Thursday, September 30, 2010

Almost Certainly Life on Newly Discovered Earth Like Planet

Stephen Vogt, professor of astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz puts the likelihood of life at this newly discovered planet at 100%.

What makes it even more interesting is Dr Ragbir Bhathal discovered a possibly artificial laser like signal coming from the same region of space as the newly discovered planet back in 2008. See here and here. Is that just a happy coincidence?

Via reddit.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Christian Violence and Islamic Violence

Readers of this blog may know that I run a bible study. It's for those interested in understanding the Bible from a secular perspective. We're mostly atheists but we do have some Christian participation.

A couple of times instead of studying the Bible I've simply brought in a religious person. So once Roman Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong came. A lot of atheists regard Christian belief as extremely easy to debunk and I thought it would be fun to bring in someone that has thought through common objections and is able to turn it back on atheists. Make them exercise their brains a bit. We had a great time with Dave.

Last night we spoke with a practicing Muslim. I called the meeting "Grill the Muslim". Basically we were going to challenge him as much as possible. Why believe in Islam? What's this about Mohammad marrying a 9 year old girl? Are females regarded as inferior in Islam?

We moved to Islamic beliefs about violence as well. Isn't it a fact that the Qur'an is unusually violent and isn't it a fact that Islam as practiced consistently is especially violent?

There were two major points in response from our guest, which I'll summarize here:

1-Let's consider this question over two time frames. Consider the few centuries prior to 1980. People were living for centuries as Muslims. Show me major violence? Where was the violence in the world? Who started WWI? Was it Muslims? Who started WWII, which killed tens of millions? Who developed weapons of mass destruction? It was the Christians. I watch in America a show called Modern Marvels. They show off the development of bombs as if it was some sort of wonderful achievement. Is that what you see in the Muslim world? No. This is the Christian world.

One member of my bible study responded by pointing to Mohammad and how he used violence to conquer others. Our guest said fine. Let's suppose that happened. Still, we must contrast Islamic behavior over a specific time with the behavior of others at the same time. So let's focus on this time frame that we all understand better. During the few centuries prior to 1980, weren't Muslims reading the Qur'an? Didn't they understand Islam? Why weren't they violent as you claim their religion supposedly mandates that they be? Why were they far less violent than the Christian world? The claim that Islam is more violent focuses on a very narrow window of time. Is that reasonable?

2-Now let's consider after 1980 where violence from Muslims finally started to emerge. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan the United States saw this as an opportunity to deliver some blows to their rival. So they trained Osama bin Laden and other radicals. They said to them "You are supposed to wage jihad. Look at your holy book. It calls for jihad. Are you sleeping? Go. Fight the Soviets. This is your duty." At the time the concept of jihad was not understood as it is today. It was Christian/American imposition that impressed this idea upon the Muslim world.

So the Afghans did fight and did so on the promise that their schools would be rebuilt and that they would be provided with food. But when the Soviets were successfully removed the United States did not fulfill it's obligations. So what happened? These people trained in jihad by the United States turned their guns on the West. Suddenly everyone is outraged. "Look at these jihadi's. They are violent. They are wicked." What they are doing is very natural. They are angry about how they were treated. But what they are doing is also unusual from the historical perspective of Islam.

A member pointed out that Pashtuns have been violent for a long time. They are very abusive toward women and have been so for many years. Our guest agreed, but the question really is about whether Islam is outwardly aggressive and violent. It's true that Pashtuns are brutal towards their women, but that is based on their history which goes back 5,000 years, prior to the time of Mohammad. But focusing on outward violence, and the claim being made is that Islam is violent towards outsiders and aggressive, who is really more outwardly violent?

The conversation then spun off to other areas. But it's an interesting point and I don't recall a truly sufficient answer to this question from the members of my Bible study, some of whom are quite hostile to Islam. Even more hostile to it than they are to Christianity.

I have to admit I'm just not sure if our guest is right about this. But in addition to the Christian acts of violence he mentioned I'd add the Native Americans. This is tens of millions of people wiped out by terrorism. And it was done consciously from what I understand by extremely racist and violent people. The 6 million Jews were killed by Christians. The 4 million killed throughout Indo China by the United States during the Vietnam War timeframe were not killed by Muslims. Over the 300 years prior to 1980 was there comparable violence in the Islamic world to these massive atrocities?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

60 Minutes on Ground Zero Mosque

It's a segment that's quite hostile to the anti-mosque crowd that's portrayed (rightly in my view) as conspiracy minded haters. So I enjoyed it.

Let me gripe about the media though a little even though I do like the segment. It's interesting to me to note when the media is ready to send out the attack dogs. Our government/major corporations/AIPAC want massive wars against people that happen to live in Muslim countries. See some staggering contrasts of who the victims are so far in the war on terror here. Maybe they want oil or maybe they want to support Israeli expansion and security. What they don't really want is a war against Islam. They're fine with the brutal regime in Saudi Arabia. They were fine when Suharto was slaughtering East Timorese from Indonesia. Really going to war against Islam would be counter productive.

So in other words, bashing those that are trying to make this a war against Islam is just fine with the corporate masters and powerful lobbyists. What's not fine with them is going after in a serious way people that are guilty of massive international crimes and crimes against humanity, whether it be the architects of various US invasions or enablers of torture. This is acceptable criticism from a corporate standpoint.

Still, it's a good segment. HT to John Loftus.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bob Dutko Rails Against the Liberal Media

I caught a bit of Dutko today. In the first hour he spent some time talking about how the "liberal" media basically enables Obama in his propaganda. Apparently Obama had made some sort of commercial related to his health care plan where he speaks on the phone with a person that now can get treatment. Diane Sawyer picked up the story and treated it as if it was news rather than an item created by Obama's staff. A quick scan of right wing news sources turns up Dutko's probable source, which is here. Dutko gets his talking points from foxnews, onenewsnow, newsbusters, drudge, etc.

I tend to think Dutko is right on this point partially. The media does love Obama and does carry water for him. But he's wrong to say that the media is liberal. Loving Obama and being liberal are two different things in the real world, though not to Dutko. Dutko wants to pretend that Obama represents liberalism. That way if you're to the left of that you're really off the spectrum and crazy. But if we gauge liberalism by the attitudes of people that regard themselves as liberal, or even against the views of the American people generally, we find that not only is Obama not a liberal, he's to the right of the bulk of the American people.

So take the war in Afghanistan. I recently discussed public opinion on this. 54% of the American people think we should not be involved in this conflict now. That's the American people generally, not the opinion of liberals alone. If you were to poll the opinion of liberals presumably the margin would be even higher. Obama has offered us troop surges in Afghanistan.

Dutko would have us believe that Obama Care represents some sort of triumph of liberalism. This is utter nonsense. For decades the American people generally have supported some sort of public style care, like what exists in every other industrialized nation. The numbers do vary based on the way the question is asked, but the results are pretty consistent. Take this 2003 poll. By a margin of 62 to 33% Americans preferred universal public care to the present system. Moving to more recent surveys, voters in key states by wide margins preferred a public option system to the plan that Obama was offering. Look at the support amongst liberals. Like 80%. The same was true in nationwide polls. When a single payer option appeared on the ballot in Massachusetts a whopping 73% voted in favor. These are extremely popular positions.

Let's back up just a bit and look at how John Kerry took advantage of these extremely popular positions. Here's how the NY Times reported it just prior to the election:

But there is so little political support for government intervention in the health care market in the United States that Senator John Kerry took pains in a recent presidential debate to say that his plan for expanding access to health insurance would not create a new government program.

Not only is there no political support for single payer health care. There's no support for government intervention of any kind. The Times is totally right. All we have is positions supported by lopsided public majorities, but that's not what it takes for something to have political support. You need corporate support for political support. The public doesn't matter so much.

So how liberal was Obama with regards to health care? He started by immediately taking the extremely popular single payer option off the table. Liberals pleaded with him to at least retain a public option. While paying lip service to it Obama basically crushed it in a deceitful and absurd display. Greenwald has the details here and here. What he gave us was something worked out with major input from the large insurance companies and the pharmaceuticals. Sure, it's not the Republican plan. Republicans of course want to create a real utopia for the corporate masters. They were content to leave millions uninsured. Basically the status quo. What Obama offers does a little good, but still it is loved by the insurance companies. They can retain their 30% overhead and Americans can continue to pay twice what the rest of the world does while getting outcomes near the bottom of the spectrum of industrialized countries. This is not liberalism.

By a margin of 59 to 31% Americans believe that the UN should take the lead in solving international crises, not the US. So given that this is the attitude of Americans generally, imagine what the attitude of liberals would be. So in November of 2009 Obama's UN representative had the chance to join the world and accept the international consensus on a 2 state settlement in Palestine, or he could stand virtually alone against the world. The vote was 164-7 with the US of course among the few opposed. Is that liberalism? And try to find a reference to this extremism in the major media. This resolution is a sensible plan. A similar plan is even supported by the Israeli public generally. But not by the extreme right wing elements of the Israeli government and the extreme right wing elements of the American population. Obama goes along with them, not his liberal supporters.

Obama's positions on his authority to the order assassination of US citizens is so extreme it's even making right winger's blush. Not only is this not liberalism. This is right wing extremism. Now, perhaps Dutko is happy to give the President the authority to assassinate US citizens with no oversight. Maybe he's thinking Obama is making the good, tough decision. But is this liberalism?

There's a reason Obama and his press secretary Robert Gibbs have lately been going after liberals. Real liberals are openly hostile to Obama because Obama is not a liberal, though he did give the impression that he was.

Dutko loves to point out the hypocrisy of so called liberal media personalities in that they harshly criticized policies related to torture, war, and surveillance when Bush was implementing them, but now that Obama is implementing them they're quite silent. They're ready to abandon liberal policies just to support their favored candidate and party. This should be enough to help Dutko recognize that support for Obama and support for liberalism are not the same thing.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Foundations of Totalitarianism

The courts have now ruled that the President has the authority to order the assassination of US citizens without any due process. Just claim that doing so involves "state secrets." Over at Jihad Watch there's euphoria. Almost unanimous support amongst among the commentators.

It's tempting of course to cede all of your freedoms to your government when you are scared. The British would have been tempted when German bombs were raining down on Britain. But even war mongering Churchill recognized that retaining freedoms and rights for citizens was just too important. Here's what he said.

"The power of the Executive to cast a man in prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government, whether Nazi or Communist." Winston Churchill in a telegram by Churchill from Cairo, Egypt to Home Secretary Herbert Morrison (1943-11-21)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Review of Sungenis' NBFA

My recent Sungenis post got me thinking about the olden days back as a Christian debating non-Protestants. Eric Svendsen was a Reformed Protestant apologist that seemed to be a pretty decent guy. A little less abrasive than James White. I learned a lot from him. He had a discussion board and I spent a lot of time there, which was fun.

When I read Not By Faith Alone I took the time to write a review which Svendsen was good enough to post on his website. It still can be viewed here. Not badly written I must say. And I think it's apparent that I do really try to understand my opponents from their own perspective. It's very easy, and very common, to not bother reading those that disagree with you and simply read friendly sources so as to confirm your own biases. I'm proud to say I resisted that urge to some degree. Ultimately this is what lead me out of Christianity.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Geocentrism Conference

As a Protestant apologist back in the day I focused a lot of my energy on Catholicism. I read a lot of Catholic material, including books by Roman Catholic apologists. One series is by a guy named Robert Sungenis. He wrote these enormous books, on the order of 600 pages. I read every bit of Not By Scripture Alone and Not By Faith Alone. For the later I even took notes and outlined the arguments.

These books by Sungenis came with the endorsement of just about every prominent Catholic apologist. Little did they know when they offered those endorsements that Robert Sungenis in fact was a geocentrist. Well after going to print these things came to light. Whoops! That's embarrassing. I bet they wish they could get those endorsements back. He's still at it. In November he'll be involved in the First Annual Catholic Conference on Geocentrism. Galileo was wrong. The Church was right.

You ever think about how you would go about defending heliocentrism? It's kind of interesting to consider. I was all plugged in to the debates on the discussion boards at this time. Sungenis offered something like $1000 to anybody that could disprove geocentrism. I broke out my physics textbook and sent him something related to geosynchronous satellites. I think he sent some nonsense in reply about how there is some sort of counter balancing force that holds the satellites in equilibrium at their present altitude. Seriously.

The person that in my mind really earned the $1000 was Gary Hoge, who wrote a few articles I really enjoyed that you can find here. Thanks to Dave Armstrong for helping me track this down.

Of course it's easy to make fun of Sungenis, but once again a part of me can't help but admire him in the same way I partly admire James White or a YEC. These people hold positions that they know will open them up to contempt. Rightly in my view. They could take the easy way out, but they don't. Did the Pope in his official capacity teach geocentrism? Yeah, he did. Most Catholics try and spin the problems away. Sungenis won't do that. He will embrace papal infallibility in this uncomfortable instance rather than the standard apologetic method wherein unpreferred papal utterances die the death of a thousand qualifications. I imagine Catholic apologists look down their noses at Sungenis but from my perspective they have no right to.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Public Opinion on Afghanistan

Do you think the US is doing the right thing by fighting the war in Afghanistan now, or should the US not be involved in Afghanistan now?

By a margin of 54 to 38% Americans believe we should not be involved now (HT to Glenn Greenwald for this poll). Consider that we have a Democratic president (the ostensible "peace" party). He has a Democratic Congress. They could have us out if they wanted to. But in fact they just are not responsive to the population.

I understand that polls show that the Republicans could re-take Congress this year. Voter apathy is considered a major reason. If you consider yourself a "peace" voter or you want public option style health care (the majority of Americans fall into these categories) you obviously wouldn't be voting for a Republican. But at this point why would you vote for a Democrat? Neither party is interested in being responsive to the majority of the public.

Christianity's Anti-Science Conditioning

Christians are often reasonable people. Looking back on my own mindset as a Christian I regard myself as having been a reasonable Christian. Sure, I was younger and a little more ignorant, but still reasonable.

Did I have a deep understanding of evolutionary theory? No. But of course I did reject it. What logically comes with that rejection is the conclusion that the scientific method, while OK, is probably not exceptionally reliable. It's certainly not fool proof, as anyone must admit. But more than that it really isn't the best method for coming to know truth. I'm doing much better reading the likes of Phillip Johnson and J.P. Moreland than I would be in following overwhelming scientific consensus.

This mindset spilled over into other areas of my life, and as I look back I'm finding that in every case I can think of where I've gone against the scientific grain today I regard having done that as a mistake. I did buy off on some of the homeopathic claims. I spent a few bucks on snake oil. Climate change? Of course that was bunk. Just like evolutionists have some sort of God hating agenda and the scientific method is not capable of correcting for such biases, in the same way global warming types basically want to run our lives like Stalinist commissars. I will resist their encroachments on my liberty.

It's true that I'm not an expert in climate science. But here's what I do know. 98% of climate experts accept the general conclusions of the IPCC report. The lesson I've learned from my past is that rejecting the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is unlikely to lead to truth. Sure, it's possible that they can all be wrong, but is it likely? And what method of knowing truth is more reliable than following scientific consensus? They'll be wrong sometimes. But who won't be wrong sometimes? What is the alternative?

On Christian radio here in Detroit we have WMUZ, which is Bob Dutko's station. I kid you not, they advertise hyperbolic chambers. On Saturdays they have call in shows with homeopaths recommending ionized water and various trace vitamins as solutions to health problems. And of course Dutko will occasionally go off on global warming as if it's a joke. In a relative sense Christians like this in fact reject science. That's not really irrational from the starting point of biblically based science that rejects the theory of evolution.

And I don't really care if people reject evolution. But I do care if people reject facts that could lead to massive human catastrophe. We must consider strategies for convincing Christians of the true reliability of science. Perhaps it's useful to do so in a way that doesn't threaten their religious beliefs. Is that possible? It might be.

Friday, September 17, 2010

White vs Price 3-White is Projecting

James White wants an answer to the following question: Why won't Robert Price allow the text of the Bible to be consistent? Why is he man handling the text in order to create inconsistencies? For instance Price regards the statement "Take up your cross and follow me" to be an anachronism. It makes sense as a post crucifixion saying. People would know that it means to be like Christ in that you are willing to do the difficult, but right thing only if they know that Christ did the difficult and right thing by being crucified. But it doesn't make much sense to people prior to the crucifixion because they are unaware that Christ suffered this fate.

Why is it impossible for Jesus to have said that prior to the crucifixion, asks James White? They know what a crucifixion is. Why must Price force the text into a contradictory grid.

Whatever you may think of the merits of the argument related to "taking up the cross", the fact remains. The person that is unwilling to let the text be what it is is James White. Robert Price doesn't dismiss all harmonizations of Scripture. In fact he gave a couple of excellent examples showing that where sometimes atheists have thought contradictions existed he showed them that in fact there was no contradiction. Price does not need to make everything in the text a contradiction.

But guess who it is that needs to make everything in the text harmonious? James White and all the inerrantist harmonizers. Did Judas fall head long and have his guts spew all over the rocks or did he hang himself? Both, say the harmonizers. Did Mary return from the tomb having met Jesus and clasped his feet, or did she return without seeing him and say "They've taken my Lord and I don't know where they've lain him. They've stolen the body." Both, say the harmonizers. Gleason Archer tells us that she just forgot amidst all the excitement.

"Let Matthew be Matthew" James White told Robert Price. We are letting Matthew be Matthew. You are the one that refuses to let Matthew be Matthew. You are the one that won't let Matthew sometimes be mistaken, like we allow for all other humans that have written books. You are the one forcing the text into a pre-conceived harmonious grid, which is something you do with no other text. You are imposing your own flaws on to us, but we are not guilty of this charge. You are.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

White vs Price 2-Why White Lost Badly

I believe that during the White/Price debate that White pointed out that he was participating in his 96th formal debate. That's a lot of debating. Shouldn't White by this point know what he needs to do to win? One would think so. But I've now listened to this debate and I have to say I'm stunned. In a sense it's almost like he didn't show up. That's a strong claim I know, but the facts bear it out.

Here's something that's required of anyone that wants to win a debate. You need to make an argument in favor of the proposition you are defending. Isn't that obvious? Here's the topic. "Is the Bible True?" So what does White need to do? Most importantly he needs to make an argument that the Bible is true. What else? He needs to rebut Price's argument that the Bible is not true. Seems pretty simple, right?

So before the debate White prepared. He seems to have read everything from Price that he could get his hands on. He seems to have listened to many of his lectures and teachings. So if anybody is going to be ready to rebut whatever argument Price offers White is going to be able to. That's his secondary task. His primary task is to argue that the Bible is true, and since presumably he knows why he thinks the Bible is true this shouldn't require too much effort.

So let's get to the contents of the debate. Price starts and offers multiple reasons why we should not believe the Bible is true in the sense White would affirm it. First, evangelicals have often claimed that God providentially prevented this ancient text from being infected with error. That right there assumes that the infection of error is the normal course of events since a miracle is invoked to prevent it. So unless we are going to invoke a miracle here we should start with the assumption that errors are present. Second, the claim that Jesus and the disciples would have prevented error from accruing, which is a common evangelical argument, is disproved by the contents of the gospels themselves and contrary to what our expectations would be. In the gospels we're told that Jesus himself couldn't prevent listeners from telling tales he didn't want told. The gospels tell us that false reports concerning Jesus circulated widely and in fact Jesus directed the disciples to not bother correcting them. Making up things was considered pious and acceptable in this culture. Gnostic teaching was accepted widely. Gospel reports indicate erroneous resurrection belief. John the Baptist was thought to be raised but this is a case of mistaken identity. This is proof that this error is easy to make. In the Gospel of John we're told that Jesus did say he'd destroy the temple in 3 days, but John allegorizes the story. Mark and Matthew tell us that Jesus said no such thing and only false witnesses say he did. Luke says that Steven is reported to have said it. Look at every day experience. What preacher hasn't been chagrined to learn what others have thought him to have said? Look at the fact that rabbis can't keep straight who it is that supposedly uttered a statement, attributing the same wise saying to various sages. Why does Mt 10 tell us that Jesus wanted the gospel to go only to the Jews, Mt 28 says he wanted it spread far and wide, and yet at Acts 15 they're debating whether the gospel should go to Gentiles as if they've never heard of the great commission?

So let's notice something here. What Price offers is reasons to disbelieve many of the biblical contents. You can agree with him or not (and I think it was an absolutely brilliant opening statement), but what you can't say is that he's not making an argument in favor of the proposition he's defending. That's kind of like a necessary precondition for having any kind of success in a debate.

So next up is White. Here is what he offers. Keep in mind, this is White's argument that the Bible is true.

Price affirms the principle of analogy which precludes supernaturalism. Price wouldn't believe the gospels even if they were written 10 minutes after the events. Price's hyper skepticism should evoke silence, but Price inconsistently makes positive assertions about historical matters. Price is wrong about biblical authorship. Price endorses Dennis McDonald's views regarding the Homeric epics and the Gospel of Mark, and that's wrong for various reasons. Price rejects the consensus of scholarship on whether I Cor 15 includes an interpolation, Pauline authorship of the epistles, and the corresponding dates of the text. Price is wrong in certain textual transmission claims. The Bible isn't all about miracle stories. Accepting biblical miracle stories doesn't mean I have to accept all miracle stories. There's nothing wrong with harmonization. And finally what good are these texts if they are deprived of their truth value?

His 20 minutes are over and there's an obvious question that ought to be popping in to everyone's mind. Where is your argument that the Bible is true? I mean seriously. My criticism has nothing to do with the fact that I'm not a Christian. What I'm saying here is any Christian ought to be extremely unhappy with this. Any Christian should be calling him out and conceding immediately that this is absolutely horrible. Make an argument, James White. You need help? Heck, argue that miraculous events are knowable historically and this makes the Bible believable. Argue that biblical prophecy shows the accuracy of the Bible which justifies harmonization in other cases. Argue that acceptance of the Bible is a necessary precondition for making coherent sense of the world. You have to do something. That's what you're here for.

This is nothing but a massive failure on White's part in his primary task. So let's turn to the secondary task. Despite the fact that none of the arguments White made are even relevant to the proposition being debated, Price still obviously listened to what White had said and did what any competent debator would do. He rebutted White's opening statement. He argued that the principle of analogy does not entail that miracles are impossible. He said that exorcisms and healings happen today, but the historian cannot know if God was the causal agent even if he was. He said we must face reality and admit that ancient historical claims must be held tentatively. He said that his belief that the gospels represent a mixing of Jewish and Greek thinking is justified by various instances of mixing that we already know exist. He said that I Cor 15 could be an interpolation because we have no textual evidence of any kind prior to the Chester-Beatty papyri. Finally he said that though there is much in the Bible that is not true, this doesn't mean it doesn't have beauty and isn't worth studying. "Take up your cross and follow me" sounds like an anachronism. It's a post crucifixion saying that wouldn't have made sense to the listeners ears prior to the crucifixion. But that doesn't mean it isn't challenging, thoughtful, and interesting.

So let's notice something here. You can agree or disagree with Price's rebuttals. What you can't say is that he's not offering a rebuttal. He's obviously listened to what White said and he is rebutting the contents. That's something you really should do if you're interested in winning a debate.

So what does White do? For the most part he says nothing about Price's opening statement. He starts with this argument related to I Cor 15. He says that "taking up the cross" would have made sense prior to the crucifixion because they know what crucifixion was. Then he says that the evidence for the mixing of Greek and Jewish themes was after AD 70. So in other words, White isn't going after Price's opening statement. He's replying to Price's first rebuttal. Where is the rebuttal to Price's argument? Price could be wrong about I Cor 15. He could be wrong about pagan parallels. But he's already shown that the Bible can't be true in the sense White's believes based on his opening statement that had nothing to do with the Homeric epics or an interpolation of I Cor 15. If you don't rebut his argument you lose.

Towards the end of his rebuttal White finally made a point that touched on Price's opener. He said that the Islamic hadith came much further following the life of Mohammed so they aren't analogous to the gospels. Beyond that he repeated what he had said in his own opening, which is the claim that if Price thinks he knows enough about history to declare Jesus a mythical character how can he simultaneously claim that everything is so unknowable. Neither of these points are valid. It doesn't matter that hadith are later, the point was that it was considered pious and acceptable to put words in the mouth of the master even if they were false. And the second point doesn't work because he's not claiming that Jesus in fact said he'd tear the temple down or didn't say it. He's saying that the gospels record both. Whatever the truth is both can't be right.

But at least with these invalid points White is addressing Price's opening statement. That's kind of the point of a rebuttal. But that's not what he spends most of his time on. How can you expect to win a debate this way?

Jason Engwer tells us that "James White did well." No, he didn't. He did very badly. If you're going to deny this when White didn't even make an argument for the proposition and offered almost nothing in his first rebuttal, what's it going to take for you to recognize that a Christian did poorly?

White vs Price-How Does James White Think He Performed?

It's finally arrived. The Price/White debate is available for purchase here. Well worth the $4.10.

I'll review the contents of the debate in a subsequent post, but in the mean time let's ask ourselves something. What does James White think of his own performance? He's not the kind of person that admits defeat. But what can you glean from his behavior?

His reaction to the debate was rather muted. After posting a blog note that basically says "Yes, the debate did occur" he offered only a part of one Dividing Line program to a review. It took months for the debate to come available and I didn't see that this bothered him a bit. He never complained about it as far as I know. When it finally did come available on August 20th I saw no mention on his blog. He's not doing the kinds of things a person would normally do if they want to sell a lot of copies. The only reason I knew it was available was because it was reviewed in two parts by Jason Engwer, who offered that "James White did well." When you consider that Jason Engwer always regards the Christian as the victor you realize that this is really damning White with faint praise.

Let's contrast this with White's treatment of the Bart Ehrman debate. Once again a note that the debate occurred. Then immediately following a longer post discussing some of the debate details. The next DL program was fully devoted to debate clips and analysis. The debate audio was immediately made available and the availability was announced on the blog. The next DL program was once again fully devoted to debate review. Next we're told that White was interviewed on another program to discuss the Ehrman debate. Next another more lengthy review in response to somebody's comments on the debate. Then more of the same. Then Tur8infan's review. Then White again with Ehrman Redux.

White is not acting like you would expect a person to act if they thought they did well. Is that warranted? Most definitely. You'll see why if you read my next post.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Paul Tobin Contrasts Real Biblical Scholarship with Conservative Biblical Scholarship

Paul Tobin continues his reply to "The Infidel Delusion" here. An excerpt below (see original for citations). Also in a similar vein there's an interesting compilation of facts concerning expert opinion on the Bible here.

On Biblical Scholarship and Evangelical Apologetics

Perhaps this would be a good time to explain why the word ‘scholarship’ cannot be used when referring to evangelical literature[9] and why people like Hays are mistaken in placing their trust in such works.

The mark of scholarship is its dependence of evidence and reason regardless of where it leads.

Yet we find that many evangelical institutes have very strict rules about what their “scholars” are supposed to accept. Many evangelical theological seminaries, such as the Dallas Theological Seminary,[10] Denver Seminary[11] and Fuller Theological Seminary[12] require its faculty to sign a strict statement of adherence to biblical inerrancy before they are allowed to teach there. Some institutions even require the faculty member to recommit to this statement annually, just in case they have changed their mind on inerrancy after signing the statement.

Not adhering to these statements could mean loss of one’s tenure and may even result in sacking or forced resignation. The recent case of Bruce Waltke, an evangelical professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, is one such example. He had to resign his post from the Reformed Theological Seminary in circumstances still unclear – but it clearly had to do with his advocating the compatibility of evolution and biblical creation, something clearly anathema to many, if not most, evangelicals.

How can honest scholarship be done when one is already adhering to a position of inerrancy? Imagine physicists being required to sign a statement affirming the “inerrancy” of quantum mechanics before they can get a teaching position in any university! One would not believe any “research” on the fundamentals of physics that comes out from such an institution.

It is the same with evangelicals. When they are already committed to an unalterable belief, then that very position cannot but produce “scholarship” which agrees with such a belief. Thus, it should come as no surprise that any book by Craig Blomberg on the reliability of the gospels will conclude that the gospels are “reliable.”[13] And if Ben Witherington III were to write a book about the Acts of the Apostles, you can bet your bottom dollar he is going to “find” the book historically reliable and that Luke is its author.[14]

Studies where the end results are known beforehand are not works of scholarship but of pure apologetics. As Robert M. Price noted in his recent book, “The Case Against the Case for Christ,” such “scholarship” has only one main goal – to “turn back the clock” to a time when the Bible made is safe from historical criticism.[15]

We do not find this in mainstream biblical scholarship, where debates and differing positions are taken based on how each scholar marshals the evidence. When a consensus is reached by such a boisterous group of scholars–it tends to mean that the evidence for such a consensus is strong. Thus when we say that 80% to 90% of such scholars agree that the pastorals were not written by Paul, we can be certain that the reason for such a consensus must be compelling.

A “Consensus” among evangelicals however, comes not from the result of arguments and evidence but from their “statements of faith.” In other words, such “consensuses” among evangelicals come from the unquestioned presuppositional biases.

So when Hays cites his “authorities” on the reliability of the Bible, all he is saying to the skeptic is, ‘Hey, see how all these apologists with PhD’s are using ingenious methods to defend beliefs which cannot be held without a presuppositionary belief in Biblical inerrancy!”