Thursday, October 29, 2009

Who Believes in Evolution?

The educated of course. Interesting polling data on the question here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Whoops! Afghan Opium Production Way Up

You may have heard that prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan the Taliban had successfully basically shut down opium production (see here). It has since taken off again under the U.S. occupation. Is that just a mistake or is that designed?

According to some critics you would expect drug sales in regions where the CIA operates. This is an effort to raise untraceable money in order to engage in covert activity. I remember reports of a plane traced to the CIA that crashed with tons of cocaine aboard. Of course Noriega worked for the CIA and was a drug trafficker.

So now in Afghanistan Karzai, the formerly favored U.S. candidate and now president has a brother alleged to be involved in the drug trade that is also alleged to be on the CIA payroll. Check it out here.

When I first heard Ron Paul say that the CIA should be eliminated I thought he was crazy. I've since come on board fully.

Secular Suicide Bombers?

I've just started a book called Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Did you know that the most prolific suicide bombers prior to 9/11 were the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. This is a secular group that regarded their land as being occupied by a foreign entity.

Of course Palestinians are known for suicide bombing. Turns out they regard their territory as occupied by a foreign entity.

Since 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan we've seen dramatic spikes in suicide bombing in both of those states now that the natives regard their territory as occupied by a foreign entity. Should we have expected anything different?

The data show that suicide terrorism is not about religion, as many of my secular friends seem prone to believe.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Open Line Friday...Any Issue...Any Topic

"Get on line right now. 313 838-1035"

And so I did on Friday like I've often done. Somebody's got to do it. He demonizes people like me 4 hours a day. His listeners need an itsy bitsy bit of the other side of the story from someone. If not me then who?

I haven't had much opportunity to catch Bob Dutko lately, but I listened to about 15 minutes on Thursday as I ran out to grab a bite to eat. He had an agnostic on and he repeated an argument he's often made. "Why wouldn't you accept the testimony of the eyewitnesses about Jesus? We have historical documented fact from actual eyewitnesses to Jesus." The stupefied agnostic said pretty much nothing in reply.

I thought maybe I'd get a chance to call in Friday and if I did I'd ask him why he thinks the NT contains eyewitness reporting? That's a pretty good topic for an "Open Line Friday", right?

No dice. After getting through to the screener, and having the screener come on and ask me to clarify my question a couple of times (which I think was about as straightforward a question as could be asked) the screener came back on to tell me that Bob wouldn't be taking my call. I need to try back Wednesday when Bob's bible expert, Grady McMurtry is on.

I don't know when on Wednesday Grady will be on. I certainly don't know if I'll be free. And why is this a call for Grady? Bob is the one that constantly asserts we have "actual eyewitness documents recorded in history" regarding the life of Jesus. I haven't heard Grady say that, so I'm not calling to challenge Grady. And what if I don't get through and I get a busy signal? Wait a month for Grady to be back?

Often the talks with Grady are kind of a disaster. He's not usually in studio but on the phone and he can't hear when the caller wants to interject and there is lots more confusion.

But what's the deal here? Bob asserts that he loves to hear from skeptics, agnostics, and atheists. He brags that he shoves them to the front of the line. And Fridays are about anything the callers want to talk about. So what gives?

Also I find it interesting that some of my Christian acquaintances think Bob does a pretty good job kicking my butt. That's fine with me that they think that. But it doesn't seem that Bob wants to take those opportunities. The prior time I called I was screened and re-screened and finally not put on the air on one Friday. The following Friday I asked the exact same question I intended to ask the prior week, so there was time to prepare if Bob wanted to. Again I was screened and re-screened by Jen. Jen seems like a nice person and I get the feeling she's simply acting as Bob's mouthpiece as if my questions were unclear.

I'll try and listen Wednesday in order to get through to Bob and Grady. I might miss. If I do I might try to get through again Friday. Maybe they'll tell me to try back in a month when Grady is on again. It's Open Line Friday, but no bible questions? Or no bible questions from me?

Canadians Pay Less In Taxes?

I was curious due the health care debate if it's really true that Canadians pay more in taxes than Americans do. Do they actually pay less and do it without running a deficit like we do? Here's what I found.

According to Wikipedia Canadian taxes amount to 33.4% of GDP whereas in the United States taxes amount to 28.2% of GDP. Canada typically operates at a surplus of about 1% of GDP compared to the U.S. which runs a deficit of about 4%. According to this website GDP in Canada is $39,300 per capita whereas in the United States it's $47,000. This means that Canadians pay $13,126 in taxes as compared to $13,254 in the United States. And their health care is fully paid for, whereas my employer and I pay huge bucks for my coverage.

Consider our health care costs. Look at what we're paying (though keep in mind that our government also pays the majority of our medical bills already).

Well, we've got a great system, some might say. Not according to the World Health Organization. France has an amazing health care system, with doctors that come to your home, crazy support for pregnant women. They do it at a cost of $3662 per capita verses $7098 in the U.S. I got these figures based on the 2005 % of GDP on health care compared to the 2008 per capita GDP figures, so it's a little skewed because I'm not using the latest #'s on health care, but it's giving us a sense of things.

Not that I'm a huge fan of Obama Care, but it seems we could adopt any other countries' system and do better than we're doing. Unfortunately what we'll get with our crony capitalist system is the worst of all worlds. We'll retain the features that keep us absurdly overpriced (third payer, no negotiating for reduced prices based on bulk purchasing) and adopt the worst features of other nations (less medical advancement).

Friday, October 23, 2009


Despite repeated warnings to back off on the insults over at str, as I discussed before here, Jason Engwer still just cannot resist. He's still doing it. In comes Amy again, the Christian moderator, to ask him why he thinks it is necessary to waste time talking about what people do. She says "We can see what people do. You don't need to take time away from your arguments to tell us." She goes on to say "if you can't represent Christ to people--Christ, who treats you in a way you do not in the least deserve--then you can't stay."

I think this is worth pointing out only because as Jason continues to insult new people he comes in contact with, and as he continues to use the same techniques of pointing to voluminous writings that supposedly reply to a given argument but in fact don't, or as he confidently asserts the victorious nature of his own arguments, I like to have sources available for these people so they can see that what he's doing is nothing new, so don't take it personally or seriously.

His inability to resist the temptation to insult reminded me immediately of Homer Simpson. Homer can't resist the temptation to eat rotten meat, because it is cheap. In Homer and Apu we observe Apu, the owner of the Kwik-E-Mart ripping off his customers. He overwrites an expiration date on some ham.

Apu: Jiminy Cricket! Wooh, expired ham. [scribbles over the expiry date]
Oh, this time I have gone to far. No, no one will fall for --
Homer: Woo hoo! Cheap meat! [picks it up] Ooh, this one's open.
[starts eating it]

At home on the couch, Homer continues devouring the expired ham, but his stomach begins to rebel.

[eats ham, but his stomach groans]
[eats some more]
Bowels...clenching! Not much time...must...finish...[eats some more]

Incensed, Homer returns to the Kwik-E-Mart to have it out with Apu.

Homer: Your old meat made me sick!
Apu: Oh, I'm so sorry. [gets a pail of shrimp] Please accept five pounds of frozen shrimp?
Homer: [holds one up, sniffs it] This shrimp isn't frozen! And it
smells funny.
Apu: OK, ten pounds.
Homer: Woo hoo!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Few More Random Thoughts on Licona/Ehrman

A couple of more points I think are worth mentioning on this debate between Licona and Ehrman.

I was disappointed to listen to Licona go off on a wild ad hominem diatribe against people that hold to the mythicst position. These people are not "serious and sober minded." They remind us of those contestants on American Idol that think they're so good, but we all know better. Is that what he really thinks? I remember Licona in another debate offering pretty high praise for Robert Price. I believe he called him a "very smart man." Has Licona heard Price's debates with Greg Boyd and W.L. Craig? His performances are generally regarded as among the best from sketpics. He's a fellow at the Jesus Seminar and Jesus Project. Holds 2 PhD's in the field. In fact Price single handedly debated Habermas and Licona on Infidel Guy radio with Richard Spencer as Spencer kind of listened in (not to criticize Spenser, who does really good interviews. He was getting out muscled by heavyweights Habermas and Price). In my view Licona didn't look too great in his attempts to tangle with Price. Pick any random episode of the Bible Geek and try and sustain the view that he's nothing but a clown.

I would like to think this is beneath Mike Licona. People can rationally disagree about things that are as complicated and murky as ancient history. Why such hostility? I think dismissal is being substituted for refutation.

Another point is that Licona grossly misrepresents skeptical claims regarding hallucinations. He says that hallucinations are not group events. It's not like you can have a dream about a vacation and wake up and shake your wife and say "Honey, wake up. I'm having a dream I'm in Hawaii. Come join me in my dream and we'll have a free vacation." That's not what skeptics are claiming when they posit a group hallucination, yet Christians follow Licona down this straw man path. The claim from the skeptic is not that a group of people all saw the exact same thing in their own mind. The claim is that they experienced something and later upon talking with others they came to believe they had witnessed the same thing. One may have experienced Jesus descending the clouds wearing a blue sash. Another many have experienced Jesus simply floating towards him or her wearing a red sash. When they compared notes they may have bent their own memories so they came to believe they had seen the same thing. This vacation analogy from Licona is really awful.

But one positive thing. Licona denies inerrancy. He admits that he believes the Gospel of John changed the timing of the crucifixion of Jesus for theological purposes. For John Jesus dies on the Day of Preparation while the lambs are being slaughtered whereas in the synoptics Jesus dies after the Passover meal is eaten. So there's a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Ehrman/Licona Debate

In my view Mike Licona did not perform well in his last debate with Bart Ehrman. I'm somewhat surprised by the poor quality of his rebuttals. From what I had heard from him in the past I expected a strong performance. But consider some of the exchanges.

Licona opens with anecdotes about the depth to which he examines things before making decisions. He spends a lot of time on this during the debate, so it's a major part of his own presentation. The implication is that his conclusions are quite trustworthy given his character.

Ehrman's first rebuttal responds to this first point from Licona. He wonders if we should really have such high confidence in Licona's ability to draw this type of conclusion. He started with Christianity, evaluated the evidence, and confirmed his conclusion. Is that just a coincidence, or in fact was Mike driving toward his desired conclusion? Ehrman on the other hand started with Christianity and upon examination came to a different conclusion. If his incentives point him to one conclusion but he draws another one this would suggest that he's reached the conclusion honestly. If anything he is more trustworthy.

In reply to this point Licona says this is a red herring. The arguments are what matter. He says he really did agonize over this decision, but it doesn't matter if people believe him or not. He says "This doesn't matter to anyone else here. It does matter to me." Well then why are you bringing it up as your very first point in the debate and spending so much time on it? We're talking about it because it is a major part of your presentation regarding why the resurrection is provable historically. To pretend that Ehrman is off track as he responds to your off-track point doesn't make sense to me.

Licona's argument is that there are 3 facts that must be explained by any adequate hypothesis. These are 1-Jesus died by crucifixion, 2-the disciples had experiences of appearances that they thought were of a resurrected Jesus, and 3-Paul likewise had experiences wherein he believed the resurrected Jesus had appeared to him. I already talked about how Licona's discussion of the plausibility of the resurrection hypothesis as compared to a hallucination hypothesis was nothing but a blatant double standard. Ehrman also pointed out that in fact 1 of the 3 facts was irrelevant to the question of resurrection and the other 2 were really saying the same thing.

Ehrman says that what matters with regards to the resurrection is that Jesus died in some manner. He doesn't need to be crucified. Everybody dies in some manner, so who cares that he was crucified? With regards to the appearances all Licona is saying is that some people had experiences where they thought they had seen a resurrected Jesus. You can divide them up and say 1-there were appearances to the disciples and 2-Paul had an appearance, but at the end of the day all we have is appearances to multiple people. So really there is one fact that needs to be explained.

In response Licona says that Ehrman is confusing necessary and sufficient conditions. For Jesus to be resurrected it is necessary that he die. But this is irrelevant and Ehrman pounced on Licona for this. There are a number of things that are necessary. Jesus would need to have existed. Jesus would need to have eaten food at some point in his life. Otherwise he wouldn't have lived to the necessary age. He would need to have lived in Palestine. So what? None of these necessary conditions really point us to resurrection, so what's the point in bringing them up? And it just is not necessary that Jesus be crucified. He just needs to die in some way. Why couldn't he have been stoned? Licona is just dead wrong here. There is only one thing that needs to be explained. Some people thought they saw Jesus after he died. Do we really need to look for miracles here? Licona's thesis is completely undermined on this point since this single fact is just not very difficult to understand naturally. Licona never recovered from this.

Keeping the above point in mind Ehrman asked a couple of questions that just were not answered in a serious way by Licona. He asks, given that Paul had never seen Jesus during his earthly ministry how was Paul able to know that it was Jesus he was seeing? He doesn't even know what Jesus looks like. And invoking a miracle is not how the historian operates. How do you know it from a historical perspective? Licona had no answer.

Ehrman offered a single fact of his own. People had appearances where they thought they had seen Moses after he had died. Does this Moses was resurrected? Licona in response talked about the nature of hallucinations generally, never bothering to answer the question.

I do have a couple of problems with Ehrman. He says that "by definition" a miracle is the least probable occurrence. I don't see how that's true. A miracle by definition is simply a supernatural suspension of the natural order. It's an intervention by God. So if the stars started moving in violation of our known laws of gravitation and they spelled out "Jesus lives, so repent of your sins" are we supposed to say that can't be divine intervention because "by definition" a miraculous explanation is ruled out? It must automatically be less plausible than any bizarre naturalistic explanation offered? I don't see that.

Also his point about Paul being wrong in saying that Jesus appeared to "the twelve" is mistaken since Judas is missing seems possibly true to me, but likewise it's possible that "the twelve" is kind of a group name that can be used when not all members are present. I don't think the point is strong enough that it's worth bringing up.

But let me review what we saw from Licona. An admission that the first point of his opening statement is irrelevant. Transparent double standards regarding plausibility. Critical errors corrected by Ehrman. Ignoring of critical questions. Dodging of others. Ehrman is pouncing on every point, letting nothing get by. Heck, even his joke delivery is way better. A solid win for Ehrman.

As usual all indications are that Licona was good enough in Jason Engwer's mind. I like the title of Jason's review of the earlier Licona/Ehrman debate. Why Bart Ehrman Keeps Losing Debates. Probably because Jason Engwer is the one doing the evaluating.

James White Is Projecting Again

I pay attention to James White only occasionally these days and I noticed something that's probably been happening forever that didn't pop out at me like it has been doing recently. James White may be the best example of someone that is projecting that I know of.

In his debate with Barker there was a lot about how atheists will do whatever it takes to discredit the Bible. They'll latch on to crazy views and adhere to bad scholarship to sustain their atheism and justify their God-hating ways.

This is true for me, says James White. When I explained to him that he was misrepresenting Dan Barker's claims (and I explained more fully here) he ultimately hung up on me and finished with words to the effect that some people just can't see, etc. Well, he's right about that, but isn't it him rather than me? Later he writes about how I throw consistency to the wind just so I can suppress knowledge of God.

Now there is a scholar in Europe that thinks Genesis 1:1 has been mistranslated all these years. Rather than saying "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" it should read "In the beginning God separated the heaven and the earth." So it's not a creation out of nothing but an ordering of pre-existing material. That's not too far from what I've long understood was an exegetical option (see under exegetical points here), but I'm not qualified to say who's right.

For James White this is "Stunningly Silly". Bunch of hubris. She lacks humility and balance.

Unlike James White?

James White is a young earth creationist. Why would anybody be a young earth creationist except because they are desperate to sustain their Christianity? How's the scholarship on that? Who's latching on to crazy arguments to sustain their beliefs? All of these scientists are wrong? When he rejects the scientific consensus, does that demonstrate hubris or lack of consistency?

James White is a Calvinist who believes Christ's atoning sacrifice paid only for the sins of the elect. 2 Peter 2:1 reads "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves." Somehow that doesn't mean that Christ's atoning sacrifice paid for the sins of the reprobate. How is that possible you ask? In the end it doesn't matter. James White has a prior commitment to limited atonement. That's all you really need to know.

I John 2:1-2 reads "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world"

Well, that just means Christians all over the world, says James White in The Potter's Freedom. Really? Is that what he means with "world"? Because in the same chapter of the same book he uses the same word again. "15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world."

James White spins away at these problems further in TPF. He skips 2 Pet 2:1, though you know he'd resolve it somehow. He approaches the text with the idea of "How can I man handle the bible to make it say what I need it to say to sustain my Calvinism, which is clearly taught at Romans 9."

My point is this. Is it really atheists that approach texts with pre-determined conclusions? Note my approach to the question of Genesis 1:1. I don't know. If it's true that it has been mistranslated over these years, then this is another strike against evangelical Christianity. So if all I cared about was suppressing knowledge of God and denying the truth of the Bible I suppose I'd start by assuming that this scholar is right. Why don't I do that? Because I have no prior commitment to either conclusion. So I am free to consider the question on the merits. James White's conclusion is already known before the evidence has even been evaluated. We don't need to see him exegete 2 Pet 2:1. We know where he will end up no matter what a text says about universal atonement.

Notice that the same was true regarding the point I brought up with Josephus. James White was obviously ignorant of the matter, but this makes no difference. He already knew there was nothing to it before even evaluating it. An open minded person would say "That's interesting. Never heard of it. I'll look into it and see what the evidence shows." Not James White. There's no need to look into it. He's got that prior commitment. And yet he would have us believe it is atheists that are blinded by their prior commitments. It's really quite the opposite.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's Columbus Day

You may have heard mamby pamby liberals criticize the memory of Columbus before. If you've ever wondered where they are getting this stuff go here, read, and learn.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mike Licona Has Lost Me

First things first. Mike Licona seems like a nice enough guy, but he's obviously a bit of a nerd. I'm not knocking it. I have nerd tendencies. I'm an engineer. But his attempts at jokes are hard to listen to. I'm talking about his last debate with Ehrman. "Run Forrest!! Run!!" This is not funny, nor is his repeated use of this "There's a Jew an agnostic and a Christian...this is not a joke." He's getting polite laughter and nothing more.

OK, on to some substance. I like it when I hear a debate where the issue of the plausibility of a claim of resurrection comes up. Mike brought it up in his opening statement. He puts 3 facts on the table. They are 1-Jesus died by crucifixion, 2-the disciples had experiences where they thought they saw Jesus post mortem and 3-Paul likewise saw Jesus post mortem.

He then considers different explanations for these facts. One explanation would be hallucinations, but this seems implausible. The reason is that you can't share a hallucination with someone else. The authors of Hallucinations: The Science of Idiosyncratic Perception couldn't find much on shared hallucinations. Also licensed critical psychologist Gary Sipsey (sp?) says he looked at the professional literature for about 2 decades and couldn't find anything on it.

So next Mike compares this explanation to the resurrection hypothesis. There's nothing in the literature that says people rise from the dead, however it's not implausible like hallucinations because there's nothing that says resurrection can't occur. God could raise someone from the dead. So resurrection is more plausible than hallucinations, which find themselves in a negative position.

Somebody please explain to me how this makes any sense at all. Hallucinations are implausible because a couple of people say they couldn't find anything on it. But there's nothing on resurrections, yet they're not implausible. Is this not transparent double standards? If nothing in the literature makes hallucinations implausible, why doesn't it make resurrections implausible?

Well, God could make it happen, says Mike. God can make anything happen. God can make group hallucinations happen. God can make the Lions win. Nothing is implausible if "God can make it happen" is somehow relevant to the discussion.

The apologist says "Sure, Jesus rising from the dead naturally is implausible, but not Jesus rising supernaturally." Then my running 100m in 8 seconds is not implausible, because God could have intervened to make it happen. God could intervene to have you fly in a space ship, levitate, or leap across the Grand Canyon while simultaneously throwing 1000 stones at 1000 targets placed along the perimeter and hitting bullseye for each.

Face facts, Christians. The resurrection hypothesis is implausible. Doesn't mean it didn't happen. Doesn't necessarily means it's not knowable (in theory). But it's implausible. If you want to deny it then deny the nose on your face as well.

Sell the Vatican, Feed the World

This is brilliant. And funny. Here's a great line:

"You preach to live humbly, and I totally agree. So now maybe it's time for you to move out of your house that is a city."

Friday, October 9, 2009

More On My Discussion with James White

Atheists have an advantage. You see, having no morals they are free to lie and cheat and steal. Or break the rules of a debate with their atheistic ethics. There's no reason not to for an atheist. What does it matter? If it gives him an advantage, go for it (see about the 5:25 mark and following). In contrast Christians like James White have "transcendent moral values" that limit the scope of their behavior.

So says James White with regards to his debate with Dan Barker. Among several examples of Dan's wickedness is his use of Justin Martyr. Here is what Dan said during the debate:

Now it's not just modern scholars, but even early Christians. In the 2nd century there was a christian apologist who had been a pagan believer who converted to Christianity: Justin Martyr. And he was arguing with the pagans about we should all convert to Christianity, you know why? Because it's no different. Look what he says: When we say also that the Word, who is the firstborn of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you pagans believe regarding those whom you esteem to be the sons of Jupiter. Like Mercury Jesus is the logos. Like Perseus he was born of a virgin. Like Aesculapius Jesus healed the sick. If early Christians claimed that the Jesus story was nothing different from paganism who am I to disagree?

I think this is a fair point. James White thinks it's a pretty egregious example of wicked atheistic ethics. How so? Go again to his youtube clip to see. Supposedly Dan is taking Justin Martyr out of context and misrepresenting him. He starts by quoting chapters 3 and 6 of Justin's First Apology wherein he shows that in those chapters Justin is talking about how though Christian beliefs are similar to some pagan beliefs Christians are persecuted but pagan's aren't, so that's not fair. Further Justin believes pagan gods aren't real. He says "we could stop right here" as if he's already demonstrated his point. Dan is misrepresenting Justin Martyr.

But Dan is quoting chapter 21. How is it that the fact that Justin makes a different point in chapters 3 and 6 this somehow overturns his other point in chapter 21? Can a person make only a single point in a multi-chapter book, so White is free to impose the intention of chapter 3 on chapter 21? This is proof of the case already?

In chapter 9 Justin says other gods aren't real. In chapter 13 he says that our beliefs are true. In chapter 20 he says that he offers proof that his beliefs are true, so why are Christians being persecuted? Fair enough. White then says "Is he in any way shape or form saying....oh we just got this or we just derived this from over here and we grabbed this from over here? No."

But where did Dan say that Justin is admitting that Christian beliefs were derived from pagan stories? Nowhere. So who is James arguing with?

He then quotes chapter 21, which is where Justin starts to make his case for why Christianity is believable. Here he basically says that you shouldn't reject Christianity due to something like a virgin birth claim. After all you pagans already accept such things. Or in other words Christianity is believable despite what might on the surface appear to be an outlandish claim. You already believe things that are no different. Our claims are likewise believable. That's exactly what Dan said Justin Martyr had claimed and it's exactly what Justin Martyr did claim. But for some reason James still wants to assume that Dan is arguing that Justin believes Christian stories are derived from pagan stories.

At about the 21 minute mark again James says "It's not saying we pulled these from the same things" as if that was what Dan claimed. At about 22:15 "Notice he didn't say 'we borrowed this.'" Who claims otherwise, James? After Justin asserts that Christianity is alone true White says "So much for getting it from them" (24:25) and later (24:45) "Anyone who quotes Justin and does not deal with this is simply dishonest. Just dishonest!! That's the only way to describe it....If you try to make it sound like Justin was doing something he wasn't doing you're lying. It's dishonesty." Really? Who is it that is making someone say what they didn't say? Who says Justin believes they "got it from them", James? Read what Dan said and I've transcribed. Nowhere does Dan say that Justin admits Christian stories were borrowed from pagan stories.

James White offered the same misrepresentation in my call with him multiple times. When he did it at the 22:30 mark I corrected him. He quickly shifted away from the point about the derivation from pagan sources to something else, and soon after that he was hanging up on me like he had done to his prior caller.

Now, what would be easy to do is to just start going off about Christian dishonesty and how Christians are all ready to lie for the kingdom and misrepresent things, whereas we atheists have moral standards that don't come from a genocidal, misogynistic, slave promoting book. But then that would not be very gracious, and we all know how big Calvinists are on grace. We atheists will show some, though the Calvinist doesn't always return the favor. In my view James White probably just made a mistake and imposed a view on Dan that Dan didn't actually say. These things happen.

As to Dan's breaking of the rules, I have a suggestion for James White that might help prevent such things. As I said when I spoke to him I think he spends way too much time asserting the correctness of his view rather than arguing for it. This is "parralelomania." This was rejected 50 years ago. It's absurd, awful, embarrassing, etc. I say why not just make arguments and show that his claims are embarrassing. It's far more persuasive to let the audience draw the conclusion than to emphatically assert the conclusion.

The reason this could also help with rule breaking is that this behavior is also rude. When you say a belief is absurd, embarrassing, etc you automatically imply that anyone that adheres to it (like your opponent) has some sort of character flaw. Maybe he's stupid or too wicked to admit truth. That's rude and creates a hostile environment, which might incline someone to do something like break a rule. Sticking to arguments is win/win. More persuasive. Less rude. Try that. That's what Dan did. That's why he was so effective.

James White is a young earth Christian as far as I can tell. Suppose he debated the topic and his opponent spent a lot of time saying stuff like "No reputable scientist believes this sort of thing, this is absurd, embarrassing, etc." That may actually be his opponents view, but to say that is rude and ineffective on a young earth Christian. Show that the view is absurd by argument and let the young earther draw his own conclusions. That's more persuasive in my view and it makes the whole discussion more pleasant.

The Obama Record on Peace

To Obama's credit I think even he is a little embarrassed to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He hasn't really had much of a chance to do anything and he knows that.

But I want to provide a brief overview of some of the things I've documented about his record. If this is peace, what would anti-peace look like?

During the early part of his presidency, Obama was fighting tooth and nail to retain Bush's torture prisons in Afghanistan. See here.

Like Bush he's fighting for indefinite detention of prisoners without charge. See here.

His supposed promises to pull troops out of Iraq are now gone. He's basically on the Bush timetable. See here.

Still tapping our phones. See here.

His bombing campaigns in Pakistan are absolutely outrageous, driving 2.4 million people into refugee camps. See here.

The number of boots on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan are up when you consider that Obama is adding mercenaries via Blackwater (or Xe if you prefer). Here is a must watch discussion with Bill Moyers on this topic.

In Israel we're seeing outrageous war crimes perpetuated against civilians in Gaza, including the dumping of chemical weapons on these people, which Israel has admitted. Obama responds by pressuring the Palestinian Authority to keep quiet about it and did nothing to slow that onslaught back around the turn of the year.

He's also giving Israel the go-ahead to expand settlement construction, an outrageous violation of international law and obstacle to peace.

Columbia probably has the worst human rights record in the Western Hemisphere. No matter. Obama still supports their right wing thug dictator.

I seem to recall that OBL had said that he doesn't want a Democrat to win the White House because he believes that Democrats are just as much a war mongering party but somehow trick people into thinking they are peaceful. So the world goes to sleep as they rampage everywhere. Unfortunately I can't seem to track that quote down, but if OBL did say it I'd have to say he's right.

Luke Screws Up Josephus' Chronology

I spoke with James White yesterday on his Dividing Line program. Mainly we talked about the recent White/Barker debate, which I thought White lost by a nose. In the course of my discussion the reliability of the book of Acts came up, and I mentioned an apparent error in the book of Acts. In this post I want to further explain what I'm talking about.

In Acts chapter 5 we're told that the high priest Gamaliel told the Jews not to worry about this new Jesus movement. If it was of God there would be no way to stop it anyway, whereas if it wasn't it would collapse under it's own weight, like movements of the past have. Here's the text, with important points in bold:

"Men of Israel, be cautious in deciding what to do with these men. Some time ago, Theudas came forward, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. But he was killed and his whole following was broken up and disappeared. After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census; he induced some people to revolt under his leadership, but he too perished and his whole following was scattered." (NEB, Acts 5:36-8)

What's interesting about this is that Josephus at Antiquities Book 20 Chapter 5 actually mentions these same two insurrectionists. In his telling he first mentions Theudas then subsequently talks about Judas of Galilee. But what Josephus does is he mentions them in reverse chronological order. He mentions Theudas first, then sort of by way of reflection talks about Judas of Galilee. Someone reading Josephus hastily might understand him in a mistaken fashion and switch the chronology. Looking above to Acts we can see that this is exactly what Luke has done. Here's the text from Josephus:

1. Now it came to pass, while Fadus was procurator of Judea, that a certain magician, whose name was Theudas, persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them, and follow him to the river Jordan; for he told them he was a prophet, and that he would, by his own command, divide the river, and afford them an easy passage over it; and many were deluded by his words. However, Fadus did not permit them to make any advantage of his wild attempt, but sent a troop of horsemen out against them; who, falling upon them unexpectedly, slew many of them, and took many of them alive. They also took Theudas alive, and cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem. This was what befell the Jews in the time of Cuspius Fadus's government.

2. Then came Tiberius Alexander as successor to Fadus; he was the son of Alexander the alabarch of Alexandria, which Alexander was a principal person among all his contemporaries, both for his family and wealth: he was also more eminent for his piety than this his son Alexander, for he did not continue in the religion of his country. Under these procurators that great famine happened in Judea, in which queen Helena bought corn in Egypt at a great expense, and distributed it to those that were in want, as I have related already. And besides this, the sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain; I mean of that Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius came to take an account of the estates of the Jews, as we have showed in a foregoing book. The names of those sons were James and Simon, whom Alexander commanded to be crucified. But now Herod, king of Chalcis, removed Joseph, the son of Camydus, from the high priesthood, and made Ananias, the son of Nebedeu, his successor. And now it was that Cumanus came as successor to Tiberius Alexander; as also that Herod, brother of Agrippa the great king, departed this life, in the eighth year of the reign of Claudius Caesar. He left behind him three sons; Aristobulus, whom he had by his first wife, with Bernicianus, and Hyrcanus, both whom he had by Bernice his brother's daughter. But Claudius Caesar bestowed his dominions on Agrippa, junior.

What we're seeing in Acts is exactly what we would expect to see from someone that was borrowing from Josephus. We've got the same insurrectionists that are mentioned in a single chapter. We've got a reversed chronology error like we might expect someone to do based upon Josephus' somewhat confusing way of telling the story. This makes really good sense as an error on the part of Luke.

Of course it's possible Luke is right and Josephus is wrong. It's possible that there is no dependence. If this were the only point of contact between Josephus and the book of Acts I could see the point of the claim that the dependence claim is not all that solid. But in fact there are additional points of contact.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bizarre Christian Accounts of Martyrdom

DagoodS has an interesting summary of the basis for claims regarding the martyrdom's of some of the earliest disciples. We all know that Paul was beheaded by Nero, right? It's almost axiomatic. This all comes from the Acts of Paul, which includes the earliest account of how he was killed.

What you may not know is that this same account tells us that milk spurted forth when he was beheaded, and afterwards he approached Nero (perhaps clutching his own severed head, though we're not told) to inform him that he was next. Paul then made some additional post-mortem appearances to his own followers.

Why don't the apologists discuss those details? It's almost as if they have an anti-supernatural bias or something.

Monday, October 5, 2009

You Don't Say

Jason Engwer has evaluated the White-Barker debate and he finds that James White was the victor. By a wide margin. In other news Tom Cruise thinks L. Ron Hubbard has a lot of worthwhile things to say.

This is very useful information. Jason has in the past calmly deliberated over his own performance in debate against me, John Loftus, and various other skeptics (for instance see his recent evaluation that I discuss here) and he's decided that he was victorious. Likewise he's convinced that Arif Ahmed lost to Gary Habermas. Come to think of it I don't recall him ever observing that a skeptic out performed a Christian in debate.

I love this image of inerrantist Christians calmly deliberating over the available evidence and drawing their conclusions as if it was a discovery based upon that evaluation rather than their commitment to the party line. They pretend to be scholars. But real scholars are always probing, interested in discovering new possibilities. They're interested in knowing if the way things have been understood is wrong. How does a real scholar square this with dogmatic commitments? For the inerrantist it's all one big damage control operation, not scholarship.

Here's Greg Koukl admitting that for most Christians the commitment to the Bible as the Word of God comes first and the arguments come second. Scholars don't start with their conclusions. They derive their conclusions by looking at the facts. Does Jason behave more like a scholar or a dogmatist? You can't be both as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Compendium of McMurtry Arguments

I took some notes when I went to see "Dr" Grady McMurtry. You can peruse this for a sense of what he's offering in his frequent lectures in churches, which seem to be well attended.

1-Evolutionists live and die by the following 8 words. "Give me enough time and anything can happen."
2-If you rolled dice a billion times a second you would never get 7's 27 consecutive times even if you rolled a billion times every second (I didn't note if he put a time limit on it. This sounded surprising to me, so I plan to check the math).
3-The big bang has been disproven by evolutionists. See Grady's website.
4-You can make opel, diamonds, and gold very quickly artificially.
5-In 1942 a WWII aircraft was ditched in Greenland. When people went to recover it they found it was buried under 250 ft of ice and snow. Apparently this proves that ice and snow accumulate quickly, countering the old earth argument regarding ice core samples.
6-If someone tells you that they dated a dinosaur bone to be 65 million years old using C-14, respond by laughing in their face. Let's all practice laughing at these evolutionists. (Which evolutionists think C-14 dating works when the object is over 60 million years old?)
7-Various lava flows and rocks are known to be younger than a few hundred years (Sunset Crater, Hualalai in Hawaii) yet radiometric dating methods claim they are millions of years old.
8-In 1944 in Upshur County, WV a bell was found embedded in rock that is 300 million years old.
9-A distance referred to as the "Roche" distance shows that the moon should have broken up and formed a ring based on old earth assumptions. Also at the moon's rate of regression from the earth if you back up in time it would have hit us 1.6 billion years ago.
10-Dr Barry Setterfield, and some other Russian scientist apparently have shown that the speed of light was 10,000,000 times faster in the past. (Consider the e=mc^2 implications).
11-The spinning rate of galaxies is too fast. If the universe were older they wouldn't still be spinning at this rate. The Milky Way "rotates" at 245 km/sec (this is not a rotation rate, but a linear rate, but that's what he said).
12-Star formation has never been observed.
13-The sun's rotation rate is too fast. If it were 4.5 billion years old it would have slowed to the point where it wouldn't spin as it currently does.
14-Comets lose material as they pass by the sun. If our solar system was really 4.5 billion years old long period comets wouldn't exist anymore. (The answer is the Oort Cloud, though I know young earther's ridicule that explanation because it can't be directly observed.)

Yet Another Fossil Find

Apparently this one is believed to be a member of human ancestry that lived just after the common ancestor we share with chimpanzees, so it's really telling us a lot about human evolution. Watch the inset video for some informative commentary.