Sunday, May 31, 2009

Why Are We In Afghanistan?

According to conventional wisdom, Iraq may have been a mistake. But not Afghanistan. We had to get OBL. He had killed 3000 Americans. We had no choice. And the Taliban wouldn't hand him over.

In fact, that's not quite true. The Taliban did offer to hand bin Laden over to a third party according to the Washington Post. They made requests that truthfully just don't sound so strange to me. They wanted evidence of his guilt before handing him over. We could have provided the evidence and brought justice to him. Instead he remains free. And we fight against a government in Afghanistan that did nothing to us.

Of course we're bringing freedom, helping women, bringing aid, etc. Wait. Scratch that. That was how the Soviets thought about their invasion of Afghanistan. Why are we there?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ever Heard of Pakistan?

Did you know that 2.4 million Pakistanis have been displaced as the U.S. and its proxy government in Pakistan bombs the crap out of residential areas in hopes of snagging a few Taliban fighters? Women and children are dying by the hundreds due to the bombs, not to mention the vast numbers dying in the deserts. I find this to be a strange way of going about protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism. How does enraging millions of members of a nation that is a nuclear power make us safe?

It's interesting to contrast coverage of these events with the displaced at Hurricane Katrina. If I'm reading the numbers right it looks like fewer than 30,000 people were stranded, most of whom were housed at the Superdome. In response hundreds of millions of dollars were pledged in aid from around the world, from such nations as Cuba and Venezuala. Why so little outcry about this far greater catastrophe in Pakistan? If I didn't happen to have a friend from Pakistan I'd probably know nothing about it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I'm Impressed with Ken Hamm

And his partner in crime, Jason Lisle. They of course are from Answers in Genesis. They debated Hugh Ross and Walt Kaiser on the John Ankerberg show. You might also say they debated John Ankerberg. Though he was supposed to act as moderator his bias was transparent throughout.

Here's why I'm impressed. Of course they are wrong on the science. But their biblical arguments are pretty good. And despite Ankerberg's absurd bias against them they remained composed.

One exchange I found funny was a question posed to Ken Hamm. He said something like "Before I answer I think there are two things that are important to keep in mind." He described the two things quickly, and Ankerberg immediately gave microphone control right back to the old earther's before Hamm even got to his answer. This was typical throughout the debate. Meanwhile Kaiser would ramble on and on and say nothing for long stretches, yet Ankerberg wouldn't interrupt him. Or when he was asked a question he'd just refuse to answer. For instance Hamm asked him "Did cancer exist before the fall?" Kaiser responds "I don't think they knew what cancer was back then." Such was typical of Kaiser, yet Ankerberg treated him with reverence, whereas his contempt for Hamm was obvious.

I don't know much about Ken Hamm. He might be a jerk, and maybe Ankerberg treated him unfairly for this reason. If what I know of his treatment of AIG Australia branch is accurate, then he's dished out far worse. Within this debate though I have to admit he did well in spite of having the deck stacked against him.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bush's Biblical Intelligence Briefings

GQ has a slideshow depicting the cover photos for the intelligence briefings that were provided for Bush by Rumsfield. Big color photos of the action along with bible quotes for headlines. Frank Rich comments in the New York Times:

"Take the one dated April 3, 2003, two weeks into the invasion, just as Shock and Awe hit its first potholes. Two days earlier, on April 1, a panicky Pentagon had begun spreading its hyped, fictional account of the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch to distract from troubling news of setbacks. On April 2, Gen. Joseph Hoar, the commander in chief of the United States Central Command from 1991-94, had declared on the Times Op-Ed page that Rumsfeld had sent too few troops to Iraq. And so the Worldwide Intelligence Update for April 3 bullied Bush with Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Including, as it happened, into a quagmire.)"

Facts Concerning Galileo

One of my favorite lines in George's Salmon's book The Infallibility of the Church is a citation from Galileo from a tract of his on the motion of comets, which he wrote after his first trial.

"Since the motion attributed to the earth which I, as a pious and Catholic person, consider most false and not to exist, accommodates itself so well as to explain so many and such different phenomena, I shall not feel sure but that, false as it is, it may not just as deludingly correspond with the phenomena of comets."

Christians sometimes like to pretend that the Galileo affair doesn't demonstrate how science and faith conflict. We're told it really wasn't that the Church had a problem with science. Maybe it was Galileo's arrogance, shoving new claims down everyone's throats. There's usually some talk about how Galileo was wrong about the tides. Or there's lots of talk about how some of the Church's critics have exaggerated the conditions that Galileo was subjected to. I'm reminded of this due to a recent blog entry at str here. You might also find similar things here, or maybe here.

Did the Church really not have a problem with heliocentrism? If not, why would such men as Robert Sungenis continue to defend geocentrism (see for instance some of his offerings here)? This guy is not just some nobody. He's written books endorsed by prominent Catholic writers such as Scott Hahn, Ron Tacelli, Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, Thomas Howard, and Steven Ray. Note though that these endorsements were made before his views on the motion of the planets became public.

I'd like to offer some quotations from some documents relevant to this question from the time period for reference. Again, thes quotes are via George Salmon's The Infallibility of the Church.

Galileo's initial run-in with the church occurred because he wrote a private letter explaining that he thought the bible could be interpreted metaphorically in places in a manner consistent with his observations. At the time the church permitted mathematicians to consider Copernicanism, but only as a supposition, not as true. In other words, it was fine if they just wanted to amuse themselves with some calculations, but they were not permitted to actually believe such things.

Galileo was hauled before the Inquisition due to his private letter, which went too far. It went so far as to have a layman offer interpretation of Scripture. He was acquitted on a technicality. The letter was only a copy, not the original. So they said "Not Guilty" but basically don't do it again. They immediately then issued a decree, which reads as follows:

"Since it has come to the knowledge of this Holy Congregation that the false Pythagorean doctrine altogether opposed to the Divine Scripture of the mobility of the earth and the immobility of the sun which Nicolas Copernicus in his work De revolulionibus orbium caelestium and Didacus a Stunica in his Commentary on Job teach is being promulgated and accepted by many as may be seen from a printed letter of a certain Carmelite Father Foscarini entitled &c wherein the said Father has attempted to show that the said doctrine is consonant to truth and not opposed to Holy Scripture therefore lest this opinion insinuate itself further to the damage of Catholic truth this Congregation has decreed that the said books Copernicus De revolulionibus and Stunica on Job be suspended till they are corrected but that the book of Foscarini the Carmelite be altogether prohibited and condemned and all other books that teach the same thing."

This decree remained in effect for quite some time. For instance, here is a foreward to the Jesuit's edition of Newton's Principia

"Newton in this third book supposes the motion of the earth. We could not explain the author's propositions otherwise than by making the same supposition. We are therefore forced to sustain a character which is not our own; but we profess to pay the obsequious reverence which is due to the decrees pronounced by the sovereign Pontiffs against the motion of the earth."

So Galileo returned home, but did continue to work on such matters. He wrote the tract on comets that I quoted at the top for instance.

He used similar verbal conformity in a subsequent tract where he'd present the case in the form of a dialogue without committing himself to either view. This is what caused him some big trouble. Ultimately the Pope recognized some of his own arguments in the words of a character Galileo didn't paint too flatteringly (the character was named "Simplicio"). The book was banned and Galileo was orderd to return to Rome. He protested due to his poor health at the age of 70, but was threatened to be brought out in irons if he didn't come.

At trial he protested that he had only considered the question hypothetically without committing himself to either position. Wrong answer. Nothing can even be probable which is contrary to Scripture. He was forced to recant heliocentrism as a false, cursed, and detestable. He was then subjected to house arrest for the remainder of his life.

Maybe Galileo was sometimes arrogant. Maybe he was sometimes wrong. Maybe some church members didn't oppose heliocentrism. Maybe Galileo believed in the Bible. Maybe Copernicus did as well. None of this changes the fact that in this instance the church opposed demonstrable science because of their understanding of the Bible. This is an excellent example of some of the problems with religious thinking.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Coolest Bike Video Ever

This has nothing to do with arguments for once.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Explaining and Debunking

This guy makes great videos both explaining basic scientific knowledge and debunking Creationist nonsense. His first in his series explaining follows and his first in his series debunking is below that. All his videos are worth the time. The debunking stuff is pretty funny.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cliff Notes Version of Craig v Carrier

I think if you listen to the audio of the Craig/Carrier debate you initially think Craig performed a lot better. I think his snarky tone does score points. His expression of incredulity at Carrier's views, referring to him as a crank and so forth, I think leaves a good impression on the audience, despite the fallacious nature of these things. But I took the time to try and jot down the various threads of the debate as they occurred, and as I look back on it I'm surprised at how well Carrier did. Better than I initially realized. Here are my notes, which may be imperfect. I place in bold a couple of key points that Carrier made that to my mind were substantial.


Presupposes God and certain facts about Jesus (crucifixion, teaching, etc)

4 historical facts which must be explained by any hypothesis
2-discovery of tomb
3-post mortem appearances
4-origin of disciples belief in resurrection

2-resurrection best explanation of above facts

In support of 1

Burial multiply attested in early independent sources (Mark source material, very early, probably based on eyewitness testimony) I cor 15 dated within a few years or months. Sources of Mt and Lk as well as Jn. We have at least 5 independent sources. Normally 2 is great.

As member of Sanhedrin that condemned Jesus, J of A an unlikely invention. Raymond Brown says burial by Joseph is very probable, since it's almost inexplicable that Christians would invent Sanhedrist that did right.

In support of 2

Richard in minority in denying 2

Reliability of burial account supports empty tomb. This means the site of grave was known, which means a corpse in a tomb would have belied resurrection, and belief wouldn't have arisen.

Empty tomb multiply attested. Mark's passion source didn't end with burial, but with the story of empty tomb tied to burial account verbally and grammatically. M and J also are relying on indepentent sources on this point. It's mentioned in early sermons preserved in Acts. Implied in I Cor 15. Multiple early attestation. At least 4 independent sources.

Women discovered tomb. Their testimony not highly regarded. Josephus says women shouldn't be premitted to serve as witnesses in court. Later legendary account would have looked to males.

Story is simple and lacks theological development, which would be more characteristic of a Christian creation. Compare Mark to later documents.

Earliest Jewish polemic presupposes tomb. Quotes Jaochob Kramer in support of empty tomb.

Richard rejects these because Paul saw things as spiritual. But this ignores the facts confirmed independently of Paul. But in fact Paul really means transformation of earthly body, not exchange. In I Cor 15 Paul means intrinsic change, not exchange. When the meaning is "exchange" it usually takes a direct object. For instance "exchange the glory of God for images" in Romans. He doesn't do this in I Cor 15. He says "the trumpet will sound and we will be changed." Verbs of sowing and raising. "It is sown, it is raised". Richard mistranslated this section implying a different thing. "One is sown, one is raised". Phil 3:21 "He will change our lowly body to be similar to his glorious body" Romans 8:10-11, Romans 8:23.

In support of 3

Universally acknowledge by scholars and by Richard. Paul's list guarantess that the appearances occurred. "To Peter, inner circle, 500, skeptic James, then all apostles, then to Paul" Gospels have multiple independent narratives. Skeptics like Ludemann agree.

In support of 4

Jews had no idea of a messiah humiliatingly executed. Jewish beliefs preclude singular resurrection prior to general resurrection. They were so convinced they were ready to die, for this unJewish belief. LT Johnson and NT Wright in agreement.

Best explanation is resurrection. Historian CP McCullough has 6 tests, and resurrection explains all 6. Scope, power, plausible, not ad hoc, in accord with accepted beliefs (God raised Jesus from the dead doesn't conflict with the general belief that people don't rise naturally), finally this theory fits the 5 criteria better than any other hypothesis.


1-Gospels have no relevance as history
2-Epistles don't tell us much

Why stories look like myth

Barabbas narrative looks like myth. Romans have no such custom, nor would Rome have released insurrectionist, but Jews did have custom that fits the story (scapegoat).

Impluasibly convenient story structure. Jesus taught with many parables reversal of expectation (high brought low). The narrative includes similar themes. James/John ask to sit at right and left are replaced by thieves. Peter told to deny himself, pick up his cross. Instead denies cross. Replaced by a different Simon, stranger, that does pick up the Christ. Jews mock Savior while Gentile soldier recognizes him. Male disciples abandon Jesus, while women stick with him.

Stories constructed from OT narrative. Ps 22. Empty tomb narrative also from OT. Deliberate parallels and inversions of other mythis. Luke talks of Cleopas going to Emmaues, and Jesus appears, explains things, then tells everyone. Cleopas means "tell all" or "proclaim". Similar to other story about Proculus (also means proclaim) journeys on road, resurrected Romulus appears and explains the secrets, and Proculus goes on to proclaim what he has learned. Other parallels.

Reification of imaginary people into real people. In John Lazarus is real, whereas in Luke he's fictional. John's story appears to build on Luke in making a new story.

Acceptance of wildly contradiction versions of the same story. John completely re-writes Mark as far as the empty tomb.

Gospels invent events that never occurred. Earthquakes, resurrected corpses, darkness. For these and above reasons they gospels just can't be trusted as reliable.

What of epistles.

Paul's gospel he got by revelation, not from people. Taught for 3 years before seeing anyone from Judea. Gospel in I Cor 15 uses terminology similar to Gal 1 describing his revelation. This is common hallucination thought. Why believe these visions and not others like what is in all other religions. He says Scripture told him this stuff. Paul expressly talks about hallucinations he experienced, and this is apparently common amongst Christians. So frequent it required rules. Sounds like a schizo personality.

There may be no body. Gospels not trustworthy and epistles don't claim a body. Craig has claimed that if evidence indicated a body he would dismiss it as a trick. Perhaps early Christians did this as well.

The book of Acts doesn't portray anyone asking questions about a body.

Most missing bodies go missing for reasons other than resurrection.

Flying and teleporting corpse could have appeared to various people such that today we'd have good evidence, but instead he appeared to a few small groups of his own fanatical followers. If Jesus really wanted to save us all he wouldn't do that. But if in fact the Jesus movement started like most religious movements, amongst illiterate, ignorant, hallucination prone people, and is in fact false, then what we see is pretty much what we would expect.

Craig admits natural explanations should be preferred.


Majority of scholars don't regard gospels as myth. R.T. France quote. Craig Keener.

Re Barabbas, acclamation of public did occur numerous times. In Egypt they released a guy that deserevd a scourging.

Historical core (4 facts) still affirmed by scholars regardless of your conclusions about their genre.

Purpose of appearances was for commissioning people for evangelism. This explains why Jesus didn't appear to everyone.

No response on burial

Re empty, Richard says it's constructed out of OT themes. Joel Green says studies of use of OT a Qumran indicates that texts were adapted to fit events more readily than events created to fit biblical text. No parallel for passion narrative, (annointing at Bethany, sword incident, tearing of veil). Passion story did not use obvious motifs of OT. Despite Ps 22 the passion story doesn't say Jesus was nailed to cross. Regardless there are multiple independent sources for empty tomb. Look to Mt. His source confirms it due to the non-Matthean vocabulary and he's responding to a pre-Matthean tradition. John indicates an independent tradition. Acts is independent. Lk and Jn have story of Peter visiting tomb, which is another tradition. Paul's tradition is non-Pauline, since I Cor 15 is pre-Pauline.

Re, reversal of expectations. Robert Gundry says things happen just as Jesus predicted. It's fulfillment of expecation, not reversal. Final words "just as he told you."

Re Jewish polemic. Richard says this is about Daniel and lions den. But this is about what motivated Mt to write this. He's responding to Jewish argument. So we have evidence of early adversaries.

I argued that Paul viewed the body as transformed, so he must have accepted empty tomb.

Hallucination/theft/apparent death/wrong tomb theories don't explain all 4 of the facts. Resurrection explains all facts. Very un-Jewish belief. So why accept these alternatives.

Can't phsychoanalyze ancient people.

Wicked witch theory is ad hoc. No evidence that people used human body parts w/necromancy in 1st century Judea.

Not improbable for God to raise Jesus from the dead if God exists.


I'm not arguing that miracles are impossible. I'm saying most bodies that go missing are not due to resurrection. Most dead people are seen through resurrection. So this must be preferred to natural explanations even if miracles are possible.

Why believe Jesus is raised? Because Daniel says "Messiah shall be executed but no judgment upon him." Hosea says similarly. Wisdom of Solomon also. Apocalypse of Gabriel says messiah resurrection on third day. When Jesus died they'd look for explanation, pour over Scriptures. Paul says that's how they found these things.

Paul calls res of Jesus firstfruits. They thought the end of the world was coming, so they see this as part of the general resurrection, which is coming shortly.

This is plausible, but we don't have enough evidence to confirm or deny any of this.

Majority of scholars do not accept empty tomb. Habermas 75% figure comes from those publishing on the topic of empty tomb. 37 authors total, which is a small sample size. Excluded agnostics. Really there is no consensus.

Says I'm seeing things. I think this would be a remarkable coincidence with all they symbolism. Barabbas is an odd name, but even if not, for him to take that place where the meaning of the name perfectly fits the story, is just to be plainly myth. I listed scholars that agree with me though he says they don't.

Cites speeches in Acts, but there is a tradition in ancient history of making this kind of thing up.

Says I Cor 15 implies empty tomb, but it doesn't.

Said women can't serve as witnesses in court, but this is false. Regardless they are not there to provide reliable history, but they serve a function in the fictional tale. They are there for symbolism (least first, Mark using phrases from Jacob's well narrative in Genesis (who will move the stone), irony of the beginning of gospel (women silent at end, proclomation at beginning of gospel))

He says uncolored by theological motifs. Irrelevant. He doesn't need to put any particular motif except what he wants.

Jewish sources don't provide any Jewish polemic. Acts doesn't show this being there, and we would expect to see trials and accusations presented in Acts. Matthew is trying to emulate Daniel and the lion's den.

See Empty Tomb on switched bodies, but today I'm just saying we don't have reliable info either way.

I gave many examples of reversal of expectation, he says it's not persausive. Judge for yourself.

He says there was a transformative experience. I'm saying the hallucinations do that, just like they do in so many other religions. Not that we can know.

He says no natural theory can explain the facts. But it's not necessary to assume one cause. Multiple causes can explain things.

He says we can't do phsycho analysis. I'm not. I'm simply talking about cognitive science. We know these features are common and typical. I'm saying go with the common and typical unless we have contrary evidence, which we don't have.


4 facts

Burial in tomb not disputed by Richard.

Empty tomb. Richard says Acts makes up speeches. But Acts contains non-Lukan semitisms, which indicates independent traditions.

Mishnah, 200 years after events, says women could serve but it was only 2 things. Their virginity and that her husband is dead. That's all they can do. This shows that their testimony not on par with men. Josephus says women are light headed and brash. This reflects the mindset. Richard says Josephus relied on women, but in that case he's talking about women who were the only survivors of a slaughter.

I said accounts are simple. He points to coincidences in names. These speculations are off the rails. He says 2 Mary's are symbols. But everyone is named Mary. (Refers to Richard's claims regarding the meaning of Mary as well as Magdalene).

He says reversal of expectation, but I say it's fulfillment of expectations. James/John becomes two theives? I see nothing there. Robert Gundry says there is nothing complex and ironic going on here.

What about his claim that it's contstructed from Ps 24. This is a liturgy about king's entry. Nothing to do with tombs. Nothing in Mark about Jesus being a king. Only similarity is phrase "first day of the week". This is just fanciful.

Jewish polemic Richard says is only in Mt. But you wouln't refute the rumor unless it was going around.

Not quoting Habermas, but Jaochob Cramer who said by far most exegetes support empty tomb.

Three absurd thesis from Richard. 1-Corinthian error is that because Christ is a spiritual man he can rise from the dead leaving his earthly body in the grave, but we cannot. Nobody believes this. 2-Resurrection body is identical to what Paul calls "inner man" growing inside us and will come out at resurrection like Casper the ghost. This absurd thesis sounds more like "Alien". Paul never identifies resurrected body with inner man. 3-Spiritual resurrection body we have is really part of Christs resurrected body and therefore God himself. Now turning Paul into a Buddhist who thinks we return like a drop to the ocean, denying personal immortality in contradiction to Paul.

"Hopeless exegete, crank exegesis."


Epistles don't mention missing body or tell us what Christians even thought about the body. Regular hallucinations reported. What are the odds of coincidences in gospels. Attacks my theory of women at the tomb, but argument more complex than that. It's cumulative related to the # of coincidences that occur. He points to one feature to make it sound absurd (Mary). Mary Magdalene, Magdalene means Migdol, which is the place where the parallel is drawn from. There is no stretching to get to this point. Also Salome is a female name of Solomon, another Mary mother of Jacob (meaning Mary mother of Israel) you can judge for yourself if this is reasonable, but this is not the convincing part. Cleopos narrative, Barrabas narrative, these make great sense as deliberate fiction. Afterwards a person might speculate about others they see (such as the Mary thing) but the convincing ones are the basis for the conclusion.

2 Chron 16 Mark links Jesus with King Asa. Various features. "Who will roll away stone" just like Genesis narrative regarding Jacob. Ps 24 "On the first from the Sabbaths" is a strange phrase not heard many times. It's the only occurrence in the Septuagant. Mk uses the same phrase Mark is pointing to Ps 24 where righteious man receives XXX from the Lord. Quotes exact phrase from Ps 22 for cry on cross. Ecclesiastes 4 more parallels, similar concepts and wording of women finding tomb finding man, failing to rejoice.

Naked boy in Mark. At Jesus breast, then runs away naked. Later he's wearing linen white garment. Looks symbolic of dying, losing body, becoming naked, donning new superior body at resurrection. Other features that suggest this is symbolic creation.

Regarding appearing to all, not enough to offer reasons why he didn't appear to everyone. The point is appearing to few committed followers is what would be expected if it were false, just as it occurs with other faiths, and unexpected if we think God is interested in seeing everyone saved.

His claim about Egyptian released is not a parallel. It's not a traitor, not a murderer, much less there is no evidence this is a custom on Jewish holiday.


Would Jesus appear to all is a philosophical argument, not historical, so out of place here. Universalism, inclusivism, etc not relevant to the historical facts.

Burial account not questioned by Richard tonight.

Ps 22 says "pierced hands a feat" yet gospels don't say Jesus was nailed (at least Mark's pre-Markan passion narrative). Ps 23 is not about dying, but being delivered from death. Ps 24 says nothing about tombs, Mark says nothing about a King. "The First of the Week" phrase is different in Mark contrary to what Richard says. Orphic mystery religions Richard brought up in his last speech(1:26:30-talking about sitting at right side). Quotes Richard and criticizes his view taking similarities he likes and rejecting those he doesn't. Repeats Jewish polemic claim.

Richard points to Daniel to show the messianic expectation. But Daniel was not understood as Messianic at this time. Jews understood prince to be Antiochus Epiphenes, and annointed one was Onias III, the high priest. Expecation was a warrior king, yet Christians came to believe the otherwise despite their expectations.

Richard says most missing bodies go missing for natural reasons. This conclusion is only relative to our background knowledge, not relative to other facts which can overturn this conclusion.


What's more improbable? The amazing coincidences I pointed out just happened to be there and fit the facts or that they were made up vs probability of a miracle. Christians prone to hallucinating as I've shown.

Even if miracles occur they are still unusual. So Craig's evidence needs to be exceptional. He has epistles and gospels. Epistles say they get info by vision, gospels look like symbolic mythology, not historical data. If the body went missing it probably went missing as most bodies do, but the epistles don't even say a body went missing and the gospels are not trustworthy, so we don't even know there is a missing body.

He points to multiple sources, but what this really means is multiple versions of the same story. There are multiple versions of Hercules myth, but this doesn't make the claims reliable. Different authors re-wrote stories to suit their own agenda. So the fact that their are different versions is not reason to think that their are good historical sources behind them.

His claim about women only testifying to two things is completely false.

He says Daniel isn't about Messiah. I agree. Daniel is in fact a re-interpretation of a failed prophecy from Jeremiah. What I'm proposing is that some people likewise re-interpret Daniel to be about Jesus (my comment-as Christians do today).

Says the fact that Mark didn't mention piercing. Not relevant. Mark quotes Ps 23 verbatum. He doesn't have to quote the entire thing. We can see his source from the verbatum quotes. Also it's clear in Mark that Jesus is the King. He's called King by Romans. Mark doesn't need to repeat this for us to know it.

He says the phrase "First of the Sabbath's" is different. It's not different in a relevant way. It's different in a minor way (grammatical case). It's borrowed and adapted to Mark's grammatical structure.

If gospels are unreliable, epistles have people hallucinating, that's our evidence, that's just not enough to show Jesus is risen from the dead.

J.P. Holding's Standards of Evidence

J.P. Holding has some questions about evolution. He expressed these in private email correspondence. It's probably somewhat irritating for him that this private correspondence is now all over the web, and I'm not aware that he granted permission for the person he was emailing to make the discussion public. Personally, I wouldn't have posted this publicly without his permission. But it's out there now and it does make arguments that need to be addressed. Here is a portion of what he wrote:

My first set of questions was epistemological. The questions I asked were more or less this:

1) How many mutations did it take to go from the earliest member of the tree, Hyracotheium, to the latest member, New World Equus?

Obviously this was a rhetorical question to some extent; no one would know the actual answer, but I'd think they'd be able to at least give an estimate, and I knew it would have to be a large number - maybe even in the millions.

2) How many of these mutations are directly in evidence in the fossil record?

In turn, I expected this number to be very small - likely no more than a few dozen.

And by now you may see where this is going. I have to imagine that the percentage of mutations for which we have direct evidence is vanishingly small, say .002%. From this follows a third question:

3) If I were to present a case for (say) the Resurrection of Jesus, and I only had .002% of the evidence I needed to make that case, who would think I had made a good case?

For this reason, I should think at the very least some agnosticism is warranted regarding wholly materialistic evolution - certainly people like Dawkins don't need to be as aggressive as they are.

To me this just seems very unreasonable. Holding seems to be arguing that if an event can be broken down into steps, then a large percentage of those steps needs to be shown in order to draw conclusions about what happened.

Take for instance the formation of a galaxy. How many steps would be involved in the formation? There are different ways to break it down, but if I want to present an analogy similar to Holding's (precisely which mutations occurred) I might break it down by asking how much hydrogen formed at a given location and what was it's speed. These factors would determine the type of galaxy formed. How many steps of hydrogen clustering, stars forming, supernova occuring, black holes emerging, stars crashing, planets and moons crashing, etc, are there? Maybe we could break it down to 10 to the 50th power steps? And how many are we aware of? Maybe 1000. So we know something like 10 to the minus 45th power percent. Do we need to know a large ratio of these details in order to form general conclusions about what happened in the formation of Andromeda?

What does Holding mean when he asks about presenting .002% of the evidence needed to make the case for the resurrection of Jesus? Does he mean he must present .002% of all conceivable evidence that might have been available? For instance, when Jesus was 2 years old he might have done something extraordinary that we haven't heard of. We don't have the evidence for this. We don't have anything regarding a lot of what Jesus did according to the gospel of John (the whole world coudn't contain the book that would be required to record all these deeds). So there's a lot of evidence missing right there. Does this mean we could never conclude that Jesus rose, because we can never have anything more than a small percentage of the conceivable evidence?

This is an absurd standard. We don't need a large ratio of the potential evidence. We need whatever amount of quality evidence necessary for us to conclude that the resurrection hypothesis makes better sense of the data than any alternative explanation. If the pieces of data are good enough, perhaps 3 or 4 pieces of data would be enough. If the data was less compelling, more would be required.

Darwin was able to draw conclusions about evolution without ever having heard of genetics or understanding mutation. By Holding's standard he had 0% of the evidence. Yet he was able to correctly predict many startling things. How was he able to do this, with 0% of the evidence? He did it because demanding a large ratio of all conceivable evidence is absurd, and has nothing to do with how we draw conclusions.