Have we mentioned lately that Islamic culture is evil? »« ‘Tis the season for naked commerce!

Ray probably exists, I think…

Ray has asked for evidence that Darwin existed and, as expected, has decided to imitate his strawman view of atheists by declaring every piece of evidence unacceptable because we can’t be absolutely certain.

Here’s my response:

“Ray’s right, we can’t be absolutely certain that Darwin existed. We can’t be absolutely certain about any historical event.

But absolute certainty is a red herring, the only issue is one of reasonable certainty – that a claim has been verified as ‘most probably true’, to the best of our ability to do so. Some claims have more supporting evidence than others. Additionally, some claims require more evidence than others before they become ‘reasonable’.

The only answer anyone needed to give, and the only answer that is correct is this:

We have sufficient evidence to claim that Darwin most probably existed and that the events attributed to his life (the voyage on the Beagle, his writings, articles about him by contemporaries – favorable and unfavorable, his family line, etc) are most probably accurate.

The same is true for George Washington, though the “I cannot tell a lie” story is most likely false, and there may be other romanticized, mytho-heroic tales attributed to him which aren’t very accurate.

The same cannot be said for Paul Bunyan or King Arthur… or Jesus.

When we try to determine whether a particular historical figure existed, we have to collect the stories about them to define the personage we’re trying to verify. If the preponderance of evidence confirms a significant portion of those stories, it’s very probable that the individual existed.

If the stories are supported by nothing more than anecdotal evidence or hearsay, they’re unreliable. If they also include claims of supernatural/magical abilities, they’re better relegated to the “tall tales” bin.

Ray has mistakenly tried to represent the case for Jesus as being of a similar nature to the question of Darwin’s existence. They’re not remotely comparable – and if we find out tomorrow that Darwin never existed, that he was a fictitious invention, it doesn’t change a single thing about the science of evolution or the value of the discoveries attributed to him. The same isn’t true for Jesus.

Ray is comparing apples and motorcycles and making a childish appeal to absolute certainty where no such appeal is required or justified.”

Though that will come as no surprise to anyone.

Merry Christmas (to those celebrating it for any reason). Happy Holidays, or not, to those who celebrate something else, or nothing at all. :)

Comments

  1. says

    Well, we can take small solace in the possibility that Ray doesn’t exist, and maybe with a slight adjustment in dosage, we’ll all be relieved of our nightmarish delusions…Let us pray…

  2. says

    Ray might exist, but I have reservations about the existence of his brain… It is interesting to me that Ray and those like him resort to rejecting the entire concept of knowledge in order to avoid the weakness of their position. Instead of supporting his position, Ray has apparently decided to say that no position has any more validity than any other. Therefore, I suppose he can claim that his beliefs are no more wrong than anyone else’s. If that’s the best you can do, why bother?Happy Monkey!

  3. says

    declaring every piece of evidence unacceptable because we can’t be absolutely certain.One analogy that I like to use is that of a crossword puzzle: even if you’re only, say, 20% certain of your answer to any given clue, once you’ve completed the crossword, you can be quite confident that you’ve filled it in correctly, because all of the 20%-certain answers fit together. The down answers provide a check on the across answers, and vice-versa.The evidences you’ve mentioned for Darwin and Washington are the same thing: any of them could be forged, invented, or misinterpreted, but when multiple independent lines of evidence confirm each other, each one becomes more reliable.(As an aside: on Nov. 4, 1996, the New York Times ran a crossword puzzle that predicted who would win the election the next day. It was constructed in such a way that one of the entries fit either “Clinton” or “Bob Dole”. The down clues were contrived to fit either answer (e.g., “support provider” could be either “IRA” or “bra”). But this was hailed as a cruciverbalist tour de force, and isn’t something that’s likely to occur by accident.)

  4. says

    Of course, we have the evidence that Darwin existed because we have his own writings, correspondence between his contemporaries and him and between others discussing him. There are his descendants. Lots of photographs taken during his lifetime too.Oh, BTW, you forgot to title the post.

  5. says

    Found it:”Alex said… Matt D “Ray has mistakenly tried to represent the case for Jesus as being of a similar nature to the question of Darwin’s existence.”Take a look at a book called “Case for Christ” where Lee Strobel uses a range of evidence to test the claims of Jesus (historical, archeological etc), it’s a great read.”…absolute certainty is a red herring, the only issue is one of reasonable certainty – that a claim has been verified as ‘most probably true’, to the best of our ability to do so”Ironically this is how I came to Christ, after investigating the evidence for and against his claims I decided his claims were “most probably true” eg. was Jesus resurrected and if not what happened to the body of Jesus? Since accepting Jesus into my life I now have the experience of countless answered prayers, blessings and proof that he is in fact the Son of God.Hope this helps, God bless.Alex”

  6. says

    I saw it…it’s not worth responding to. I’m very familiar with Strobel’s books and I find him to be one of the weakest of all the apologists. Any atheist who was convinced of the truth of Christianity after reading Strobel’s books wasn’t a skeptic or particularly skilled at critical thinking – they were a nominal atheist, who was convinced based on logical fallacies and a lack of desire to actually investigate and question the claims he made.The same isn’t true for all converts. Josh McDowell’s books take far more work to debunk, Philosophical theologians like Plantinga require a fairly thorough understanding of some deep philosophical arguments in order to find the flaws. Strobel, on the other hand, requires that one only bother to read one of the many responses to his books.I’d point out though, that these pseudo-intellectual arguments which people claim convinced them of the truth of Christianity fly in the face of the sort of Christianity they wind up believing in.If the Christian god is real and wants people to believe in him, it should be a trivial matter for him to demonstrate this.If the Christian god is real, why would he need someone to FIRST be convinced that he’s real – by bad arguments and logical fallacies – before revealing himself to them more directly?It’s absurd, in the extreme…and a contradiction that I’ve never seen an apologist address.

  7. says

    I’ve been following/commenting on Ray’s blog for about a week now since hearing you mention it on NPR I think. I was going to comment on this post, but you pretty much covered what I wanted to say, Matt. Basically that Darwin’s existence or not does not affect the validity of evolution, but that the existence of Jesus is crucial to Christianity.I’ve been thinking of emailing but I’ll just throw this out now: I wish you would do a show about belief as choice. It drives me nuts when theists say that people “choose” to be atheists. I hear callers to TAE say it sometimes and you let it slide. I have no idea how I could choose to believe something without evidence.

  8. says

    “If the Christian god is real, why would he need someone to FIRST be convinced that he’s real – by bad arguments and logical fallacies – before revealing himself to them more directly?It’s absurd, in the extreme…and a contradiction that I’ve never seen an apologist address.”Good point, Matt. One of many things that has always bugged me is that nobody can tell me why god has such a high opinion of faith. If he exists and wants people to know him, why insist on that method in the first place?Christians tell me faith is so great because god tells us we’re doing his will when we engage in it. But they can’t tell me WHY he likes it. “He just does” won’t cut the mustard.”You’re supposed to believe without proof” is an enormous red flag that a belief system is likely false. There’s no compelling reason for a real god who desires a relationship with people to use these scattershot, imprecise tactics. “You can’t know god’s mind” isn’t a good response to this, either.

  9. says

    I’ll add that Strobel purports to present “evidence” in the same way that it would be presented in court, but never actually interviews anyone who would present a counterargument. Since accepting Jesus into my life I now have the experience of countless answered prayers, blessings and proof that he is in fact the Son of God.That’s all well and good for you – but what about the many people who want to believe, but don’t receive “blessings and proof”? Their faith isn’t strong enough? They’re asking for the wrong things?Or could it be simply that you’re seeing what you want to see?

  10. says

    “One of many things that has always bugged me is that nobody can tell me why god has such a high opinion of faith. If he exists and wants people to know him, why insist on that method in the first place?”Not only that. Think about it. Love based on faith without truly knowing the person less if not meaninles to god. The person may think he/she loves god, but how can they really know without really knowing god (besides having a book about him). They really just love an idea of god, not the real god since they dont know ANYTHING about him. Take a celebrity as an example for god. Lets say 2 people walk up to Brad Pitt and tell him they love him,his personality, his essence etc more than anything else in the world. The one person is a personal friend of Pitt, they have known each other for decades. The other person is a random fan who never met the star, never talked to him, never had a genuine conversation or argument about anything with him. Who will Pitt really believe? And whos love confession will Pitt value more and recognise as real love, based on Pitts actual character and personality and not on how he appears to people through his movies and tabloids stories?

  11. says

    Wait, its even worse. Gods make or break criteria for entering heaven actually requires you not to know for sure. He only shows up once you are dead and judges you instantly whether or not you accepted him as the true and only god. So you have to made your mind before getting proof that he actually exists. Thats his only break or make criteria. It doesnt matter what you did or believed 10 minutes before you died. If you accept him 5 seconds before you die as your god, you're fine.Edward Current showed in this halarious clip how ridiculous this idea is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urlTBBKTO68&feature=channel_pagedead atheist in heaven: ok how about i start worshiping and praising you now?God: Too late, you failed your test in live and now you must face eternal consequences!dead atheist: But i thought you were supposed to be all merciful and forgivingGod: Only to people to believe that i exist. Once i make someone die and they see me, they can't change their mind!!!

  12. says

    What I want to know is what happens to Alzheimer victims? What if you believed in Christ all your life, but ten years before you die you get Alzheimers and you forget that you are a Christian? Does God give you a pass or does he hold it against you if you die in a state of disbelief because you woke up your last morning and forgot about Christ?

  13. says

    Tommy,I imagine that falls under the “eternal security” clause – once saved, always saved. Or they extend to them the same leniency they extend to children and to people who are developmentally challenged – they aren’t “accountable”, so God gives them a pass.They make it all up as they go along, then insist that they don’t.

  14. says

    I should add – these apply, of course, if they believed in Jesus in the first place. If they didn’t, then they get Alzheimer’s – they go to hell. That’s only fair!

  15. says

    -C, Curt Cameron:Julia Sweeney asked a related question in “Letting Go of God”: “what if you had a nose job, and you liked it? Would they make you go back to your old nose in heaven?”But yeah, the question of one’s appearance in heaven opens up a whole can of worms. Whoever came up with that world should’ve asked the SF fan community before publishing, because he obviously didn’t think it through.F’rinstance, what does my grandmother look like in heaven? Is she the little girl who first enchanted my great-grandparents? Is she the young woman with whom my grandfather fell in love? Is she the old matron I knew and loved?Or what if your personality changes as the result of a stroke? Which personality will you have in heaven?IIRC a similar question was asked ages ago, when it was being argued that God would reconstitute people in heaven from their component atoms: if a cannibal eats a missionary, and the missionary goes to heaven while the cannibal goes to hell, what happens to the atoms that first constituted the missionary’s liver, and later parts of the cannibal’s body?Normally, the answer to these questions would be “If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes / And other science facts / Just repeat to yourself “It’s just a show / I should really just relax”” but of course there are people who do take this seriously.

  16. says

    Heh, Ray reminds me, to a lesser extent, of the guy who called in the other week trying to convince you that you needed faith to “believe you were on earth”. If you ask me, these guys are verging on solipsism trying to “catch” us with these poor arguments.

  17. says

    @nobelregarding the belief as a choice thing, I tried to make up an analogy once that choosing to change your belief based on Pascal’s wager was like trying to convince yourself that your right hand is made of dust, and that if you ever touch anything with it, then it will crumble and horrible things will happen. Imagine doing this to win a bet, and honestly believing it to be true. Is anyone capable of changing their beliefs in such a way, based solely on threats or bribes?I know it’s a terrible analogy, but I honestly can’t think of anything better. I thought I’d throw that out in case you or anyone else had a better analogy to demonstrate the problem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>