Wednesday, August 27, 2008

They Hate Our Freedom

Sometimes I just think I'm in bizarro world. James White provided a link to a transcript between the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, and the judge in his case, William Young. I think White regards Young's comments as profound or something. Here's a quick summary.

Reid: I am at war with America because you killed 2 million Iraqi kids.

Judge Young: Nope. You hate our freedom.

Me: WHAT?!?

What Reid did was wrong. The passengers on the plane that he tried to blow up were not responsible for the sanctions imposed on Iraq. But let's face facts. The U.S. did impose sanctions on Iraq that had the effect of starving a lot of kids. Maybe not 2 million. But it was a lot. Bush prior to the invasion touted the U.N. figures of 5000 children per month dying due to lack of food and medicine as justification for the invasion (which would be a pretty decent reason if not for the fact that the children were dying because the U.S. and Britain imposed the sanctions.) Whether this was the right thing to do in our effort to remove Saddam or not, we have to admit one thing. It is quite naturally going to make some people mad. It won't matter if they are Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, or atheist. Starve lots of kids (at least hundreds of thousands by any measure) and some people will get mad, and maybe even violent.

To pretend that Reid really hates us because we're free is insanity. How can we hope to solve the problem of violence from those in the Middle East when we won't admit the real reasons for their rage, even when they expressly tell us?

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Jochebed Problem

Farrell Till manages to dig up some interesting tidbits in Scripture to reveal problems with inerrancy. One that I find interesting relates to the length of time of the sojourn in Egypt for the Israelites. According to Exodus 12:40 the Egyption sojourn lasted 430 years. But the chronology of Moses doesn't permit such a long stay. The relevant texts are below as well as a family tree describing the problem.

Gen 46:26 All the persons belonging to Jacob, who came to Egypt, his direct descendants, not including the wives of Jacob's sons, were sixty-six persons in all

Ex 6: 18 The sons of Kohath: Amram and Izhar and Hebron and Uzziel; and the length of Kohath's life was one hundred and thirty-three years.

Ex 6: 20 Amram married his father's sister Jochebed, and she bore him Aaron and Moses; and the length of Amram's life was one hundred and thirty-seven years.

Ex 7:7 Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

Ex 12:40 Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.

Num 26:59 The name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and she bore to Amram: Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam.

Let's give the inerrantist every benefit of the doubt and assume that Kohath entered Egypt immediately after birth. Assume that the last thing he did in his life was to sire Amram at the age of 133. Similarly assume the last thing Amram did in his life was to sire Moses at the age of 137. With Moses leading the Exodus at the age of 80 we have only (133+137+80=) 350 years (ignoring pregnancy periods) for the Egyptian sojourn. Not enough time according to Ex 12:40.

How does an inerrantist handle this problem? Insert gaps in the geneology of course. Works most of the time, right?

But we have a bit of a problem in this case. First of all we know Kohath was alive when the entry to Egypt ocurred. He's listed amongst the descendants that entered and we're told that 66 in all entered. Kohath must be included to reach the number 66.

So how about a gap between Kohath and Amram? Normally this might be conceviable. But we have some inconvenient facts in this case. Amram married his father's sister, Jochebed. And there is no gap betweeen Levi and Jochebed. Why? Because of Num 26:59. Jochebed is distinguished from Levi's other children as having been born to him in Egypt, not prior to the entry into Egypt like some of his other children. She is Levi's direct descendent and sister of Kohath.

Note also that this is the understanding of extra-biblical Jewish literature. See The Testimony of the 12 Patriarchs 3:11-12. Here Jochebed is clearly Levi's direct descendant.

Given that Jochebed bore Moses and Aaron (Ex 6:20) we can see that there are no opportunities for gaps in this geneology. The Egyptian sojourn cannot have exceeded 350 years. But Ex 12:40 asserts that it was 430 years. Which is right?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Responding to Presuppositional Apologists

Dr. Gene Whitmer has an excellent paper detailing tactics for use against presuppositional apologetics. After posting the paper Dr. Whitmer participated in a very interesting interview with Gene Cook of Unchained Radio where he was able to apply his methods against Gene's arguments.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to Bob Dutko

I've previously spoken with Bob Dutko from the local Christian radio station in Detroit. I'd spoken with him a fourth time back in May and I hadn't posted that conversation. You can listen to it here.

Notice how he greets me. Kind of a bit of a groan in there. It seems he's to the point where he knows what he's about to go through when he takes my call. I gotta give him credit though. He takes my calls and he's not hostile to me. I enjoy our conversations.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jason Engwer's Apologetic Methodology: Insult and Obscure

I'm sort of dialoging with Jason Engwer at Triablogue. It's a very disjointed exchange, because Engwer doesn't comment at DC where the initial blog entry that started the exchange is placed. He responds at Triablogue. But he won't allow me to reply at Triablogue. So I've been responding at DC. The reason for this is that I'm banned at Triablogue.

One shining example of my irresponsible behavior that resulted in my being banned can be found here. I've now learned that there are other "criticisms" beyond my citation of Clement in that thread that justify my being banned, but I'm not being told what they are. There is a lot of vagueness in the explanation. This gives the appearance that the reasons have been explained without actually having to explain them.

But whatever. This is not an important issue. But what I notice is this same methodology (vague references to other links where answers are supposedly offered) is the same methodology Jason often uses in other debates.

For instance, in one of my posts I mentioned that Christians purged many heretical documents, which could plausibly explain why we don't have as much information about the variety of views from ancient Christians as we might otherwise have. Jason replies that these claims of mine were answered long ago in threads I abandoned, such as here and here.

I went ahead and read through the first link, where I encountered statements such as the following:

As I told you in the previous thread I linked to above, the fact that such things have to be explained to you is ridiculous. It’s even worse when you continue to misrepresent the subject after having had these things explained to you in another discussion.

I had to wonder if Jason is capable of alternative explanations for why so many people "abandon" discussion with him. I've wondered about this before.

Anyway, back to the supposed "replies" to my claims. In this thread Jason had asked me why Christians didn't continue to forge documents in the name of Paul beyond the time of Marcion. Why even stop? I replied that maybe people did and the orthodox tradition destroyed the evidence. The documents found of Nag Hammadi show a variety of views about Jesus unknown to us moderns until relatively recently due to the (temporary) successful Christian suppression.

Jason's response is far removed from the point I'm making. "Are you suggesting major revisions of Roman history, since Romans sometimes burned evidence? Or U.S. history? What are Constantine's motives? Why would people in the time of Constantine reject books that are accepted by the mainstream? Do you know how hard it is to cover up evidence of widely accepted documents?"

I truly believe that his is pure obscurantism. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Jason just doesn't know what I'm saying. But I've seen this before and at this point I just kind of say forget it. I'm not taking the time to clarify what I'm really saying. Because I kind of think he knows, but doesn't want to address it.

So this is not even a response to my point in that thread, let alone a response to what I'm saying now. But Jason points to this like it's relevant, when it wasn't even relevant in the first place.

This is his method of reasoning. In this same thread where he says he replied to my comments about Nag Hammadi he similarly points to other threads where I'm supposedly answered on other topics.

Jason-You're repeating what you said earlier about Roman Catholic support for my position on Ignatius, but you aren't interacting with what I said in defense of my position in my last post on the subject.

Jon-What in the thread you linked to is in any way relevant to my point (once more for emphasis because you often miss my point) that forgery is all over the Ignatian Epistles as all sides agree, so this means we need to approach them with skepticism. I think you are again waving towards a website that contains supposed refutations that really aren't there.

He had said I'd been answered, so I went through the thread to see. There was nothing. And when I asked him to show me which arguments addressed mine he ignored the question.

Similar methodology can be found here.

Jon-He's certainly talking about figures of speech, but that's not all he's talking about. Here is some relevant information from Carrier.

Jason-Carrier's claims are addressed by Roger Pearse in the material I linked to. You need to interact with what Pearse has documented rather than repeating what Richard Carrier said.

I spent the next two threads trying to get Jason to show me where this argument from Pearse was. He refused. There was no argument.

What about the second thread where Jason claims he replied to my point about Christians destroying evidence? I read that one from top to bottom, holding my nose through comments such as the following:

I'm not going to take the time to write out and discuss all of the relevant passages for somebody as irresponsible and dishonest as you are. You've wasted my time and the time of other readers more than enough already.

There can only be one reason why anyone would cease responding to Jason, right? His arguments are just unanswerable.

Anyway, what of his "replies" to my statements about Christian censorship and purges? The subject doesn't even come up. Are there some comments in that thread that are relevant to my statements about Nag Hammadi? We're not told. But Jason would have us conclude that I've been refuted anyway I suppose.

And once again within this very thread we do see more of Jason using this methodology of "I've answered you elsewhere" and when challenged he goes mute. Here is what is offered.

Jason-You keep repeating objections we've already addressed without attempting to interact with what we wrote in response previously.

Jon-Are you referring to this link here:

where you put forward your gross straw man characterizations of the skeptical position as if it entails that gullible people would never consider evidence? And when I asked you to show us where Loftus had argued in that way you resolutely refused to answer, time and time and time and time again, and then finally appealed to something John didn't write until after your gross straw man characterization? Is this the thread where I need to "interact" with what you wrote previously?....Are you here again proceeding with this misrepresnation and denying that Benny Hinn's followers are also concerned about evidence, or are you again very vaguely appealing to a link with lots of comments and asserting that some sort of refutation of my point is contained within it if I'd only look hard enough? If so, where is this supposed refutation? Show me what you said in that link, and how it is a refutation of what I have here.

Another method of obscuring that is even better than pointing to threads (which can be read and shown to be irrelevant) is to point to books that are not readily available to your opponent. We see this also from Jason in various threads, including the very thread I'm currently discussing. He points to a book from Jefford, and when I reply that I don't have the book, so I can't evaluate the claim, he says:

"your unwillingness to consult that book wouldn't refute my citation of it."

Well, OK. But when we can see how fast and loose Jason is with threads which he claims "reply" to arguments I've made, does it really make sense for me to invest in these books which Jason says reply to my claims? What kind of confidence can I put into assertions like that? I'd need to know that Jason is trustworthy when he claims a source refutes my argument, and I find that he is not.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Religion-Cooties Connection

Andrew Sullivan noted some interesting evolutionary research. I'll just excerpt the same section he did.

Their hypothesis is that in places where disease is rampant, it behoves groups not to mix with one another more than is strictly necessary, in order to reduce the risk of contagion. They therefore predict that patterns of behaviour which promote group exclusivity will be stronger in disease-ridden areas. Since religious differences are certainly in that category, they specifically predict that the number of different religions in a place will vary with the disease load. Which is, as they report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, the case.

Proving the point involved collating a lot of previous research.

Even defining what constitutes a religion is fraught with difficulty. But using accepted definitions of uniqueness, exclusivity, autonomy and superiority to other religions they calculated that the average number of religions per country is 31. The range, though, is enormous—from 3 to 643. Côte d’Ivoire, for example, has 76 while Norway has 13, and Brazil has 159 while Canada has 15. They then did the same thing for the number of parasitic diseases found in each country. The average here was 200, with a range from 178 to 248.

Obviously, some of the differences between countries are caused by differences in their areas and populations. But these can be accounted for statistically. When they have been, the correlation between the number of religions in a place and how disease-ridden it is looks impressive. There is less than one chance in 10,000 that it has come about accidentally.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Powerful Evidence for Evolution

I'm not extremely well informed about the evidence for common ancestry between humans, chimps, and other species. But from what I've learned so far this evidence described below is regarded as among the most powerful.