Empirical Falsifiability

Edward Feser has a blog post up that is highly relevant to much of the debate that takes place here at The Skeptical Zone between theists and non-theists.

A note on falsification

Lazy shouts of “unfalisfiability!” against theological claims just ignore all this complexity — the distinctions that have to be drawn between empirical claims on the one hand and claims of mathematics, logic, and metaphysics on the other; between extremely general empirical claims and more specific ones; between philosophy of nature (which studies the philosophical presuppositions of natural science) and natural science itself; and between the testing of a thesis and the testing of the auxiliary assumptions we generally take for granted but conjoin with the thesis when drawing predictions from it.

So, falsificationism is a rather feeble instrument to wield against theology. And in fact, atheist philosophers have known this for decades, even if New Atheist combox commandos are still catching up.

484 thoughts on “Empirical Falsifiability

  1. TomMueller: First of all, it is clear that the Bible is not inerrant and has accumulated the metaphorical equivalent of mutations (a biblical equivalent of a “molecular clock”)

    You do realize that the text could have accumulated millions of “mutations” and the bible still be inerrant don’t you?

    quote:

    Biblical inerrancy, as formulated in the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy”, is the doctrine that the Bible “is without error or fault in all its teaching”; or, at least, that “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact”.

    end quote:

    if you read more wildly you would know that textual variants are not a threat to inerrancy. it’s a completely different issue.

    peace

  2. Alan

    Comments on this?

    Your statements lead to the conclusion that testable gods are real, but I don’t think that’s where you were hoping to end up.

  3. Glen,

    To be more precise, god-claims do have entailments.

    Sure, and to say that the YEC God has entailments is really just a less cumbersome way of saying that the hypothesis of the existence of the YEC God has entailments.

    If you assert the existence of a God who created the earth less than 10,000 years ago, you are also asserting the truth of this entailment: that the earth is less than 10,000 years old.

    Where ambiguity arises is that “the YEC God” can refer both to

    a) a God, one of whose defining characteristics is that he created the world less than 10,000 years ago, or

    b) a God worshipped by the YECs, whom they just happen to believe was responsible for creating the world less than 10,000 years ago.

    I did an OP on the ambiguity:

    God and Identity

    That ambiguity is orthogonal to the problem with Alan’s statements, however.

    He asserts that

    Gods with entailments are testable.

    …and that

    Anything testable is real.

    It follows inexorably that

    Gods with entailments are real.

    Since Alan is an atheist, this conclusion must be disconcerting. 🙂

    The problem lies with his second statement:

    Anything testable is real.

    Hypotheses can be testable even if they refer to entities that turn out not to be real.

  4. fifthmonarchyman: Biblical inerrancy, as formulated in the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy”, is the doctrine that the Bible “is without error or fault in all its teaching”; or, at least, that “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact”.

    Are bats birds, then? Do hares chew the cud?

  5. GlenDavidson: To be more precise, god-claims do have entailments. Gods, not so much. I don’t actually know anything that is entailed by a god of any kind.

    I’m having trouble figuring out exactly how to differentiate between the two. For me, stating that Man was made in ‘God’s Image’ is an entailment on God rather than on a God-claim. Likewise, the fact that (ala Free-Will Defense) God prefers creatures who freely choose to accept him feels to me like an entailment on the nature of God himself.

    Can you give me a couple of examples that might help me understand where you’re drawing the distinction?

  6. RoyLT: I’m having trouble figuring out exactly how to differentiate between the two.For me, stating that Man was made in ‘God’s Image’ is an entailment on God rather than on a God-claim.

    Well, how is it entailed by God? Do we know something about God that suggests that God would make organisms in his image? Evolutionary processes actually have entailments, such that organisms will have to be highly derivative from ancestral forms. But that’s because we’ve observed evolutionary processes, while we haven’t observed any god.

    Likewise, the fact that (ala Free-Will Defense) God prefers creatures who freely choose to accept him feels to me like an entailment on the nature of God himself.

    How would you know that God prefers anything about creatures? I know that there are people who claim that God prefers something with respect to creatures, but I don’t know anything about God.

    It matters, because YEC claims would have real-world consequences if true, yet there’s nothing actually entailed by reality, by an observable being, in YECism. Hence YEC can be tested, but, if by some strange chance it turned out to be true, how would that mean that the YEC god exists? Nothing in their predictions actually came from observing what God does, it was just a fervent hope. Fortunately, there wasn’t much chance that YEC could be true. However, ID could be true (functionally complex organisms could exist, as some “predict”), but how were their claims ever predicated on the existence of a super-capable designer? Functionally complex organisms do exist, but they only claim that this is an entailment of their super-capable designer, when in fact it is just an attempt to claim entailment for something that was known to be the case ever since organisms were actually studied scientifically.

    I mentioned it, though, more because it seemed to me that those who claim that you can’t test the supernatural might be thinking that there are no observational entailments of unobserved beings. I didn’t have a problem with how keiths was writing, it just seemed that a lot of people do claim that the supernatural can’t be tested, and all because one can’t test what isn’t known. True enough, but one can test claims made about God, thus YECism is known not to be true (and for many people that does falsify YEC, but, unsurprisingly, not for those who still believe, as entailed by their belief in it). Unfortunately for them, testing can shoot down their claims, but I’m not at all sure that even if they were incredibly lucky by having their claims be borne out by the evidence that this would actually point to their God, since I don’t actually know of any God whose actions would result in life appearing, say, 6000 years ago.

    Today’s ID isn’t known not to be true, though, because it really has been made untestable. We can observe what they say are entailments of design(ers), IDists just can’t show that they actually are entailments of design(ers). Paley’s design claims are basically falsified, but he wasn’t trying to avoid testing (nor actually aiming for a testable theory, either), and today’s IDists are.

    Can you give me a couple of examples that might help me understand where you’re drawing the distinction?

    I hope the ID example is helpful, because you can’t just make a “god-claim” (designer-claim) that fits the evidence and go off claiming that you’ve found evidence of god (designer). One may make a statement about a putative “designer” that entails a result, the problem is that to be science it has to be an entailment of the designer itself (or of its acts, should it do something), not merely an entailment of some pseudoscience trying to take observations and claim them as predictions.

    Glen Davidson

  7. The kind of god referenced in the Bible could do anything. Including creating a universe with an apparent age. Including fiddling with geological history to make “scientific geology” consistent with the flood.

    There can be no entailments for an omnipotent being. Any inconsistencies could be attributed to caprice.

    Entailments cannot exist without regularity.

  8. Patrick: I haven’t read the bible in years — can you provide a book and verse or are you going to subject me to that experience again?

    I think the utter and complete lack of contemporary evidence makes the mythicist position at least defensible.The historicity of Jesus is certainly not beyond doubt.

    Hi Patrick,

    I just pulled some books off the bookshelf.

    I blush to confess that I did not do justice to Barrie Wilson’s How Jesus became Christian.

    Earlier, I told you:

    But as I understand it, Paul’s authentic letters do make reference to meeting the apostles in Jerusalem and confronting Peter in Antioch as do different references in the NT.

    I also suggested that monarchyman’s citation of (Gal 2:1-2) was
    …completely irrelevant.

    I wasn’t wrong per say, but it would appear that I missed the mark both times.

    Barrie Wilson does a good job of demonstrating that what Paul wrote in his own epistles represents a stark contradiction of the presumed historical account of Acts which represents a fictitious Paul.

    Either you believe what Paul wrote about himself, or you believe Acts, you cannot believe both at the same time.

    Acts says Paul went to Ananias where he got “healed” and baptized (with water), did a brief missionary stint at Damascus. He had to high-tail it out of there because his blatant blasphemies were provoking murderous intent among the local “Jews”. Interestingly, Acts was already here demonizing “Jews” as “other”.

    Paul then proceeded to Jerusalem and hobnobbed with the followers of Jesus.

    Now the interesting bit here is that the Jesus-followers in Jerusalem had a hard time believing Paul was one their own. Some dude name Barnabas somehow managed to convince them otherwise. While the rest of the Jesus-followers had no problem getting along with the “Jews” (and not just in Jerusalem but everyone else in Judea, Galilee and Samaria) Paul’s blasphemies again seemed to provoke murderous intent by the Greek-speaking Jews (presumably because they actually understood what he was actually saying). Again, Paul had to hightail it out of town to save his life. Clearly Paul’s message is different than the local Jesus-followers which provoked no rancor with their neighbors.

    The real problem is that Paul’s own account diametrically contradicts Acts.

    According to the epistles; Paul “did not confer with any human being” much less some dude named Ananias, Paul spent no time in Damascus but rather immediately went away “into Arabia” and only then after a while, went back to Damascus (an editorial insertion?). Only three year later did Paul visit Jerusalem to contact the church leadership. Nowhere in the epistles is it clear if Paul ever believed in Baptism with water much less had one himself.

    It becomes more and more unclear how Paul’s catechism has anything in common with the Jesus-followers of Jerusalem given Paul repeatedly admits his catechism “came from no man” which cynics may want to suggest is another way of simply saying Paul is making up his version of the new religion; on the run and all on his own.

    OK – here is the crux of the matter: Do Acts 15 and Galatians 2 tell the same story about a so-called Jerusalem Conference?

    Obviously not! According to Barrie Wilson, the Jerusalem Conference was an invention by the author of Acts to account for Paul’s obvious distinctive teachings that differed from the eye-witness Jesus-followers. Wilson’s thesis is quite convincing.

    According to Paul’s own words, Paul and a small number Jerusalem leadership conferred “behind closed doors” (over drinks presumably) and shook hands that they were to minister to two different jurisdictions and Paul was to “remember the poor”.

    Now any Gentile who has had any encounter with a pious Jewish scholar after concluding a discussion on yiddishkeit (as I have in the company of my young son) will immediately recognize this send-off! Paul’s parting may or may not have been cordial, but at best the Jesus-followers were shaking hands in an “agree-to-disagree” fashion. The send-off is typical of a pious Jewish scholar’s send-off to Gentiles. This all makes sense if the Jesus-followers clearly recognized Paul as a Gentile. As in Sherlock Holmes’ “The Adventure of Silver Blaze” where the case is solved by Sherlock Holmes partly by realizing that a dog had not barked in the night. In Paul’s case what is telling is what the surviving Apostles do and do not tell Paul. An Apostle’s send-off to another Apostle would have been quite different than some condescending: “Hey Dude, peace, … and don’t forget to help out the poor”. That’s it? No mutual mention of invoking Jesus’ blessing and protection between brothers!? (Gal 2:10)

    And why would any Christian feel the need to remind another Christian (or a Jew for that matter)to help out the poor? Less than condescending that! Clearly the Apostles did not even recognize Paul as a Jew (much less a “Christian”).

    It doesn’t matter if I have become too speculative. This post is already too long – let’s cut to the chase: Paul’s account in his own epistles not only differs but blatantly contradicts the description in Acts, especially regarding any putative Jerusalem Council. Check out Wilson’s book.

    Meanwhile, despite convoluted attempts to reconcile internal contradictions, the Acts’ story is entirely implausible to many scholars!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_reliability_of_the_Acts_of_the_Apostles#Acts_15:_The_Council_of_Jerusalem

    I refer everybody to excerpts of Barrie Wilson’s excellent job of explaining why the Jerusalem Council had to be a fabrication:

    http://tinyurl.com/goz3tw3

    pax

  9. GlenDavidson: Well, how is it entailed by God?

    I think that I am accidentally conflating ‘entailment’ with ‘restriction’. I guess that I’ve been reading too much Spitzer:-) Let me try to re-orient my question.

    Intelligent agents create things containing elements and functions with which they are familiar. An agent pre-existing all life would have no such examples except for himself to use as a basis. That suggests to me that, once one swallows the belief that humans are special creations, an entailment as to various aspects of God follows immediately.

    That’s the first part, but I’d like some feedback before I go too far down this particular line of insanity.

  10. RoyLT: I think that I am accidentally conflating ‘entailment’ with ‘restriction’.I guess that I’ve been reading too much Spitzer:-)Let me try to re-orient my question.

    Intelligent agents create things containing elements and functions with which they are familiar.An agent pre-existing all life would have no such examples except for himself to use as a basis.That suggests to me that, once one swallows the belief that humans are special creations, an entailment as to various aspects of God follows immediately.

    But, so the story goes, God made all of the animals before making humans in his image. Which suggests that God was not restricted in that manner.

    Glen Davidson

  11. RoyLT: That suggests to me that, once one swallows the belief that humans are special creations, an entailment as to various aspects of God follows immediately.

    Once you have abandoned the assumption of regularity, how do you counter Last Thursdayism? How can you have omnipotence and entailments?

  12. petrushka: The kind of god referenced in the Bible could do anything. Including creating a universe with an apparent age. Including fiddling with geological history to make “scientific geology” consistent with the flood.

    Not to mention the creation of marijuana just in case we failed to get the joke and giggle on cue.

  13. GlenDavidson: Which suggests that God was not restricted in that manner.

    But none of the other animals is intelligent or moral in the human sense.

    petrushka: How can you have omnipotence and entailments?

    I don’t think that you can have both, but I’m trying to get my facts straight on what constitutes an entailment before going any further.

  14. Alan Fox: I didn’t mean it disparagingly, especially not to the real man behind the legend (if there is indeed not a compilation). If you insist, I mean not important to me, or less important than the claims (on the truth of Christianity as a religion) based on supernatural attributions.

    Hi Alan,

    The more I dig, the more “The ship of Theseus” paradox jumps to mind.

    But as mentioned more than once, we agree far more than we disagree.

  15. petrushka,

    There can be no entailments for an omnipotent being. Any inconsistencies could be attributed to caprice.

    Entailments cannot exist without regularity.

    Why do you think that omnipotence and regularity are mutually exclusive?

    Suppose you were granted omnipotence five minutes from now. Would your behavior become completely chaotic and capricious, or would there still be regularities?

  16. TomMueller: Clearly Paul’s message is different than the local Jesus-followers which provoked no rancor with their neighbors.

    Clearly. And James committed suicide. And Peter never was imprisoned, nor sent to Rome. And you’re getting both the “friendly with Jews” and the “unfriendly with Jews” from the same book of Acts?

  17. Patrick: Are bats birds, then? Do hares chew the cud?

    No and no. Just because you don’t understand the text does not mean it’s in error. It might mean you are mistaken in your interpretation. Did you ever think of that?

    peace

  18. keiths: Why do you think that omnipotence and regularity are mutually exclusive?

    Suppose you were granted omnipotence five minutes from now. Would your behavior become completely chaotic and caprcious?i

    Good, and very Spinozistic, point.

  19. TomMueller: Either you believe what Paul wrote about himself, or you believe Acts, you cannot believe both at the same time.

    Again with the limited alternatives you definitely have a limited imagination.

    Are you saying you could not believe that there was more than one meeting. One before and one after Galatians?

    Is it not even possible that Paul chose to emphasize other aspects of the meeting than Luke did?

    I can think of all kinds of ways they both could be true but then again apparently I don’t have the same worldview shackles you do.

    peace

  20. walto: Suppose you were granted omnipotence five minutes from now. Would your behavior become completely chaotic and caprcious?

    I would venture to say that if the average bloke were granted omnipotence it would not take very long before his behavior became completely chaotic and caprcious?

    If you removed all constraint from Bubba I expect he would go crazy pretty quickly.

    peace

  21. Mung: Clearly. And James committed suicide. And Peter never was imprisoned, nor sent to Rome.

    Yea these guys were really chummy with the locals.

    I sometimes wonder if folks even think about what they write

    peace

  22. re: TomMueller: Clearly Paul’s message is different than the local Jesus-followers which provoked no rancor with their neighbors.

    Mung: Clearly. And James committed suicide. And Peter never was imprisoned, nor sent to Rome. And you’re getting both the “friendly with Jews” and the “unfriendly with Jews” from the same book of Acts?

    Hi Mung

    I invite you to read the passages for yourself and correct my error.

    Acts 9:29-30 I said that Paul had to run outta town to save his sorry ass!
    Acts 9: 31 I also said that the local Jesus-followers were in the meantime getting along just fine with their neighbors. Clearly Paul was saying something to piss-off the locals whereas Peter’s crowd was not. Clearly Paul must have been saying something different.

    Here is the NIV rendition.

    26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews,[a] but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

    31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

    But hey – I agree with you… the author of Acts had a difficult time to write a credible piece of fiction devoid of inconsistency. I agree the author failed.

    Out of curiosity, I would like to hear your take on of Barrie Wilson’s excellent job of explaining why the Jerusalem Council had to be a fabrication:

    http://tinyurl.com/goz3tw3

  23. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

    Is it unreasonable to think that the apostles inquired as to what exactly he had been preaching in Damascus, or that they were unaware of what he said when was speaking boldly while in Jerusalem? Do you think the writer of Acts fabricated this story?

    IOW, do you think Paul was preaching a “different gospel” and the apostles just weren’t aware of the fact?

  24. keiths, to petrushka:

    Why do you think that omnipotence and regularity are mutually exclusive?

    Suppose you were granted omnipotence five minutes from now. Would your behavior become completely chaotic and capricious, or would there still be regularities?

    fifth:

    I would venture to say that if the average bloke were granted omnipotence it would not take very long before his behavior became completely chaotic and caprcious?

    If you removed all constraint from Bubba I expect he would go crazy pretty quickly.

    The issue isn’t whether Bubba would “go crazy” — it’s whether his behavior would lack all regularity and predictability simply because he became omnipotent.

  25. TomMueller: Out of curiosity, I would like to hear your take on of Barrie Wilson’s excellent job of explaining why the Jerusalem Council had to be a fabrication:

    I find it hard to take someone seriously who makes claims like the following:

    The Jerusalem conference is the sole support giving legitimacy to the teachings and practices of the Christ movement. (p 144)

    That’s almost too bizarre for words. I’ll have to think about whether I want to spend any more time on this guy.

  26. Mung:
    27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

    Is it unreasonable to think that the apostles inquired as to what exactly he had been preaching in Damascus, or that they were unaware of what he said when was speaking boldly while in Jerusalem? Do you think the writer of Acts fabricated this story?

    IOW, do you think Paul was preaching a “different gospel” and the apostles just weren’t aware of the fact?

    Hey – I just presented Barrie Wilson’s thesis. I find it intriguing, but I do not necessarily subscribe to it in toto. I think the author(s) and subsequent editors of Acts were attempting to tell a story as remembered after the fact.

    A couple of points however you should find bothersome – remembering that even a broken clock is correct twice a day. Let’s revisit the crucial sentence you somehow failed to include in your citation:

    26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.

    Now following your own stated line of logic: why would Jesus’ disciples find it impossible to believe this newcomer was one of their own unless this newcomer was in fact espousing a version of faith completely different than their own?

    Meanwhile Barrie Wilson poses a very vexing question for orthodoxy: if Paul indeed wrote his letter to the Galatians after the presumed Jerusalem Conference, then why did not Paul simply refer to the agreed outcome of that Council and be done with it once and for all!?

    The most reasonable explanation is that far too much has been ascribed by orthodoxy to that presumed Conference.

  27. Mung: I find it hard to take someone seriously who makes claims like the following:

    That’s almost too bizarre for words. I’ll have to think about whether I want to spend any more time on this guy.

    Hi again Mung,

    While you are struggling with the incongruity of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, may I also repeat my earlier question? Could you please correct my reading of Acts as written in the NIV Bible as opposed to Wilson’s derived conclusions.

    To wit:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/empirical-falsifiability/comment-page-8/#comment-121040

    I invite you to read the passages for yourself and correct my error.

    Acts 9:29-30 I said that Paul had to run outta town to save his sorry ass!

    Acts 9: 31 I also said that the local Jesus-followers were in the meantime getting along just fine with their neighbors. Clearly Paul was saying something to piss-off the locals whereas Peter’s crowd was not. Clearly Paul must have been saying something different.

    ITMT – I find it a little ironic that this exchange is occurring under an OP of your own making entitled Empirical Falsifiability

    … yet again, almost too bizarre for words!

  28. fifthmonarchyman:

    Biblical inerrancy, as formulated in the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy”, is the doctrine that the Bible “is without error or fault in all its teaching”; or, at least, that “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact”.

    Are bats birds, then? Do hares chew the cud?

    No and no. Just because you don’t understand the text does not mean it’s in error.

    Leviticus 11:5-6
    And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.
    And the hare, because he cheweth the cud , but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.
    (Repeated in Deureronomy 14:7)

    Levitius 11:13-19
    And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls ; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,
    And the vulture, and the kite after his kind;
    Every raven after his kind;
    And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,
    And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,
    And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle,
    And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.
    (Repeated in Deuteronomy 14:18)

    Then there are the contradictions:

    Angels have sex: Genesis 6:2-4, Genesis 19:1-4
    Angels don’t have sex: Mark 12:25

    All flying, creeping things are unclean: Deuteronomy 14:19
    Some flying, creeping things are not unclean: Leviticus 11:21-23

    Saul committed suicide: Samuel 31:4-6, 1 Chronicles 10:4
    Saul was killed by an Amalekite: 2 Samuel 1:8-10
    Saul was killed by the Philistines: 2 Samuel 21:12
    Saul was killed by God: 1 Chronicles 10:14

    Judas hanged himself: Matthew 27:5
    Judas fell down and died: Acts 1:18

    These are just a few available at The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible site.

    It might mean you are mistaken in your interpretation. Did you ever think of that?

    Please show how to “interpret” those passages such that your bible “does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact”.

  29. TomMueller: 26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.

    Are you saying that you have no idea why they might fear him? Why would they be afraid of Saul but not afraid of all the surrounding Jews they were so friendly with?

    Or do you think the writer of Acts made that up to, that they were not really afraid of him at all?

  30. Patrick,

    Hi Paul

    I love your The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible

    … although it is both incomplete and sometimes guilty of unfair cheap shots.

    On the former; your link does identify two howling inconsistencies between Acts & the Epistles

    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/jerusalem.html
    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/paul_visit.html

    I notice that it did not pick up on my query to Mung which remains unanswered; to wit,

    Acts 9:29-30 I said that Paul had to run outta town to save his sorry ass!
    Acts 9: 31 I also said that the local Jesus-followers were in the meantime getting along just fine with their neighbors. Clearly Paul was saying something to piss-off the locals whereas Peter’s crowd was not. Clearly Paul must have been saying something different.

    I eagerly await correction of my error.

    Your link also did not pick up on how a literal and inappropriate interpretation of the Bible ONLY SEEMS to contradict Evolution.

    Any such literal interpretation of Genesis would compel astronauts to wear scuba-gear and water-wings. According to the Book of Genesis, the world is flat and the center of the universe; the moon, sun and stars are embedded in a revolving crystalline firmament, an impermeable barrier beyond which exists primordial water. In other words, outer space is full of water. It gets better: when God opened the windows of this firmament, all that celestial water rushed in causing Noah’s flood.

    Regarding “cheap shots”:

    Robert Byers and other apologists could save themselves a lot of grief if only they could grasp the rudiments of Biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek (I have a smattering of the former) which belays any such line of contradiction. But hey, I am thoroughly enjoying myself while witnessing fifthmonarchyman & Mung writhe in the talons of your ineluctable elucidation.

    So I will just sit back, watch and enjoy the show.

    FTR – your Rasputin comparison to Saul caused me to chortle anew. Rasputin’s story ends with the coroner determination of Rasputin’s final cause of death: “drowning” ?!?!

    COL = “Chortle Out Loud”

  31. Mung:

    IOW, do you think Paul was preaching a “different gospel” and the apostles just weren’t aware of the fact?

    Hi Mung:

    Please reread what I wrote! I said exactly the opposite! I said that Paul was preaching a “different gospel” AND the apostles just WERE aware of the fact!

    Paul was for all intents and purposes a First Century equivalent to Joseph Smith (who I think you will agree) also preached a “different gospel” even though Smith’s church even today is specifically identified as The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints

  32. TomMueller: Please reread what I wrote! I said exactly the opposite! I said that Paul was preaching a “different gospel” AND the apostles just WERE aware of the fact!

    I am awaiting your (or Wilson’s) hypothesis of why they [the apostles] feared him. If Acts is a concoction, how much of it is made up?

  33. Mung: Are you saying that you have no idea why they might fear him? Why would they be afraid of Saul but not afraid of all the surrounding Jews they were so friendly with?

    Or do you think the writer of Acts made that up to, that they were not really afraid of him at all?

    OK – I get it… The disciples had reason “to fear” Saul the “great persecutor” who had just been sent by the Sadducee High Priest to Damascus as a bounty hunter to pursue non-Roman Nabatean Jews living outside Sadducee jurisdiction even though a growing number of Jesus-followers in Jerusalem were peacefully living side by side with their neighbors, not only Jerusalem but everyone else in Judea, Galilee and Samaria (again I refer you to Acts 9: 31)

    The problem here is a matter of timing perhaps. Maybe things had simmered down and gotten a lot less violent by the time Paul finally showed up in Jerusalem. The problem is; according to Acts 9:26 there was no such time delay.

    Bringing us back to a howling contradiction begging the question of biblical inerrancy:
    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/jerusalem.html
    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/paul_visit.html

    It doesn’t matter; I just don’t buy it, Paul’s bounty-hunting mission to Damascus is far too implausible – just as implausible as the Sanhedrin rushedly convening to hear the case of some hapless nondescript apocalyptic prophet on the eve of the Passover on a legal matter that was ultra vires. Again, I don’t buy it! Far too implausible in the extreme.

    But you persistently fail to address my syllogism:
    Acts 9:29-30 I said that Paul had to run outta town to save his sorry ass!
    Acts 9: 31 I also said that the local Jesus-followers were in the meantime getting along just fine with their neighbors.

    Clearly Paul was saying something to piss-off the locals whereas Peter’s/James’ crowd was not.

    Clearly Paul must have been saying something different than the other apostles.

    With bated beath, I eagerly await correction of my error.

  34. keiths: The issue isn’t whether Bubba would “go crazy” — it’s whether his behavior would lack all regularity and predictability simply because he became omnipotent.

    I’m confused since the vast majority of behavioral constraints that I can think of are imposed by external forces (e.g. laws, principles of decorum) that would be absent given omnipotence.

    Someone ‘becoming omnipotent’ would seem to me quite different than an eternally omnipotent being. Bubba would likely retain much of his civilized bearing for a period of time, but would naturally tend to become more erratic and unpredictable as his forays into weirdness met with no consequences. Just ask Britney Spears or Kim Jong Un.

    Secondly, you asked whether he would lack ‘all regularity’. That feels like a false dichotomy to me. It would seem likely that some of his former habits and ingrained social customs would remain, but as I stated above, I think that many would not. And what in the case of a being without peers and with no external restrictions at any time?

  35. keiths:

    The issue isn’t whether Bubba would “go crazy” — it’s whether his behavior would lack all regularity and predictability simply because he became omnipotent.

    RoyLT:

    I’m confused since the vast majority of behavioral constraints that I can think of are imposed by external forces (e.g. laws, principles of decorum) that would be absent given omnipotence.

    Suppose that Bubba loves beetles. When he becomes omnipotent, Bubba acquires the power to wipe out all of the beetles in the world, yet he doesn’t. Why? Because he loves beetles. He likes having them around.

    Despite Bubba’s omnipotence, there is still regularity in his behavior, of the beetle-favoring kind.

  36. Mung: I am awaiting your (or Wilson’s) hypothesis of why they [the apostles] feared him. If Acts is a concoction, how much of it is made up?

    Hi Mung

    As much as I respect and can sympathize with Wilson’s and Doherty’s theses, I consider both as conceptual bridges too far.

    I do not believe Acts was a “concoction”. I do believe it was a theologically motivated story written long after the fact and subject to further editing in later centuries. That said, the continuing persistent inconsistencies between Acts and other biblical sources still betray that Paul and the Jerusalem Church were not one and the same.

    Regarding Biblical Inerrancy – I remind you the author of the Book of Revelations needed to threaten damnation to anybody who presumed to alter his text (apparently it was a big enough problem worth mentioning) Revelation 22:19

    Did theologically motivated alterations of the text really occur and are we in a position to detect some of them (if not all)?

    Absolutely YES on both counts!

    I direct your attention to the Chapter entitled
    Theologically Motivated Alterations of the Text
    found on this link

    https://archive.org/stream/Prof.BartEhrman-MisquotingJesus/BartD.Ehrman-MisquotingJesus_djvu.txt

    Pax tecum

  37. keiths: Despite Bubba’s omnipotence, there is still regularity in his behavior, of the beetle-favoring kind.

    He could wipe them out (contrary to his fondness), or he could turn the world into beetle-heaven by exponentially increasing their population, eliminating predators, and fine-tuning the environment. Does the change from passive admiration of beetles to active pro-beetle engineering reasonably constitute a behavioral continuum?

    I’m still inclined to agree with Petrushka that entailments (at least as far as I understand the term) are incompatible with omnipotence. In the Bubba examples, it still appears to me that any regularity is a hold over from behaviors established prior to omnipotence.

  38. keiths:
    petrushka,

    Why do you think that omnipotence and regularity are mutually exclusive?

    Suppose you were granted omnipotence five minutes from now.Would your behavior become completely chaotic and capricious, or would there still be regularities?

    I don’t think the average person would make it five minutes before completely losing his or her ability to rationally control his or her behavior. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Even if “Bubba” didn’t brainwash all the women in the world to be his sex slaves (or simply create a line instantaneously) or if Bubbette didn’t decide to win every lottery and gambling venture imaginable (or conversely, simply create everything she wanted instantly), you can’t really believe that such an individual would resist the temptation to have odd, polka-dotted underwear appear on most folks. You know…’cuz that’s funny.

    But let’s just say for argument’s sake that some really, Really, REEEEEAAALLY strong-willed and seriously empathetic and even resolute individual was granted such power. How long before he or she just has a bad day? How long before he or she gets cut off in traffic? Are you seriously saying that such and individual, with unlimited power, would check his or her reactions and stick within the confines of what mere mortals can do? C’mon…

    Let me tell you what I’d do: all those jerks on the roads with cellphones in their ears? Yeah…they be getting an instant Virtual Toddler in their back seats. No way to remove it either; it just sits there and cries. And the longer you hold that damn phone to your ear, the louder it gets. And yep…you guessed it…that toddler can shatter bullet proof glass.

    Oh…and all those folks who think they’re more important than everyone else? Ho ho ho…they get a month with an inability to use anything mechanical or electronic. Ehhh…I might be “nice” to some…you know…just ‘cuz I can. Those folks would at least be allowed to have friends use tools on their behalf.

    …and that’s just stuff I thought up right now. Image what I could come up with (and do) when I didn’t really have time as a constraint?

    Clearly I’m never going to get omnipotence…’cuz I’d make sure that every soul I the planet knew I was THAT EFFIN’ POWERFUL pretty much…now.

    And yeah…I bet 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of humanity would do the same.

  39. RoyLT,

    Your position is self-contradictory. You’re saying that an omnipotent being cannot behave with any regularity, but if so, then he’s not omnipotent.

  40. keiths:
    keiths:

    RoyLT:

    Suppose that Bubba loves beetles. When he becomes omnipotent, Bubba acquires the power to wipe out all of the beetles in the world, yet he doesn’t.Why?Because he loves beetles.He likes having them around.

    Despite Bubba’s omnipotence, there is still regularity in his behavior, of the beetle-favoring kind.

    ONE regularity and no one would even know about it unless Bubba told them.

  41. Robin,

    There are still regularities in all of the things you describe.

    Bubba, the lecher who makes women his sex slaves, does not eliminate women from the world.

    Bubbette, the lottery fanatic, does not zap the lottery into nonexistence.

    Robin, who is irked by drivers talking on cell phones, does not reward them with unfathomable bliss.

  42. And just to see this played out to the extreme, please refer to The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror II: Bart’s Nightmare.

  43. keiths: Why do you think that omnipotence and regularity are mutually exclusive?

    I missed this amidst all the spam.

    I never said or implied that omnipotence and regularity are mutually exclusive.

    But an omnipotent entity is not bound by regularity. The possibility of caprice is part of being omnipotent.

    Lesser beings cannot rule out Last Thursdayism if an omnipotent being is on the prowl.

  44. Alan,

    Since you’re here, any comments on this?

    He [Alan] asserts that

    Gods with entailments are testable.

    …and that

    Anything testable is real.

    It follows inexorably that

    Gods with entailments are real.

    Since Alan is an atheist, this conclusion must be disconcerting. 🙂

    The problem lies with his second statement:

    Anything testable is real.

    Hypotheses can be testable even if they refer to entities that turn out not to be real.

  45. keiths: Your position is self-contradictory. You’re saying that an omnipotent being cannot behave with any regularity, but if so, then he’s not omnipotent.

    I don’t think that is what I am saying at all. In particular, I think that ‘irregularity on principle’ is a regularity of sorts, or at least somewhat predictable. The adage of a broken clock comes to mind.

    I just don’t understand how a being with even a single entailment can be said to have total power and total freedom? Any non-Bubba examples that might help me clear up the issue?

  46. petrushka,

    I never said or implied that omnipotence and regularity are mutually exclusive.

    Sure you did:

    There can be no entailments for an omnipotent being. Any inconsistencies could be attributed to caprice.

    Entailments cannot exist without regularity.

    The fact is that there can be entailments for an omnipotent being whose behavior exhibits some regularities. And as I pointed out to Roy, an omnipotent being wouldn’t be omnipotent if he were incapable of behaving with regularity when he chose to do so.

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