Thursday, August 03, 2006

Re: Why the Bible is wrong #1


Thanks for your message. It is my long-standing policy not to get involved in private discussions of creation, evolution or design issues, so as is my normal practice when I get a private message on those issues, I post any reply to my blog, CreationEvolutionDesign, after removing the sender's personal identifying information. Read my reply there when it appears, if you wish.

--- -- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Cc: [...]
Sent: Wednesday, August 02, 2006 6:38 PM
Subject: Why the Bible is wrong

Dear Mr. Jones,
You are a very intelligent man, so you should be able to easily understand this.


It is extremely easy to disprove the basic tenets of the Bible, thus discrediting the creation myth and anything else of a supernatural nature that relates to the basic tenets.

If one's starting assumption is that there is nothing "of a supernatural nature" then one does not even have to bother "disprov[ing] the basic tenets of the Bible." The Bible would then by one's starting assumption of Naturalism (i.e. nature is all there is = there is no supernatural = there is no God = there is no supernatural revelation) be false.

In that case, if Naturalism is true (which it isn't), then the Bible's account of origins in Genesis would, as atheist Richard Dawkins has stated, have "no more special status than the belief of a particular West African tribe that the world was created from the excrement of ants":

"Nearly all peoples have developed their own creation myth, and the Genesis story is just the one that happened to have been adopted by one particular tribe of Middle Eastern herders. It has no more special status than the belief of a particular West African tribe that the world was created from the excrement of ants. All these myths have in common that they depend upon the deliberate intentions of some kind of supernatural being." (Dawkins, R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, p.316)

However Naturalism is just another form of the Fallacy of Apriorism, or Invincible Ignorance:

"For the diehard naturalist (and I include here naturalistic theists like Howard Van Till), such an eliminative induction will never be enough and always constitute an argument from ignorance. But in refusing to countenance eliminative inductions that establish specified complexity, naturalists are guilty of their own argument from ignorance. Fearnside and Holther, in their classic Fallacy -- The Counterfeit of Argument, call it the argument from `invincible ignorance.' Alternatively, they refer to it as `apriorism.' ... If evolutionary biologists can discover or construct detailed, testable, indirect Darwinian pathways that account for the emergence of irreducibly and minimally complex biological systems like the bacterial flagellum, then more power to them -- intelligent design will quickly pass into oblivion. But until that happens, the eliminative induction that attributes specified complexity to the bacterial flagellum constitutes a legitimate scientific inference. The only way to deny its legitimacy is by appealing to some form of apriorism. The apriorism of choice these days is, of course, naturalism. And that apriorism engenders an argument not just of ignorance but of invincible ignorance. Indeed, any specified complexity (and therefore design) that might actually be present in biological systems becomes invisible as soon as one consents to this apriorism. If biological systems actually are designed, not only won't Van Till see it but he can't see it. This is invincible ignorance." (Dembski, W.A., "Naturalism's Argument from Invincible Ignorance: A Response to Howard Van Till," International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design, September 7, 2002. My emphasis)

where "no amount of evidence seems to be clinching. ... the facts are simply ignored or brushed aside as somehow deceptive, and the principles are reaffirmed in unshakable conviction":

"Apriorism: `invincible ignorance' ... There does remain, nonetheless, a cast of mind which seems peculiarly closed to evidence. When confronted with such a mind, one feels helpless, for no amount of evidence seems to be clinching. Frequently the facts are simply ignored or brushed aside as somehow deceptive, and the principles are reaffirmed in unshakable conviction. One seems confronted with what has been called `invincible ignorance.'" (Fearnside, W.W. & Holther, W.B., "Fallacy the Counterfeit of Argument," Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1959, 25th Printing, pp.111,113)

Jesus Himself pointed out that if one's philosophy is Naturalism, ie. did not "listen to Moses and the Prophets" then one "will not be convinced" of any evidence, "even if someone rises from the dead":

Luke 16:19-31 (NIV) "19There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, `Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' 25"But Abraham replied, `Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' 27"He answered, `Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' 29"Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' 30" `No, father Abraham,' he said, `but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' 31"He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

Indeed, then one would not even have to argue against the Bible, as you have done below, which shows that you don't really believe your own stated position is true!

The creation story culminates in the so called "original sin," which seeking redemption from is what the entire rest of the Bible is about.

Not really. The term "original sin" is not in the Bible, and it was (I understand) a theological inference drawn by St Augustine (354-430 AD). It is, in effect a theological theory attempting to explain a range of Biblical (and indeed empirical) facts. The late British Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton noted that "original sin" by which I take it he meant the universal fact of sin "is the only part of Christian theology which can really be [empirically] proved" :

"Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin-a fact as practical as potatoes. .... Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved." (Chesterton, G.K., "Orthodoxy," [1908], Fontana: London, 1961, reprint, p.15)

As the Apostle Paul pointed out, we all (and therefore each one individually) have sinned (i.e. have fallen short of God's high moral and ethical standard) and it is each individual's actual sin (not "original sin") that we need "redemption from" (to use your own words):

Romans 3:22-24 (NIV): "22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

However, there logically could never have been such an event.

Whether the account of temptation and fall of Adam and Eve is literal or symbolic (and I personally consider it, on the evidence of the New Testament, e.g. John 8:44; Rom 16:20; Rev. 12:9; 20:2 to be the latter), the fact is that there was "such an event" (whether or not we can remember it) when you (and me and every human being) became conscious of our individual sin (i.e. our falling short of God's high standard) and we rejected (or in rare cases accepted) God.

It is our individual rejection of God that I personally regard the Biblical symbolic story of Adam (which in the original Hebrew means "Man", i.e. Everyman) and Eve, and the fall into sin, is primarily about, and it is that individual rejection of God - not "original sin" - that we each are guilty before God of, that we will be held accountable to Him for (Mat 16:27; Rom 2:5-6; 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 20:12-13; 22:12).

But if you reject that you are a sinner before God and need to ask Him for His forgiveness, then it goes without saying that you will reject the Biblical story of Adam and Eve and everything else in the Bible. And indeed, vice-versa.

All decisions, like everything else, require causes, or as a physiologist might say -- antecedent factors. All such causes or antecedent factors that led to any and all decisions made by Adam and Eve were supplied directly by God. God made them and everything else in their world. Given the particular set of circumstances that Adam and Eve were in, there would have been no other decision they could possibly have make but to have eaten the forbidden fruit.

See above on that I personally interpret "Adam and Eve" as being symbolic for Everyman, including you and me.

The fallacy in your argument is that, as a philosophical materialist-naturalist, you assume that the law of cause and effect which applies in the physical sphere, also applies in the moral sphere. The fallacy becomes clear if and when you claim that you personally are not morally responsible for your "decisions" but blame "antecedent factors" for them. You can try pleading that to your partner ("my genes made me do it dear"!), or in court sometime, or indeed before God eventually.

But as founder of the ID movement and Berkeley Professor Emeritus of Law Phillip E. Johnson pointed out, the USA's (and Australia's and presumably every nation's) criminal justice system is "based straightforwardly on assumptions derived from biblical theism. Humans are seen as endowed with an innate understanding of the difference between moral right and wrong--meaning an absolute moral standard that is independent of legal rules. The law holds us responsible if we choose wrong instead of right, just as God does":

"The expanded insanity defense was endorsed by the leading experts and enacted in the federal system and many states. (In California, judges left the old insanity rule unchanged but introduced the new philosophy directly into the law of murder by saying that a defendant lacked `malice aforethought' if he couldn't control his conduct.) The new rules lasted just until they succeeded in generating outcomes the public recognized as crazy, including the insanity acquittal of John Hinckley--who shot President Reagan and his press secretary in hopes of attracting the notice of the movie star Jodie Foster. Of course, Hinckley's motivation really was loony, but he also knew the wrongfulness of what he was doing and chose to do it. Public opinion promptly forced a change back to the old rules, with additional measures designed to ensure that defendants acquitted for insanity would be confined just as securely as if they had been convicted. John Hinckley is still behind bars and going nowhere. What is particularly fascinating about the traditional insanity doctrine, called the M'Naghten Rule by lawyers, is that it is based straightforwardly on assumptions derived from biblical theism. Humans are seen as endowed with an innate understanding of the difference between moral right and wrong--meaning an absolute moral standard that is independent of legal rules. The law holds us responsible if we choose wrong instead of right, just as God does--and science does not. Criminal defendants are excused for insanity only if this innate capacity for moral understanding is so damaged that they are comparable to small children, who do not grasp what killing means even if they pick up a loaded pistol, point it at a playmate, and pull the trigger. (A California six-year-old was recently found incapable of committing attempted murder after he beat a baby almost to death. No one protested the decision.) Insanity in this restricted sense saves a killer from the death penalty, but it does not lead to freedom, because an adult who does not know right from wrong belongs in custody. Whatever scientific naturalists may say, criminal law has found it necessary to assume that humans are moral agents created in the image of God, with a divine gift of freedom and a knowledge of God's moral order written on our hearts. Even James Q. Wilson, who doesn't believe the premise, likes the conclusions that follow from that premise. When you are dealing with human beings, naturalism is a bust--especially as a methodology." (Johnson, P.E., "Those Madcap Menendez Boys," Books & Culture Magazine, Nov/Dec 1997, Vol. 3, No. 6, p.12)

It is logically inconceivable that God could not have been responsible for the behavior of his own design. It is not possible to defeat this argument. No beliefs in "free-will" will suffice. All decisions require reasons -- bar none, and all the "reasons" were provided by God.

See above. Your "God" is a tame straw man idol of your own making. The Biblical God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6, etc) and endowed him with reason and freedom to make, and therefore to be accountable for, his moral decisons (see Genesis 3 for starters).

But it is indeed "not possible to defeat this argument" on your materialistic-naturalistic assumptions. That the conclusion is so evidently false in the moral sphere (neither you, nor anyone else, could consistently live by your "argument") is a reductio ad absurdum of those assumptions.

Continued in part #2.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
Evolution Quotes Book'

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