’t talk or think like cartoons, however, so when the presuppositionalist tries to interact with a real live skeptic, they end up floundering around trying to force the conversation back into the canned script. Sometimes they meet unbelievers who haven’t thought much about the topic, and are easily steered, but if the skeptic knows anything at all about philosophy, epistemology, and phenomenology, the result can be a series of exchanges so disjointed they border on the surreal. For example, here’s Murk trying to respond to my observation that religious beliefs are necessarily subjective perceptions rather than verifiable objective fact.

“you’d be walking by proof, not walking by faith.” not true- boils down to ultimate authority – we all have one – what is yours again?

His response seems only tangentially related, if not completely disconnected, from the observation he’s trying to respond to. But that’s because he’s trying to get back to a script in which rationalism is really the vain assumptions of a conceited heart. I didn’t say anything that would support such a conclusion, but that’s beside the point. He’s here to have the scripted conversation from his apologetics texts, no matter how the real-world conversation may be proceeding. [Read more…]

An observation

The Tea Party’s shutdown strategy is so short-sighted and odious that they themselves no longer wish to admit it was their idea. Yet even as they try to dodge responsibility for this policy, they refuse to abandon it, or to trifle with more democratic institutions like honest negotiations and compromise. Having lit a fuse, and regretted it, they cannot bring themselves to blow it out, because blowing is against their religion. The best they can accomplish is to suck, and to suck loudly.

The needs of the narrative

One of the problems with trying to live in a worldview instead of in the real world is that the needs of the narrative become preeminent over everything else. I ran across a good example of this on Christian talk radio (where else?) when the hosts reported a story about someone vandalizing a local cancer center by spray-painting “Christian-oriented” slogans on it, including “Jesus saves” and just “Jesus.” The hosts were offended, if not downright outraged, by the fact that secular reports implied that a Christian was likely to have done this. The nerve! How dare they suggest that a Christian would do such a thing? Whoever did this was NOT a Christian, in fact they were probably an atheist who was just trying to embarrass Christians. And so on and so on.

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I said it again the other day, but then I had second thoughts. “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” I said, but is that really true? Have you ever thought about the full range of opinions we’re implicitly endorsing by saying everyone is entitled to believe whatever they believe?

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OMG, Biblical Christianity is dying!

Now this is more like what I was expecting yesterday: overblown Christian hysteria in reaction to Election Day’s free reality check. Writing for forbes.com, Bill Flax weeps and wails over the imminent demise of Biblical Christianity in America.

And it’s all a terrible misunderstanding. Christians never wanted a culture war, you see. They just wanted to be left alone. If only those mean old liberals had just given them the chance to stay quiet and neutral on issues of society and morality.

In the election’s aftermath, the culture war looks like a rout. Few ever relished this fight; most preferred simply to be left alone. We aren’t community organizers. Sadly, neutrality was not realistic. No, being Switzerland was never an option. By not defending America’s heritage of limited government, free markets and biblical morality, we’re being overrun a la Belgium.

Yes, those poor disorganized believers who were barely able to raise billions of dollars and initiate successful drives to add anti-gay amendments to the constitutions of roughly two-thirds of the states in the Union—they aren’t community organizers. They’ve never defended limited government, free markets, or biblical morality. They’re all just weak and helpless victims here.

Come on, work with me on this one.

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Primitive Creationism

One thing I think Ken Ham and Kent Hovind do rather well is to remind us how primitive young-earth creationism really is. They know, even without looking at any evidence, that the primitive God of Genesis 1 and 2 hasn’t got a chance of coming up with anything as advanced as our modern, scientific understanding of biology. Being a primitive invention Himself, He is limited to using only the techniques available to the imagination of unscientific and illiterate people.

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Bearding the lion

A long time ago, I heard a story about how young men in ancient times would prove their courage and manhood by sneaking up to the den of a lion, giving the lion’s beard a good sharp tug, and then running away without harming the lion. If I remember correctly, the bravest of the young men would do this without even bringing any weapons for self defense. The whole point of the exercise was to prove how bravely you could face a superior foe, and (ideally) to show that you were fast enough and agile enough to escape unscathed from such an encounter.

I can’t help but think that similar bravado lies behind creationists who try to take on people like Aron Ra, even though they’re going to get eaten alive, metaphorically speaking.

Well, ok, maybe just a LITTLE warming

The problem with trying to deny a worsening problem is that it becomes increasingly difficult to deny. And then what do you do? At Exxon, they’re trying the “admit it, but downplay it” approach.

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson says fears about climate change, drilling, and energy dependence are overblown. In a speech Wednesday, Tillerson acknowledged that burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet, but said society will be able to adapt…

Tillerson blamed a public that is “illiterate” in science and math, a “lazy” press, and advocacy groups that “manufacture fear” for energy misconceptions in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ok, so maybe anthropogenic global warming is real, but it’s nothing we can’t handle, right? And those climate scientists who are turning out to have been right all along? They were just doing it to manufacture fear. But at least the public is basically illiterate in science and math, so they’re easy to bamboozle.

Considering how things are turning out, though, you have to ask: bamboozled by whom?