Wishart has no clue

There are reasonable Christians who realise the limitations of their knowledge and freely admit this. They claim faith, yet have the good sense to realise science has given humanity the sight to discover the secrets of nature and how it works. Christian fundamentalist crusader Ian Wishart is not one of those people.

Ian wishart is so certain he is right about his interpretation of the bible and the world at large that he writes articles for his magazine Investigate to that effect and a number of books exposing “the real truth”. He comes across as the investigative journalist yet when you read his work you have to duck to avoid an assault of conspiracy theories, logical fallacies and fiction dressed up as science. For a more investigative look at Wishart and the weird shit he really believes, visit the Silly Beliefs website entry on him.

Wishart’s brand of sophistry

A great example of how misguided Wishart really is (and how Christian fundamentalists think) can be seen in his attempt to refute claims made by Richard Dawkins. Professor Dawkins made his way down to New Zealand recently and of course is famous for his book The God Delusion among others.

Dawkins states that God cannot be used as an explanation for complexity because he would have to be more complex than that which he is supposed to explain.

Wishart’s nugget in response to this: “Dawkins claims there is no god yet seems to be an expert in the complexity of God”.

This shows how naive Wishart really is. Dawkins assertion is both Philosophically and experientially sound. Firstly, adding an unobserved entity to any explanation is unjustified as the entity too requires an explanation. Apologists seem to use God as a get out of jail free card – by making the God claim they can then duck for cover and claim they have no need to explain further. This is special pleading in action.

What Wishart doesn’t grasp is that for everything we have an observed scientific explanation for emerged from simpler factors via natural processes or was created by something of greater complexity. Stars, galaxies, planets and life evolved from simpler origins. Living things evolved and everything created by these organisms is observed to be simpler. In other words, the creator in these cases was always more complex.

It therefore violates experience and logic to posit a creator that is less complex than the creation he is credited with. To say God is simple is, again, special pleading.

Besides that, God cannot escape the infinite regress – God’s arrival on the scene must also be explained – yet the apologetic mind simply asks for more wiggle room by saying “well, he exists outside of time and space and therefore didn’t have a beginning”. Vague pseudo-philosophical musings such as these just reveal how unintelligible the entire “God exists, honest” argument has become. Any claim of an unobserved entity existing for eternity can equally be applied to the universe – the advantage being we know with a high degree of certainty the universe actually exists.

The Divinity Code

It is evident that Ian Wishart has a very tenuous relationship with the truth. This is hardly surprising given the conservative Christian bias he applies to all topics. His love-hate affair with Richard Dawkins is clear – he wrote an entire book – The Divinity Code – as a response to Dawkins’ God Delusion, yet despite the tag line “the explosive new evidence” The Divinity Code treads over tired old creationist arguments with a thin veneer of science to make it sound academic.

The approach Wishart takes in the book is to prove god’s existence by looking into the natural world for “the fingerprints of God”. This is termed natural theology – a philosophy continually eroded by scientific inquiry. For, if we cannot prove or disprove supernatural entities, Wishart claims that we should at least be able to see evidence of his work in the natural world.

The bedrock of natural theology is thus:

  • alternative explanations for natural phenomenon as explained by science (typified by science denial)
  • speculative explanations where science currently has no answer (argument from ignorance)
  • selective examination of the evidence, e.g. trying to prove a designed universe by looking only at examples that seem to prove the hypothesis and avoiding inconvenient examples that falsify the design hypothesis (observation selection bias)

Alternative explanations to nature often requires the denial of established scientific theories (evolution/big bang cosmology are the two most targeted by Christian fundamentalists) and  Wishart injects his arguments with a healthy dose of denial, selection bias and speculation, because, as he points out, the supernatural cannot be definitively proven or disproven.

Evidence of the supernatural?

The problem with looking for evidence of the supernatural is that the evidence always has a subjective, non-scientific element. This is where speculation often enters the room – apologists posit supernatural causes at the point where the natural explanation has stopped. You can go that extra distance and say that “we don’t know what causes X, therefore God [or enter alternative supernatural explanation here] did it” but this is trivial and ultimately adds nothing. Besides that, it seems a little premature to invent a cause that hasn’t been observed because this is a natural human tendency with a long record of being trumped by science.

In principle, there could be evidence that we can consider consistent with a supernatural agency* (or an agency external to the universe). Natural theologists comb through nature looking for examples that could be considered evidence, but where they veer away from science is that they cannot rule out plausible natural explanations first. Occam’s razor doesn’t favour explanations that go beyond the testable evidence so natural theology cannot escape the injection of faith to complete the circle.

Our current ignorance (or incredulity) on a subject is never a valid reason to inject an imagined explanation, unless one is seeking to confirm their own prejudice. I wish Mr Wishart luck, but I fear his arguments in their present form aren’t new and aren’t likely to overturn explanations for the natural world based on observation and sound logic. Nice try though Ian.

* The next post will tie this post and the previous one on the arguments of Jeff Tallon by looking at what science has to say about the “fingerprints of God” in nature.

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6 responses to “Wishart has no clue

  1. Your entire post is entertaining but rests on a pseudoscientific assumption of its own: you conflate the problem by trying to impose a naturalistic constraint on a proposed supernatural entity.

    What the??

    Dawkins’ (and your) argument about God having to be more complex than his creation would be valid if you could prove that the natural parameters you impose also applied to God.

    But you can’t prove that. Neither can Dawkins. It is merely supposition built on nothing, an ill-founded expedition in logic.

    Since time immemorial, religious believers (and especially the Judeo-Christian strain) have insisted that God is immaterial. Science, by definition, is confined to the material world. It cannot prove nor disprove the existence of a being that is not confined to the material realm.

    To demand that the rules applicable to material objects and natural lifeforms must also apply to something which, by definition, is not natural, is as logical as insisting that because magnets attract iron they must also work on plastic.

    There is no logical reason why a supernatural ‘God’ must be complex, or more complex than his natural creation. If you can think of a logical reason, I’m open to hear it, but until then Richard Dawkins’ argument is impaled on the rocks and sinking.

    For the record, he has never provided a logical reason, so good luck in finding one where he has failed.

    If Dawkins could prove that God must be a material being confined within the boundaries of this universe, I would then concede his argument was valid. But he hasn’t come close.

    Cheers
    Ian

  2. viewfromreality

    Thanks for the reply Ian. I (and Dawkins) have nothing to prove because we are not making the claim. Your post merely agrees with mine – everything else must abide by the logical “creator must be more complex than creation” except God. Please tell me how this isn’t special pleading???

    You say: “Since time immemorial, religious believers (and especially the Judeo-Christian strain) have insisted that God is immaterial. Science, by definition, is confined to the material world. It cannot prove nor disprove the existence of a being that is not confined to the material realm.”

    What religious believers say is of no use to the argument because they themselves cannot know God is immaterial. Heck, they can’t prove such a being exists so how can they know its qualities??? Besides that, believers can only describe God in negative terms (immaterial, immutable…) which is unintelligible. You can’t just assume that because religious believers have claimed something for a long time that it somehow becomes true… Besides, religious believers claim all sorts of things that we now know to be utter nonsense.

    The whole notion of trying to prove anything about a supernatural entity is ridiculous so skeptics don’t even try. There are an infinite set of supernatural beings but it makes no sense to believe in any one specifically unless you are predisposed to believing in one.

    Until there is positive evidence for the existence of God the only logical thing to do is to withhold belief.

  3. Hi Fred, let me approach your reply this way.

    You say, “I (and Dawkins) have nothing to prove because we are not making the claim.”

    Well, actually, you and Dawkins are. Definitions of God are far older and well-established within human society than scientific naturalism is. More than three-quarters of the world’s inhabitants believe in a supernatural deity of some description.

    This is why atheist philosopher Kai Neilsen is adamant that when atheists challenge majority human experience and belief, it is they, not believers, who are making positive claims by swimming against the popular tide:

    “Strong, tendentious philosophical claims require, to have any reasonable force, strong arguments. My claim that belief in God is in our time irrational for a scientifically and philosophically sophisticated person is just such a strong and, to put it minimally, contentious claim…

    “However, I should first make a disclaimer…I am not claiming that all, or even most, Jews, Christians or Muslims are irrational. That is just too grossly parti pris [an opinion formed beforehand without adequate evidence] and too absurd to be even worth considering. Indeed, it would be a silly form of hubris.”

    Nielsen also concedes that “rationalism” is NOT the sole determinant, as he recognizes that something true may indeed be non-rational:

    “This is not, by the way, a closet rationalism. It is not to make reason sovereign – whatever that means – for it may be the case that nonrational – not irrational – factors will, and indeed even should, be decisive here.”

    Neilsen has been described as one of the 20th century’s leading atheist philosophers, and is certainly recognized in this area at Wikipedia. Nielsen also warns of the dangers of appealing to science of the gaps – the idea that there must be a natural explanation if only we could find it. Kai Nielsen had this to say on this blind-faith side of atheism:

    “It is simply uncritical thinking to just believe that there must be, or even likely is, explanations or theories of such type available to us…That there must be such a principle of sufficient reason operating here is certainly a very questionable and question-begging thing to believe. This may be another sign of what Fredrich Waismann called the irrational heart of rationalism.”

    Now, in essence Dawkins is proposing a definition of God that bears no resemblance to what any of the world’s religions say about the deity. By re-creating God in the image he wants for his argument, Dawkins makes a novel positive claim that he has failed to prove.

    You continue:

    “What religious believers say is of no use to the argument because they themselves cannot know God is immaterial.”

    Let’s test this: For thousands of years, humans have claimed examples of divine intervention in both civilisation and personal lives. Many of those claims may well turn out to be merely wishful thinking when examined objectively, but there remain, particularly within Christianity, inexplicable events that defy every known natural law. (Evidence of miracles in other religions remains much harder to find, in truth. Eastern faiths (Buddhism, Hinduism etc) basically eschew miracles on the basis that the universe itself, and all in it, are ‘god’, and therefore a genuine miracle would be the universe fighting itself. I devote a decent chunk of Divinity Code to comparing miracle claims from different religions.)

    Further, millions (probably billions throughout history) of people would testify of personal encounters with the supernatural or specifically Jesus Christ/God.

    There are Muslims living deep in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim communities who insist Jesus Christ has appeared personally to them in such a powerful way that they have converted to Christianity even on pain of death if caught – completely counter-cultural experiences.

    You can see a Youtube of one such, fairly typical, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUtsZm3_754&feature=related

    These are “experiential” testimonies that are very real to those involved, but which cannot be scientifically tested or repeated for the most part.

    Now, you might well reasonably argue that many of these experiences are wishful thinking, but all it would take is just ONE of these billions of events to be real and non-natural for proof of the supernatural to be established.

    You suggest believers don’t “know” God to be immaterial. No, but by the same token you’d have a struggle to prove he isn’t. He is an entity that appears primarily in dreams, visions and answered prayers – immaterial things – not by manifesting in a physical form. He has always been posited as immaterial save for a 30 year period of wandering the Middle East in human form. (see http://briefingroom.typepad.com/the_briefing_room/2010/04/the-easter-challenge.html )

    Can you prove that your mind, your self-awareness, is entirely natural? No. Science knows very little about the human mind and how and why it functions the way it does.

    The evidence is not strong enough to support a blanket assertion that the mind is entirely natural in origin, so the proposition that it is remains a positive claim that you need to prove before you can shift the burden.

    The human mind may be resident in a human body, and obviously has a physical interface that it works through, but no-one has been able to prove the physicality of the mind itself. Sure, we can pump people full of drugs or electricity or whatever and achieve certain outcomes, but is that truly altering the mind itself or merely taking control of the physical interface (masking or creating symptoms)?

    In this context, if you can’t prove the laws of the universe (physics, chemistry etc, how much does a mind ‘weigh’?) apply to the human mind under current knowledge, I can’t see how you can presume to hold God to a standard science can’t even hold us to yet, let alone declare that it’s my burden of proof to shift!

    As a matter of logic, rather than science, it follows that if the laws pertaining to this universe, including the law of time, only came into existence with the Big Bang and inside this universe, then it is entirely possible that any being capable of creating such a universe is probably not based within his creation and therefore not subject to its limits.

    Stephen Hawking, incidentally, has allowed for the possibility of a God not bound by the laws of the universe:

    “It is difficult to discuss the beginning of the universe without mentioning the concept of God. My work on the origin of the universe is on the borderline between science and religion, but I try to stay on the scientific side of the border. It is quite possible that God acts in ways that cannot be described by scientific laws.”

    You say: “Heck, they can’t prove such a being exists so how can they know its qualities??? Besides that, believers can only describe God in negative terms (immaterial, immutable…) which is unintelligible.”

    And yet strongly agnostic cosmologist Hawking is still prepared to make the concession that you are not. Further, in his Brief History of Time he – like me – talks of God, by definition, dwelling outside time:

    “The idea that God might want to change His mind is an example of the fallacy, pointed out by St. Augustine, of imagining God as a being existing in time. Time is a property only of the universe that God created. Presumably, God knew what He intended when He set it up.”

    You say “The whole notion of trying to prove anything about a supernatural entity is ridiculous so skeptics don’t even try. There are an infinite set of supernatural beings but it makes no sense to believe in any one specifically unless you are predisposed to believing in one.”

    As a matter of logic I’d pull you up here. There may be a large number of claimed supernatural beings, but it doesn’t follow that they all exist or are equally ranked. You could not positively rule out belief in one religion without first comparing and testing the various truth claims each religion makes. You might be too bored to do that, but it is a prerequisite for ruling out a religious theory, as much as this process is applicable to any other kind of competing set of theories.

    In Divinity Code I actually set out the main religions and their differences, and why some of them were quite easy to dismiss because there is no supporting evidence in history or archaeology, or because their worldview on origins strongly conflicts with what science has discovered.

    You say “Until there is positive evidence for the existence of God the only logical thing to do is to withhold belief.”

    Your definition of “positive evidence” will be subjective to you, and won’t necessarily be the same as someone else’s threshold; It’s not a “100% or nothing” quiz. Like virtually everything else in life, it’s a sliding continuum of evidence made up not just of intellectual argument, or empirical evidence that meets scientific standards, but also experiential factors that are personal to the people involved.

    I was once a supernatural sceptic, just like yourself. Then my evidence continuum received an unexpected adjustment in a direction I had not anticipated, indeed one I had been inimical to.

    I could not deny or rationalise away the things I experienced, and you’ll hear similar stories from people all over the globe.

  4. viewfromreality

    For the record, before I begin my reply (final reply as I believe our differences are irreconcilable), while I disagree with you on many things, as a writer and enthusiast in these subjects, I do find your work interesting reading. I actually find reading “the other side” to enrich my understanding – I’m open to challenging ideas articulated well I so actually enjoy your work. Just thought I’d say that because blog comment sparring is kinda like meeting someone and punching them in the face…

    Reply:

    A few quotes that relate to my discussion below:
    “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”
    – Charles Darwin

    The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.
    -Bertrand Russell

    Ian, I respect that you and many people around the world for as long as we have been around have had experiences that have transformed their life and views of the world around them. That is one of the truly magnificent qualities of being human (and Dawkins would agree with you here). I don’t think we can use that as evidence for objective reality (isn’t that why there is the objective-subjective distinction?) Isn’t the fact that our experiences cannot be trusted to provide reliable evidence of reality the reason a scientific method exists to systematically weed human bias and influence out of the results?

    Argument from popularity
    Are you seriously asking us to believe the testimonies of billions of people throughout history when for the most part the human race has been ignorant about the universe and their place in it. In the past 300 years we’ve learned more about the universe and ourselves than at anytime in history (thanks to the scientific method).

    Here’s what we know that all those people throughout history did not:

    – The universe we see today originated from a Big Bang.
    – There is nothing special about any one part of the universe
    – Complex life evolved from simpler organisms
    – Human reasoning works to confirm prior biases and beliefs
    Religious experiences have a natural explanation and the subjective experience of the individual in question is ALWAYS within the framework of their belief system (Islamic religious experiences don’t involve Jesus or Vishnu). We could take the word of religious believers throughout history but then we get divergent results as everyone’s subjective experience is different.
    Religious experiences throughout the ages have often been induce through mind-altering molecules – suggesting the feeling is merely chemical.
    – Explanations that invoke causation beyond experience is the default setting of the human mind. These explanations always precede reliable knowledge. In other words, where no explanation currently exists, the mind will invent one so as to make sense of the environment.
    – Intuition is consistently overturned by science. We cannot trust intuition and emotions as reliable indicators of objective truth as there are far too many innate baises, reasoning and perceptual flaws that skew data from the environment.
    – Above all, we have found that human reasoning as applied in philosophy and theology is not enough. Philosophers and theologians have thought up all kinds of arguments for and against anything you care to bring up. However, until tested their ideas are still provisional. Aristotle thought men had more teeth than woman – all he had to do was count.

    Now, you insist I can’t prove God isn’t immaterial. That’s true but no one is under the obligation to believe anything without proper reasoning. Bertrand Russell made this explicit with his china teapot example. I claim there is a china teapot orbiting the Earth. You can’t prove that there isn’t but… by the same token, I can’t prove there is. It would therefore be pointless to believe it. It would be ridiculous for me to expect you to believe it or try and prove it false. Let’s extend this, lets say billions of people have believed this china teapot exists over several millennia. Does this make it any more true?

    As for the irrational heart of rationalism – as an equal opportunity skeptic (I am as skeptical of anything that can’t be demonstrated empirically) I apply the same standards of evidence to whatever claim is made. I simply do not permit myself to believe that which goes beyond experience and reason – all too often beliefs of that kind are what people want to believe (and there is no standard of evidence applied that could falsify them). A good example of this in your argument is thus:

    “Time is a property only of the universe that God created. Presumably, God knew what He intended when He set it up.”

    How can you, or anyone else know that with justifiable certainty? It is just assumed in your argument and therefore is a false premise. The more we learn about the universe the less need there is for God to explain it. For an explanation we don’t currently have, the best we can say is we don’t know. Inserting your favourite supernatural agency in there does not magically solve the problem.

    The quote from Hawkings is another example of speculation that you are seem to be using as a “told ya so” type of argument. However, this is still speculation and I never said a God could not exist. There are several valid logical points that make God all the more implausible. These philosophical speculations are scarcely evidence in favour of it – they do seem to be used as placeholders for the religious to hang their beliefs on. The fact something isn’t impossible doesn’t make it probable.

    In science, data from the environment is either supportive of it or not – there is no continuum (again, science would be useless if this was the case). Of course, evidence is a separate realm from facts. A fact is something observable that anyone could conceivably confirm. This is publicly accessible precisely because it is not subjective. There is a Cosmic Microwave Background; fossils become less complex as you dig through geological strata. These by themselves don’t mean anything specifically. The whole endeavour of science using facts to test a hypothesis. One line of evidence can never be enough, we need data from other lines that could conceivably be isolated and tested to see what effect it has on our original hypothesis.

    I therefore dispute the “positive evidence is subjective” statement. Evidence is subjective when people use their own bias to select facts and ignore others (not to mention distort and deny data). This is not science, however. Of course, that means scientific facts are provisional as there could conceivably be new information that could falsify the hypothesis. That doesn’t mean that in the meantime we are making subjective judgements… it means the probability we can ascribe to the theory given testing is never 100% but can we can be certain of theories that have withstood multiple tests and are backed by multiple separate lines of evidence.

    “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts.” – Dr Steven Novella.

    The continuum for evidence you propose seems to be not unlike the post-modern stance and I can see would be a nice way to justify beliefs that have no logical or empirical justification.

    You say supernatural beings are not on an equal footing and can therefore be ranked in order of plausibility. Really? That is illogical because surely we would need to discriminate on the basis of detectable evidence.

    If we can’t explain gravity (currently our understanding is limited) it makes no sense to posit that fairies are responsible for the curvature of a ball I toss into the air. While this explanaion may give us the satisfaction that we have an answer, we can never know such an agency actually exists so belief in said agency is outside the reach of human knowledge (and consistent with the hypothesis that it is completely imagined).

    In summation, and this is the unresolvable disagreement we have here – I don’t think we can reliably – that is with a high degree of probability – confirm the existence of a supernatural agency. After we have posited such an entity, it seems that we have put a fullstop on the inquiry. This is always a premature argument as there will always be more to know. When we fill in further blanks, the supernatural agency diminishes until it is pushed off limits from inquiry, safe from rational attack.

    Occam’s razor prevents us from taking on additional untested and therefore unjustified assumptions. Besides, without positive evidence for supernatural entities, how do we know that they are not completely imagined?

    So our main difference here is: I say I need positive evidence that God exists – any of the miracles of the bible will do – there were miracles all over the that book, alas, they don’t happen anymore. So God intervening in nature would be a good start (natural phenomena that we have well-supported natural explanations for don’t count) . I know you argue from the God’s fingerprints in nature platform (especially in the Divinity Code). I don’t buy that natural phenomena show God exists, you do so maybe we ought leave it at that.

    Definitely read this: http://www.atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/carl-sagan-the-god-hypothesis

    Some books I would recommend on Epistemology and the God Hypothesis:
    God the Failed Hypothesis – Victor Stenger
    Supersense – Why We Believe the Unbelievable – Bruce M Hood
    Demon Haunted World – Carl Sagan
    Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion – David Hume
    An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
    Why I Am Not A Christian – Bertrand Russell

    A couple of good podcasts recently:
    http://www.forgoodreason.org/bruce_hood_why_we_believe_in_the_unbelievable
    http://www.forgoodreason.org/lionel_tiger_gods_brain
    http://www.forgoodreason.org/carol_tavris_mistakes_were_made

    P.S. I was once a religious believer – not quite like yourself as I was never that sure of my beliefs. Once I did my own research (this was not encouraged by the church I might add) I couldn’t ignore the philosophical problems, logical loopholes required for belief and ultimately the lack of evidence. It is not in my makeup to do mental hand stands to believe something (whether that be homeopathy or religious claims) – presumably God made me that way?

  5. Rather than tie up your blog with my views, which are available in the Divinity Code anyway, perhaps I can just tackle a couple of brief alternative perspectives.

    You accept that people have what they personally believe are religious experiences, but you correctly say these are not scientifically testable.

    I agree, in many cases they are not, although sometimes, quite often in fact, there are consequences in the natural world that can be seen (the disappearance of a tumour in just three days confirmed by MRI scans for example). However, you seem to take the view that if they are not scientifically testable then they can’t be used as evidence for the existence of God.

    They can’t be used in evidence as a ‘scientific’ test for God, I agree, but by definition they form part of the evidence for God holistically.

    If the only evidence you are prepared to accept in the search for God is ‘natural’ evidence, AND your threshold is absolute proof, you will never find it. By analogy, you are looking for an orange on the branch of an apple tree, and because you cannot find one there you assume it doesn’t exist because if doesn’t conform to the only fruit you know (apples). You might have sophisticated scientific equipment designed to test everything possible about apples, but which is incapable of detecting an orange.

    It is not a Christian “get out of jail card” to point out no Jew/Muslim/Christian teaching has ever claimed God is of the natural world. Quite the opposite.

    The “Time is a property of the universe” quote is Hawking, incidentally, and is now pretty much accepted. That’s why I say it is now illogical on the weight of current scientific knowledge (always subject to change in future) to assume that an entity outside our universe would be bound in any way by time. That’s why I poke fun at Dawkins, the Rational Response squad and others, because their “who designed the designer” or “how did a complex creator evolve” arguments are predicated on an assumption that Time, and therefore change over time, apply to something outside the universe.

    You point out there a natural hypotheses for reigious experiences. I pointed out above that if a body contains an ‘interface’ between the supernatural and the natural, then obviously stimulation of the natural side of that interface will mimic the effects of a supernatural experience. But proving scientists can flick a switch on that interface doesn’t disprove God’s ability to flick that switch also, if you follow the point I’m making.

    The fact that a doctor can make your knee bounce in a reflex action doesn’t prove that your mind cannot also make your knee reflex. So yeah, scientists have found that they can stimulate some (not many) feelings akin to a religious experience, but that doesn’t prove the supernatural is not involved at other times.

    You say: “You say supernatural beings are not on an equal footing and can therefore be ranked in order of plausibility. Really? That is illogical because surely we would need to discriminate on the basis of detectable evidence.”

    Exactly, or with archaeological or other historical evidence in support. Are the religious writings of a particular faith internally consistent, and to what degree?

    What kind of writing style: prose, poetry, fantasy? How do those writing styles compare with other historical documents we accept? How much weight do we give a poetic account as opposed to a reportage-based account?

    Does the text claim to refer to real historical events we can independently investigate?

    How long is the gap between the purported events and the writings composed about them?

    What evidence of fiddling with the texts exists?

    What independent corroborative evidence exists?

    Is the theology complete? (Eg, does it claim to account for the existence of the universe and life etc)

    How consistent is the theology with what we know from scientific/archaeological discovery?

    All of these things are forensic tests that can quickly whittle down a long list of competing faiths to quite a short list. (In actual fact, they are all variations of essentially only seven competing worldviews, so you are not really having to examine millions of potential deities, just seven basic religious concepts.)

    Finally, the evidence that convinced me of the reality of the supernatural, after years of being a supernatural sceptic, were supernatural experiences directly tied to Christian prayer incidents in my life. Not only that, they occurred in a counter-cultural (ie, I had no expectation of anything because of my skeptical outlook, but if I had expected something – perhaps subconsciously because of my own derision of happy clappy Christians in my atheist days – I certainly wasn’t expecting what happened) way.

    Having been shocked out of my complacency, and then witnessing more events, I resolved to find out more about the truth or otherwise of the Christian faith. I devoured somewhere in the region of 150 books, cover to cover, ranging from biblical encyclopedias to multi-volume systematic theology texts, to more popular titles.

    I found that the greatest evidence for faith is found in the gospels themselves, and in the historicity of Christ and the Christian story. Having established the legitimacy of Christ, and satisfied myself as to the extremely high likelihood he is God incarnate (I would say certainty but the final five or ten percent has to be faith as I wasn’t personally there to witness the events), arguing over six day creation or the rules of Leviticus is almost irrelevant.

    The objective evidence for supernaturality in the gospels is massive in my view. Negate the truths of the gospels and Christianity falls – it is that simple. If God resurrected Christ then creating a universe is equally childs-play, and in my view science and religion will ultimately be reconciled the more we find out.

    Perhaps it will happen as we grow to better understand quantum physics. The discovery that we are not really solid objects, but shimmering manifestations of quantum events, is more evidence to me of a universe held together ultimately by the word and will of God.

    I accept that you and I may differ. I’ve enjoyed the discussion.
    Cheers
    Ian

  6. Pingback: Kahui book hubbub – Moral outcry or madness? | Fresh Views From Reality

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