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Coyne's Faith vs Fact review

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  • Coyne's Faith vs Fact review

    This is a book full of fail so expect this to be a series. Here's Part 1.

    The link can be found here.

    The text is as follows:

    What do I think of Coyne's book published by Viking Press? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    It's hard to really describe Coyne's book on Faith vs. Fact. Two sayings that I was given fit it well. The first is that every page is better than the next. The second is that it is not to be tossed aside lightly but hurled with great force. It would be difficult to imagine a more uninformed writing on a topic unless one had read the rest of modern atheists today like Dawkins and Harris and others. I had even made a number of predictions before reading Coyne's book that I was sure would take place. Lo and behold, my predictions were right. While the modern atheists consider themselves to be clear and rational thinkers, they pretty much just copy and paste what everyone else says.

    It's also important to point out that looking up references in this book is quite difficult. Coyne does not give page numbers or titles often and the end notes do not even have the page numbers nor are they numbered. Hopefully this will be taken care of in future editions.

    It's hardly a shock to see that Coyne starts early off with the works of Draper and White to show the conflict of science and religion. Of course, many of the claims in the book are known to be just plain false by historians of science. Some of them in White's book for instance remain entirely unverified today. For much of this, I will rely on the work of James Hannam. It is noteworthy that Coyne never once brings up a book such as Galileo Goes To Jail. Numbers is a real scholar in the field and an agnostic. The book contains a number of agnostic writers and while there are Christians and other faiths as well, you cannot tell by looking at the chapters who is writing what. Coyne is holding on to a myth for atheists that should have been dispelled years ago, but like all people of faith, he has to hold on to those myths to support his belief system.

    Now some might want to ask me about my own personal opinions at this point. That's fine. I'll clear it up. I am not a scientist and I do not discuss science as science. When it comes to evolution, it makes no difference whatsoever to me and I oppose Christians who have not studied evolution commenting on it. If they want to criticize it, well God bless them, but make sure that if they do, that it is a scientific critique. We do not need a critique of "The Bible says X." I think too often we have read Genesis as if it was meant to be a scientific and material account instead of the functional account I believe it would have been seen to be by the ancient Israelites and others. If evolution is to fall, and that is not my call at all, it will fall because it is bad science. Either way, the question matters not to me. I am not saying it is unimportant, but that I do not have the time to study it and my interpretation of Genesis doesn't care about the question.

    It's a shame however that Coyne and other atheists do not pay the same courtesy. While I am not an authority on science and do not thus speak on science, Coyne and others who are not authorities in the relevant field think they can speak on philosophy and history and theology. It is certainly amusing to read a book where it is claimed that Christians have overstepped their bounds (And indeed, too many do and I have strong words for them just as much) and yet Coyne regularly does this where he speaks on topics he has no expertise on and as we shall see later on, he quite frankly makes embarrassing statements that would make any scholar in the field shake their head in disbelief.

    Coyne tells us on page 6 that it is off limits to attack religion. I must admit this was a newsflash to me. I suppose it must be news to the rest of the world. The new atheists have been publishing books since shortly after 9/11. Most every Easter you can see a new article or theory coming out claiming something crazy about Jesus that we're just now discovering. I can go on Facebook and YouTube and see numerous people speaking out against religion. We have seen homosexual activists targeting people of faith, as we are often called. If it is taboo to go after religion, it is apparent that most of the world didn't get the memo.

    I am also confused as to what percentage of Americans are atheists. On page 9, we are told that nearly 20 percent of Americans are either atheists or agnostics or say their religion is nothing in particular. On page 12, we're told that 83 percent of Americans believe in God and only 4 percent are atheists. Color me confused as to which one it is.

    Coyne points to the National Academy of Sciences containing a large number of atheists, but why should this be a surprise? The question of God as we will see is not a scientific question, but is rather a philosophical and metaphysical question. Why should a scientist hold any sort of authority there? Of course, I will not accept the redefinition of science that Coyne gives later on. But why does the NAS statistic not trouble me? Let's look at what their web site says.

    Because membership is achieved by election, there is no membership application process. Although many names are suggested informally, only Academy members may submit formal nominations. Consideration of a candidate begins with his or her nomination, followed by an extensive and careful vetting process that results in a final ballot at the Academy's annual meeting in April each year. Currently, a maximum of 84 members may be elected annually. Members must be U.S. citizens; non-citizens are elected as foreign associates, with a maximum of 21 elected annually.

    The NAS membership totals approximately 2,250 members and nearly 440 foreign associates, of whom approximately 200 have received Nobel prizes.
    So let's be clear. 84 members are elected a year. If we count Americans alone, how many scientists and engineers get Ph.D.'s a year? 18,000. Considering that's from Scientific American Coyne should not have any trouble with that. What that amounts to is that NAS can become a sort of exclusive club where people can get other people who agree with them to come on board, which makes it hardly representative of all scientists. Consider it a sort of good ol' boys club. That does not mean that the work they do is not valid, but it does mean it should hardly be considered a fair representation of all scientists.

    On page 15-16, we have the notion from Coyne that we are increasingly realizing free-will does not exist. Supposing this was true, while Coyne says it would eliminate much of theology, it would also eliminate much of everything else. After all, if there is no free-will, Coyne does not believe what he believes because he is a champion of reason or anything of the like. That's just the way that the atoms have worked together to make him think. He has no say in the matter. None of us should be convinced by anything he says either and if we are, it is not because of reason but because that is how our atoms responded to something somehow.

    Coyne on page 20 refers to teleology as an external force driving evolution, at least from a more theistic perspective. Yet when we use the term teleology, this is not what we mean. Teleology comes from the four causes of Aristotle. The last is the final cause. The final cause was the purpose for which something existed or why it did what it did. Final causality exists throughout our world and it is the reality that an agent acts toward an end, be it intentionally or unintentionally. If an iceberg floats through water and cools the water around it, that is final causality. Aristotle considered this to be the most important of the causes.

    In fact, as Gilson shows, this is a necessary aspect of evolution. Evolution did not dispense with final causes but itself has a final cause. The final cause is so the most fit species can survive for the passing on of their genetic information. Evolution, like any kind of competition, has the goal, and again this is not necessarily consciously, of producing the best end product. Unfortunately, Coyne does not possess a basic understanding of Aristotelianism at all so it's not a shock that he makes a mistake like this. The sad part is his faithful followers who do not possess this knowledge will eat this up thinking that Coyne is right in what he says and not bother to check. I see it happen too often with all the bogus claims that atheists spread on the internet about the fields that I do study in.

    As predicted, much of what Coyne says depends on his misuse of the term faith. It's so easily predictable that Coyne will use this. Of course, absent is any interaction with Biblical lexicons or any study of the Greek language to see what the Bible means when it encourages us to have faith. Faith is for Coyne on page 25, the acceptance of things for which there is no strong evidence and of course, throughout the implication is any belief without evidence is faith. Is this what the writers of Scripture meant by faith? Not at all. For a man who later says fields like history are a science, one would have thought he would be more scientific in his approach, but he is not. Coyne has accepted yet another atheist myth. Had he consulted an actual work of scholarship he might have found this definition:

    Faith/Faithfulness

    "These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns 'faith', 'belief', 'fidelity', 'faithfulness,' as well as the verbs 'to have faith' and 'to believe,' refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated 'love') and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated 'hope.') p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.
    What this means is that faith is really a response to what has been shown. Aristotle would even use the work pistis, which is translated as faith, to refer to a forensic proof. Faith was the loyalty that was owed someone based on the evidence that they had given you. Okay. Well how does that comport with Hebrews 11:1? Very well, thank you. The notion that it is belief without evidence that the Bible espouses is really a myth that atheists throw around without evidence. It is apparent then who the real people of "faith" are.

    Now do many Christians have a faulty view of faith? Absolutely, but are those the people Coyne should really go to to get the best of the other side, especially if he wants to be scientific and gathering evidence? Why not study what Christians throughout history have meant by faith? Unfortunately, this seems to be out of bounds for Coyne. Coyne will keep perpetuating this myth throughout his book as if when science came along that all of a sudden people decided that they should have evidence for their beliefs. Sorry Coyne, but numerous people, including Christians, reached that conclusion long before you did.

    We can be pleased to see that Coyne says history is a science, but unfortunately as it will be shown later on, this is because Coyne deems to be scientific, any system that relies on gathering evidence for its claims. It's easy to say that something is scientific in that sense if you just change what the words mean. In doing this, Coyne hopes to show the superiority of science later by saying that history is included under the rubric of science. Not really. History is its own field and it has a historical method just as much as there is a scientific method.

    This is all the more amusing since in the book also Coyne says he was practicing science for thirty years and he had never thought about what science was. In fact, he tells us that until he started writing this book, his definition was false. Well it's nice to know that Coyne is writing to tell us that science and religion are incompatible when before even starting the book he didn't know what science was. Somehow he knew that whatever science was, it had to be incompatible with religion. Perhaps Coyne should have invested more thought into what it was that he was doing all these decades.

    Coyne also speaks against those who claim we shouldn't accept evolution because we do not see in in our time, to which he says we ignore the massive historical evidence in the fossil record and such. He tells us that if we only accept as true what we see with our own eyes in our own time, we'd have to regard all of human history as dubious. It's amusing to know this same person will later say we have to be suspicious of miracles because we do not see them around the world today. (However, this claim is also false. Coyne has not shown any interaction with Craig Keener's massive two-volume work Miracles. One would think that being scientific, Coyne would have wanted to look at the best work of evidence on the topic presented and no, when it comes to miracles there also isn't even any response to John Earman's refutation of Hume's argument. Coyne should have been interested in this since Earman is himself an agnostic and says that Hume's argument, which Coyne endorses, would be a science stopper if followed through consistently.) Of course, we will find that Coyne's understanding of historical miracle claims is incredibly lacking, in fact, no doubt one of the worst moments of ignorance in the book.

    I am also quite sure that David Bentley Hart would be surprised to find that he is listed as a liberal theologian. I am quite sure it's because Coyne does not understand what Hart would mean by referring to God as the ground of being. While Coyne does have listed in the back Hart's book The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, he might have been better served by going to a book like Hart's Atheist Delusions. But then again, never let not understanding what someone is talking about be a reason to stop you from speaking on what that person is saying.

    Coyne also tells us that the Nicene Creed contradicts other faiths, which it does, as if there is some point to this. It seems odd to say that it's an argument against a worldview that it contradicts all other worldviews. Of course it does. Coyne does tell us that the creed tells us Jesus is the Messiah and other faiths don't accept this, including Islam. In fact, Muslims believe that those who accept Jesus as the Messiah will go to Hell. Well, this would certainly be news to most Muslims. As we find in Sura 3:45

    (Remember) when the angels said: "O Maryam (Mary)! Verily, Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word ["Be!" - and he was! i.e. 'Iesa (Jesus) the son of Maryam (Mary)] from Him, his name will be the Messiah 'Iesa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), held in honour in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allah."
    Did Coyne not do any fact checking? The Muslims are opposed to saying Jesus is the Son of God or the third person of the Trinity, but not opposed to saying that He is the Messiah.

    Coyne also says literalism is not a modern offshoot, but rather is the historical way of reading Scripture. The only way Coyne could believe this is if he had no experience with the way the ancients read Scripture. Even before the New Testament, we have works like Longenecker's showing the various ways many passages of the Old Testament was read by the apostles and their contemporaries at the time, such as the Qumran community. Had he moved on to later times, Coyne would have been able to find that the church fathers happened to love allegory, including Augustine who he refers to as a literalist. (For Coyne, it looks like if you believe in a historical Adam and that Jesus died and rose again, you must be a literalist, a rather naive way of approaching a claim.) Origen, for instance, was all over the place with his use of allegory. He could have also read Mark Sheridan's work about how God was spoken of in the patristic tradition and passages were often not read in their literal sense because they had to be read in a way that was fitting of God, meaning He had no body or no emotions so those passages had to be read differently. A work like Robert Rea's would have shown him that in the medieval period, there were four different styles of reading a text.

    But since Coyne mentioned Augustine, let's use a quote of his on interpretation.

    Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]
    Augustine would probably be disappointed at the way many lay people handle the Scriptures today. By the way, if Coyne wants to know where this comes from, it comes from Augustine's The Literal Meaning of Genesis. Augustine's literal meaning was also that everything was created all at once instantly and that the days are laid out more in a framework type of hypothesis.

    If this is so, why the hang-up on literalism today? To begin with, Coyne never defines literalism and if he means that every passage is read in a wooden sense, no one does that. Much of the Bible does have metaphorical language and figures of speech and hyperbole and the like. Yet one cause of it today is that we are seen as a Democracy and every man should be able to understand the basic position of Christianity and that means the Bible should be readily understandable by everyone. Well it's not. As my friend Werner Mischke says in his book, "Culturally speaking, the Bible does not 'belong' to you; It's not your book." Coyne could have benefited by reading other works like The New Testament World or Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes. Ironically, the real enemy here is a more fundamentalist approach to Scripture, and yet it is the exact same approach Coyne takes. He is a victim of the problem he sees in his opposition. Were we to get past much of our anthropological elitism, we'd start studying the Bible and trying to fit ourselves into the worldview of its authors. We might disagree with it still, sure, but we'd have a better informed disagreement.

    This kind of material leads up to where we'll continue next time, with what I consider to be one of the most embarrassing paragraphs in Coyne's book.

  • #2
    Historical studies fall under the category of social sciences.

    Comment


    • #3
      I have no problem with that, but Coyne says he considers them sciences and wants to include them under the rubric of science.

      Now if what was meant was each was a science such as the medievals would have thought, fine. That's not what is being said. Coyne makes this clearer later on in discussing scientism.

      Comment


      • #4
        I have not read, nor will I, this book. But when people so blatantly miss represent things they are arguing against it reeks of prejudgement, not scholarship. Exactly my opinion of Dawkins.
        Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

        Comment


        • #5
          Part 2.

          The link can be found here.

          The text is as follows:

          Does Coyne get any better? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

          Last time, I spoke of a big blunder coming up in Coyne's book. It was one paragraph I definitely had to type out immediately because it shows what is so symptomatic of the problem. Note that Coyne would not be happy with someone like me who does not study science seriously speaking on something like evolution. He would be right in that. Yet somehow, Coyne thinks he has justification to speak on history and Biblical interpretaton. How? Let's take a look.

          The following paragraph is one that is so full of mistakes it is hard to know where to begin. If I had to say what is the most ignorant part in this book, it would be this paragraph:

          "If you want to read much of the Bible as allegory, you must overturn the history of theology, rewriting it to conform to your liberal, science-friendly faith. Besides pretending that you're following in the tradition of ancient theologians, you must also explain the way you can discern truth amid the metaphors. What is allegory and what is real? How do you tell the difference? This is particularly difficult for Christians, because the historical evidence for Jesus---that is, for a real person around whom the myth accreted---is thin. And evidence for Jesus as the Son of God is unconvincing, resting solely on the assertions of the Bible and interpretations of people writing decades after the events described in the Gospels."
          Internet atheists will eat this up as if its a powerful indictment of their enemy. Anyone who has bothered to study any sort of history of the New Testament or taken a single course on hermeneutics will just be shaking their head wondering how someone can consider themselves an intelligent person and write something like this.

          Let's start at the beginning. Reading the Bible as allegory will not overturn much of history. Before the rise of modern science, Origen and Augustine were already doing the same. Some of the ways the early church read Scripture was indeed quite creative. The reason Coyne does not know about this is that quite simply, he has not read them. Coyne asks us how can we tell which is allegory and which is not as if this is a stumper question. Well geez. How about we use the same kind of methodology we'd use when we study any ancient document. Heck. Just use what you'd use for modern documents. Look at this review of Super Bowl XXII. Here are some key phrases:

          Like worthless documents the Denver Broncos were cut up, torn apart and scattered about San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium by Olle North's favorite team.
          The Washington Redskins' Sunday massacre was 42-10.
          The slaughter was on.
          A tremor started Super Bowl week in San Diego. A Washington earthquake ended it.
          How do you know what's literal? How do you know what isn't? Now to be fair, sometimes you see terms like "like" which are a clue, but sometimes you don't, and this is common in this kind of writing. How does Coyne tell? Most of us have a good rule. We use our brains and figure it out. In Coyne's world, it is all-or-nothing. Either the whole Bible is literal or it's all allegorical and metaphors. There's no attempt to try to understand the genre of a passage. (For instance, most Old Testament scholars note a difference between Genesis 1-11 and the rest of Genesis and most New Testament scholars agree the Gospels are Greco-Roman biographies.) When you read wisdom literature, you are reading a lot of heavy poetry. When you read the prophets, you can expect many times to see apocalyptic imagery that is not to be read literally. This problem was also confronted by C.S. Lewis in his day who said in Mere Christianity that:

          "There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of 'Heaven' ridiculous by saying they do not want 'to spend eternity playing harps'. The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them. All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible. Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it. People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs."
          I do not have to agree with all of Lewis's interpretation, but I think he is treating the text better than literalists like Coyne.
          But it gets worse for Coyne.

          Coyne actually says the evidence for a historical Jesus is thin. This is another case of Coyne stepping outside of his field and probably relying on people like Dan Barker and Richard Carrier. Carrier is at least a scholar in the field, and he's on the fringe. He does not teach at an accredited university for instance. There are thousands of NT and classical scholars out there and the number that hold that Jesus never existed can be counted on one hand. You can find more people with doctorates in the relevant field who hold to geocentrism than you can people who hold to Christ mythicism. For a man who write so much about the lunacy of ID in his mind, he should not speak here because there are far more credentialed scientists in the field of ID than there are credentialed historians of the time who hold to Christ mythicism.

          Do I have any works to show Jesus existed? One that shows up in the bibliography of Coyne's is actually Bart Ehrman's. He could also consider these videos:

          https://youtu.be/zdqJyk-dtLs

          https://youtu.be/o4q3WlM9rCI

          Another work is Maurice Casey's book on the topic. Finally, he could go with Van Voorst.

          He will in fact find few scholars writing on this simply because it really isn't on the radar and most scholars don't waste their time with arguments on the internet. From a non-scholarly perspective, he could go here or to the series of Ebooks on the topic here.

          Of course, we also have the decades later claim. Of course, the writings are decades later, but in the ancient world, so is practically everything. Our biographies of Alexander the Great are centuries after his time. Coyne lives in a world where you write things down immediately so everyone can hear about them. Not so then. Oral tradition was more reliable to the people and it was absolutely free. Writing the Gospels was incredibly expensive and would have in fact reached fewer people since fewer people could read. Coyne could have been better served by reading a work like Walton and Sandy's. Robert McIver's work would have done him well as well.

          Oral tradition was hardly like a game of telephone. The stories were told in community and repeated often and there were people branded gatekeepers as it were who would make sure the story was being told accurately. Minor details could be changed provided the whole thrust of the story stayed the same. We do this in our own storytelling today where we recount a story and we will change minor details in a story while still maintaining the basic truth or we will omit a part for one audience. If Mormons come to visit me, my parents will get an account of how the discussion went. If I call my in-laws, who are much more apologetically inclined, they will get a much fuller account.

          Coyne also writes about the life of Jesus and how historians of the time did not write about it, particularly the events surrounding the crucifixion. This is more of a Remsberg's List type of approach to the matter which probably came from Barker, yet even atheists have a problem with it. Jesus in His time was a nobody from a town called Nazareth, which no one cared about, in an area of the world valued mainly for its path for trade but whose customs were viewed as bizarre by others, who never traveled outside of his country as an adult, never went to battle, never wrote a book, never ran for office, and didn't establish a philosophy. To top it off, He was crucified, the ultimate shame and disgrace in the ancient world. What would a Roman say far off in Rome who heard about Him? "Not worth talking about." Oh! But He did miracles. This would make it worse. Jesus would be seen as a huckster then much like Benny Hinn is today. The stories about what happened would be seen to non eye-witnesses as Old Wives' Tales.

          In fact, if we want to talk about historians of the time, let's talk about Hannibal. This was the guy who was Rome's great opponent and nearly conquered them and who trampled over most every army Rome sent after him. This was a master general. In light of his great achievements, how many of his contemporaries talk about him? Answer? Zero.

          How about Queen Boudica who raised an uprising against Rome. How many contemporaries talked about her? Zero.

          How about the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed two cites killing 250,000? How many accounts do we have? (Not allusions. Accounts.) We have one off-the-cuff remark in an exchange between Pliny and Tacitus. We don't even hear about the other town from a historical account until Dio Cassius writes later on.

          If we focus it in on Judea and ask how many historians we have writing about Messiah figures, that is an easy number.

          We have one.

          Josephus.

          And he did talk about Jesus, despite what many internet atheists would have you think. The Testimonium account is seen by scholars largely as only partially interpolated. It's a wonder Jesus is even mentioned. For other Messiah figures, you had to call out Roman troops. Jesus didn't have anything requiring a massive army. Pilate seems to have no idea who Jesus is in the Gospels when he first sees Him.

          Continued below....

          Comment


          • #6
            On page 67 Coyne says

            Theologians intensely dislike the definition of faith as belief without --- or in the face of --- evidence, for that practice sounds irrational. But it surely is, as is any system that requires supporting a priori beliefs without good evidence. In religion, but not science, that kind of faith is seen as a virtue.
            Here's why we dislike it. It's for the same reason atheists don't like being identified as God-haters. We don't see it as an accurate description. Theologians go by evidence just as much. Coyne might want to say the Bible doesn't count, but the reality is theologians have evidential reasons for believing the Bible is what it claims to be, and that's because we study the claims from a historical perspective. It's not because of some nebulous feeling. For theology alone, we also use philosophy and specifically metaphysics to study the nature of God. This was the exact way Aristotle did and I don't think we want to say Aristotle was anti-evidential. He, like his intellectual descendants, the Thomists (Including myself) was an empiricist.

            Coyne also wants to go after Tertullian for saying
            "The Son of God died: it is immediately credible---because it is silly. He was buried, and rose again: it is certain---because it is impossible."
            Interestingly, there is no primary source cited which tells me that Coyne never read the original source. Not very scientific really. The reference comes from On The Flesh of Christ, which is a response to Marcion and a refutation of a more docetic position which denied that Christ came in physical flesh. All this is in the fifth chapter.

            There are, to be sure, other things also quite as foolish (as the birth of Christ), which have reference to the humiliations and sufferings of God. Or else, let them call a crucified God "wisdom." But Marcion will apply the knife to this doctrine also, and even with greater reason. For which Is more unworthy of God, which is more likely to raise a blush of shame, that God should be born, or that He should die? that He should bear the flesh, or the cross? be circumcised, or be crucified? be cradled, or be coffined? be laid in a manger, or in a tomb? Talk of "wisdom!" You will show more of that if you refuse to believe this also. But, after all, you will not be "wise" unless you become a "fool" to the world, by believing" the foolish things of God." Have you, then, cut away all sufferings from Christ, on the ground that, as a mere phantom, He was incapable of experiencing them? We have said above that He might possibly have undergone the unreal mockeries of an imaginary birth and infancy. But answer me at once, you that murder truth: Was not God really crucified? And, having been really crucified, did He not really die? And, having indeed really died, did He not really rise again? Falsely did Paul "determine to know nothing amongst us but Jesus and Him crucified; " falsely has he impressed upon us that He was buried; falsely inculcated that He rose again. False, therefore, is our faith also. And all that we hope for from Christ will be a phantom. O thou most infamous of men, who acquittest of all guilt the murderers of God! For nothing did Christ suffer from them, if He really suffered nothing at all. Spare the whole world's one only hope, thou who art destroying the indispensable dishonour of our faith Whatsoever is unworthy of God, is of gain to me. I am safe, if I am not ashamed of my Lord. "Whosoever," says He, "shall be ashamed of me, of him will I also be ashamed." Other matters for shame find I none which can prove me to be shameless in a good sense, and foolish in a happy one, by my own contempt of shame. The Son of God was crucified; I am not ashamed because men must needs be ashamed of it. And the Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd. And He was buried, and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible. But how will all this be true in Him, if He was not Himself true-if He really had not in Himself that which might be crucified, might die, might be buried, and might rise again? I mean this flesh suffused with blood, built up with bones, interwoven with nerves, entwined with veins, a flesh which knew how to be born, and how to die, human without doubt, as born of a human being. It will therefore be mortal in Christ, because Christ is man and the Son of man. Else why is Christ man and the Son of man, if he has nothing of man, and nothing from man? Unless it be either that man is anything else than flesh, or man's flesh comes from any other source than man, or Mary is anything else than a human being, or Marcion's man is as Marcion's god. Otherwise Christ could not be described as being man without flesh, nor the Son of man without any human parent; just as He is not God without the Spirit of God, nor the Son of God without having God for His father. Thus the nature of the two substances displayed Him as man and God,-in one respect born, in the other unborn; l in one respect fleshly in the other spiritual; in one sense weak in the other exceeding strong; in on sense dying, in the other living. This property of the two states-the divine and the human-is distinctly asserted with equal truth of both natures alike, with the same belief both in respect of the Spirit and of the flesh. The powers of the Spirit, proved Him to be God, His sufferings attested the flesh of man. If His powers were not without the Spirit in like manner, were not His sufferings without the flesh. if His flesh with its sufferings was fictitious, for the same reason was the Spirit false with all its powers. Wherefore halve Christ with a lie? He was wholly the truth. Believe me, He chose rather to be born, than in any part to pretend-and that indeed to His own detriment-that He was bearing about a flesh hardened without bones, solid without muscles, bloody without blood, clothed without the tunic of skin, hungry without appetite, eating without teeth, speaking without a tongue, so that His word was a phantom to the ears through an imaginary voice. A phantom, too, it was of course after the resurrection, when, showing His hands and His feet for the disciples to examine, He said, "Behold and see that it is I myself, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have; " without doubt, hands, and feet, and bones are not what a spirit possesses, but only the flesh. Howdo you interpret this statement, Marcion, you who tell us that Jesus comes only from the most excellent God, who is both simple and good? See how He rather cheats, and deceives, and juggles the eyes of all, and the senses of all, as well as their access to and contact with Him! You ought rather to have brought Christ down, not from heaven, but from some troop of mountebanks, not as God besides man, but simply as a man, a magician; not as the High Priest of our salvation, but as the conjurer in a show; not as the raiser of the dead, but as the misleader of the living,-except that, if He were a magician, He must have had a nativity!
            Looking at the quote in its context, one can see that Marcion is trying to say that to have Jesus do the things Jesus did if He was deity is silly because no God would do that. Tertullian's point is "Right. No one would make this up. That's how we can be sure it's credible." Historians do the same thing today with the criterion of embarrassment. If a document contains information that's embarrassing for the claimant or the side he represents, it has a greater likelihood of being true.

            Coyne also is confused about the spirit of curiosity that is condemned, but that is not intellectual learning being condemned. It is looking into matters we have no business looking into for they serve no practical purpose and I would add, this includes occult knowledge.

            As for Martin Luther's view of reason, but as the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy says

            German theologian, professor, pastor, and church reformer. Luther began the Protestant Reformation with the publication of his Ninety-Five Theses on October 31, 1517. In this publication, he attacked the Church’s sale of indulgences. He advocated a theology that rested on God’s gracious activity in Jesus Christ, rather than in human works. Nearly all Protestants trace their history back to Luther in one way or another. Luther’s relationship to philosophy is complex and should not be judged only by his famous statement that “reason is the devil’s whore.”

            Given Luther’s critique of philosophy and his famous phrase that philosophy is the “devil’s whore,” it would be easy to assume that Luther had only contempt for philosophy and reason. Nothing could be further from the truth. Luther believed, rather, that philosophy and reason had important roles to play in our lives and in the life of the community. However, he also felt that it was important to remember what those roles were and not to confuse the proper use of philosophy with an improper one.

            Properly understood and used, philosophy and reason are a great aid to individuals and society. Improperly used, they become a great threat to both. Likewise, revelation and the gospel when used properly are an aid to society, but when misused also have sad and profound implications.
            On pages 70-71, Coyne seems shocked that issues at Nicea was settled by a vote.

            Well what would he have preferred?

            After all the evidence was presented, would he have preferred that Constantine open up the coliseum and let both sides duke it out and the winner would get to establish the view of Christ for the future? Would he have preferred that one side just claim a revelation from above as to the nature of Jesus and everyone else submit? (We can be sure Coyne would have been thrilled with that.) What was done was the same methodology we use today. I do not see Coyne complaining about using a jury system to establish if a man should get life in prison or not today. That's also a pretty major issue, at least for the defendant. Coyne should also know that this was not a close vote at all. It was about 300+ to 2. That's how serious the evidence was in favor of the orthodox position.

            On page 83, Coyne asks why believers in Islam and Christianity and other mainstream faiths are not as critical of their own religion as they are of new beliefs like Mormonism and Scientology. First off, this is just false. Many people do study other belief systems. I have read all of the Scripture of Mormonism. (Not all the statements of their president for sure, but I have done much reading.) I have also read the Koran and I have read the Tao Te Ching and the Analycts of Confucius. I happen to think it's important to be informed on other belief systems. Do I have the time to investigate all of them? Not at all, but I do watch critically my own. That's why I read books like Coyne's regularly.

            Coyne's ultimate explanation though is that because Christianity and Islam are old, we can't readily critique their claims of divine origin. One can't help but wonder what world Coyne is living in with this kind of claim. Does he not know that New Testament scholarship regularly discusses this kind of claim for Christianity? What does he think Crossan is writing about in a book like The Birth of Christianity? What does he think Ludemann is interested in when he's writing about What Really Happened To Jesus? These questions are discussed regularly. Once again, Coyne is just demonstrating his own ignorance on the subject matter. He needs to get back to evolutionary biology instead of embarrassing himself here.

            Naturally, there must be the myth again of all the different denominations. Unfortunately, Coyne does not know what he's talking about again. It is not as if all these denominations have wildly different beliefs. Some could be denominations of a specific people group, such as Koreans wanting to establish their own Korean churches where doctrinally, they'd agree with many Christians. Others could have different styles of worship. Even where there are doctrinal differences, Christians across the board tend to hold to the first four church councils.

            But the biggest problem is that most people don't know what counts as a denomination. For the purposes of the research done, a denomination is usually defined as a self-governing entity. Let's suppose you live in a large town. There are two independent Baptist churches on each side of town because people want them and people on each side need to go there. These Baptist churches have identical worship styles and identical doctrinal statements. Okay. How many denominations do you have?

            Two.

            Why? They both worship the same way and believe the same thing. Yes. They're also both self-governing.

            Coyne, like many atheists, takes a brief statement and runs with it and doesn't bother doing any research on the topic. Strange for someone who wants his beliefs to be evidence-based.

            Of course, Coyne would probably exclude his own beliefs from any real research by studying the other side anyway. He naturally quotes with favor the Outsider Test for Faith by John Loftus, yet one wonders if he's read David Marshall's masterful response. Would Coyne be willing to read the best the other side has to offer to critique his view? He certainly hasn't done so here. Perhaps the advocate of skepticism should practice the gospel that he teaches before suggesting we all join his movement.

            He speaks disparagingly of J.P. Moreland on page 89 of his book asking Moreland to tell us which worldview is true and which is false out of all the faiths out there. Coyne might think this is a proper taunt to make to Moreland, but as one might expect, nowhere is Moreland's Scaling the Secular City anywhere interacted with and it certainly does not make a mention in the bibliography. For one wanting to know what Moreland's views are, perhaps Coyne would have been well served by going to a library and looking for them.

            That's enough for us to deal with today. Tomorrow, we'll dive in even more. We're only about 2/3rds in and already found this much problematic. Who knows what we'll find next?

            In Christ,
            Nick Peters

            Comment


            • #7
              And now for part 3 of the review.

              The link can be found here.

              How goes our case against Coyne? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

              Today, I hope to get us all the way through to the start of chapter 4 and then continue tomorrow and hopefully finish up on Monday.

              On page 90, Coyne tells us that in the field of biblical archaeology, there has been failure after failure. What do we get? Arguments from silence. Well there's no evidence of the Exodus from Egypt, which of course you will not find interaction with works like James Hoffmeier's that can be found here and here. You won't find out about the claim that the Scythians were a much larger crowd that wandered for a much longer time and all that they left behind were the tombs of their kings, you know, the things that were designed to last. Why should we expect a group of nomands wandering in the desert for 40 years to leave behind something? We certainly should not expect records from Egypt as if Pharaoh would write "Pharaoh's Journal Entry X. Today, those Hebrews managed to escape from me and go out and wander the wilderness and here I am powerless to do anything about it." He certainly would not add in "And yeah, their God totally kicked the butts of our deities with powerful miracles that destroyed us."

              For the Gospel of Luke and its Census, there are a number of ways to interpret the passage. One such way is to say that this is an event that took place before the great census of Quirinius which took place later on. This would be the one that led to the revolt of Judas. This is indeed a possible reading and if there is a possible reading that destroys the contradiction, then we cannot say there is necessarily a contradiction. For why a historian should have recorded the miracles at the death of Christ, we have already addressed that. Yet to say it comes up as failure after failure is simply quite false. You can go to a library and find numerous books on biblical archaeology. We have found the bones of Caiaphas. We have found Nazareth. We have found the Asiarchs and Tetrachs Luke wrote about. We are finding that there were synagogues in 1st century Israel. I have near me here Craig Keener's massive commentaries on Acts which include numerous archaeological discoveries. I have in my library Evans's "Jesus and His World" which contains much more in archaeology as well.

              Of course, Coyne has listed his own sources here on Biblical archaeology like...

              Well, okay. There aren't any, but hey, details. Who needs them?

              On pages 92-93 Coyne tries to show that naturalism is not an assumption. Scientists do not assume naturalism. (And for the most part, fair enough. Not all do.) Yet he must deal with what Lewontin said in Billions and Billions of Demons.

              Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.
              Coyne says that Lewontin was mistaken. We can allow a divine foot. We've just never seen it. But why should I believe Coyne over Lewontin, especially when Coyne says other scientific organizations echo the same claim? Especially since when Coyne sees two religious people disagree, he thinks that is cause for skepticism. What reason could I give for thinking Coyne's position is the right one that represents true science while Lewontin's does not? Is Coyne busy ousting his own that do not speak the true doctrine of science as he sees fit?

              When we get to the next chapter, Coyne is arguing against accommodation. Of course, Coyne goes with the natural/supernatural distinction which I do not agree with and defines something of that sort as a breaking of the law of nature, though there is no source given for where this definition comes from. Coyne does say that he could see some things that could convince him of the truth of some religions, but then perhaps it's really aliens.

              Naturally when it comes to miracles themselves, you can be sure that any interaction with Keener is totally left out. One would think that if history was a science and one was doing a scientific study, you'd at least look at the best evidence against your position, but alas, people like Coyne are people of faith and really looking at the contrary position is not acceptable.

              But hey, Coyne is not totally closed off to a religion being true. He does say what it would take to convince him. What's that? Well he tells us on pages 118-119.

              The following (and admittedly contorted) scenario would give me tentative evidence for Christianity. Suppose that a bright light appeared in the heavens, and, supported by winged angels, a being clad in a white robe and sandals descended onto my campus from the sky, accompanied by a pack of apostles bearing the names given in the Bible. Loud heavenly music, with the blaring of trumpets, is heard everywhere. The robed being, who identifies himself as Jesus, repairs to the nearby university hospital and instantly heals many severely afflicted people, including amputees. After a while Jesus and his minions, supported by angels ascend back into the sky with another chorus of music. The heavens swiftly darken, there are flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, and in an instant the sky is clear.

              If this were all witnessed by others and documented by video, and if the healings were unexplainable but supported by testimony from multiple doctors, and if all the apparitions and events conformed to Christian theology---then I'd have to start thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity.
              Please note that this is tentative to him. He could still be wrong he thinks even after something like this. What are we to get from this? For one thing, it means Coyne is closed off to evidence. What it would take for him to get to consider the truth of Christianity is not to look at the evidence for Christianity such as the classical theistic arguments or the historical case that Jesus rose from the dead. No. Those won't work. What it would take is an experience. That means that whatever argument I come to him with minus the experience he has already decided will be ignored. Is this really a rational way to explore evidence? This even after he says we do not assume naturalism a priori? This after trying to tell us that we should go with the evidence?

              At the bottom, he says to turn it around and ask religious people what it would take to make them abandon their faith.

              Well that's easy.

              For theism, you would need to refute the classical theistic arguments and give a better explanation for reality than theism and at the same time give a disproof for theism. Without a disproof, we just have agnosticism. For Christianity, you'd need to give a better case for the rise of the early church than the proclamation that Jesus rose from the dead. Do you have a better way to explain the data? Note my position depends on the evidence. Coyne's depends on an experience.

              But maybe Coyne can explain the resurrection. That's what he spends time doing on pages 121 and 123. On 121 he says:

              "Historians have ways of confirming whether unique events are likely to have occurred. Those methods depend on multiple and independent corroboration of those events using details that coincide among different reporters, reliable documents that attest to those events, and accounts that are contemporaneous with the event. In this way we know, for example, that Julius Caesar was assassinated by a group of conspirators in the Roman Senate in 44 BCE, though we're not sure of his last words. As has been pointed out many times, the biblical accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection fails these elementary tests because the sources are not independent, none are by eyewitnesses, all contemporary writers outside of scripture fail to mention the event, and the details of the resurrection and empty tomb---even among the Gospels and the letters of Paul---show serious discrepancies. Nor, despite ardent searching, have biblical archaeologists found such a tomb."
              Here we have a lot of assertions. Do we have any scholars cited? Nope. Not a one. When it comes to Caesar, we are not told who these authors and when they wrote that make them reliable, but hey, Coyne has said so so, yeah, let's just take it on faith.

              For the idea of contemporaries, I have spoken of this with another similar event, namely that of Caesar's crossing the Rubicon and I used Richard Carrier as an example. Coyne acts like writers outside of Scripture would really want to bother writing about Christianity. For one thing, the earliest ones saw this as an oddball sect not worth talking about. Give it a few centuries and everyone knows about it and at that point, there's no need to state what Christians believe. It's common knowledge at that point.

              But for cases with the Gospels being eyewitness accounts, naturally, there's no interaction with Bauckham. As for serious discrepancies, none of these are mentioned, but that only goes against Inerrancy if true. Christianity does not stand or fall on Inerrancy. I have already said much about the nature of the writing and events being contemporary here.

              But you know, maybe Coyne will have an argument against the resurrection. Indeed, he does. What is it? It's an argument of Herman Philipse on page 123.

              "It seems likely---for Jesus explicitly states this in three of the four Gospels---that his followers believed he would restore God's kingdom in their lifetime, including sitting on twelve thrones from which they'd judge the tribes of Israel. But, unexpectedly, Jesus was crucified, ending everyone's hope for glory. Philipse suggests that this produced painful cognitive dissonance, which in this case was resolved by "corroborative storytelling"---the same modern millennialists do when the world fails to end on schedule. The ever-disappointed millennialists usually agree on a story that somehow preserves their belief in the face of disconfirmation (for example, "We got the date wrong.") Philipse then suggests that in the case of the Jesus tale, the imminent arrivals of God simply morphed into a promise of eternal life, a promise supported by pretending that their leader himself had been resurrected.
              If you accept that an apocalyptic preacher named Jesus existed, who told his followers that God's kingdom was nigh, this story at least seems reasonable. After all, it's based on well-known features of human psychology; the behavior of disappointed cults and our well-known attempts to resolve cognitive dissonance. Like disillusioned millennialists, the early Christians could simply have revised their story. Is this really less credible than the idea that Jesus arose from the dead? Only if you have an a priori commitment to the myth."
              Is this story really less credible? Why yes. Yes it is. It does not deal with all the evidence even accepted by scholars in the field.

              For one thing, how about crucifixion. Did that happen? Why yes, yes it did. (And I must state that since Coyne is even skeptical Jesus existed.)

              Christians who wanted to proclaim Jesus as messiah would not have invented the notion that he was crucified because his crucifixion created such a scandal. Indeed, the apostle Paul calls it the chief "stumbling block" for Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). Where did the tradition come from? It must have actually happened.
              (Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Third Edition. pages 221-222)

              Jesus was executed by crucifixion, which was a common method of torture and execution used by the Romans.
              (Dale Martin, New Testament History and Literature. Page 181)

              That Jesus was executed because he or someone else was claiming that he was the king of the Jews seems to be historically accurate.
              (ibid. 186)

              “The fact of the death of Jesus as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable, despite hypotheses of a pseudo-death or a deception which are sometimes put forward. It need not be discussed further here.”
              (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” Page 17.)

              And what about the account of the empty tomb. Is it reliable?

              Jesus came from a modest family that presumably could not afford a rock- cut tomb. Had Joseph not offered to accommodate Jesus’ body his tomb (according to the Gospel accounts) Jesus likely would have been disposed in the manner of the lower classes: in a pit grave or trench grave dug into the ground. When the Gospels tell us that Joseph of Arimathea offered Jesus a spot in his tomb, it is because Jesus’ family did not own a rock- cut tomb and there was no time to prepare a grave- that is there was no time to dig a grave, not hew a rock cut tomb(!)—before the Sabbath. It is not surprising that Joseph, who is described as a wealthy and perhaps even a member of the Sanhedrin, had a rock-cut family tomb. The Gospel accounts seem to describe Joseph placing Jesus’ body in one of the loculi in his family’s tomb.
              (Jodi Magness, Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, pg 170)

              “There is no need to assume that the Gospel accounts of Joseph of Arimathea offering Jesus a place in this family tomb are legendary or apologetic. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’s burial appear to be largely consistent with the archeological evidence”
              ( Magness, pg 171)

              And appearances?

              “The only thing that we can certainly say to be historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and in Jerusalem) soon after Jesus’s death. These appearances cannot be denied”
              (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” p. 81)

              “We can say with complete certainty that some of his disciples at some later time insisted that . . . he soon appeared to them, convincing them that he had been raised from the dead.”
              (Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, pg 230).

              “That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know.”
              (E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, pg 280)

              “That the experiences did occur, even if they are explained in purely natural terms, is a fact upon which both believer and unbeliever can agree.” (Reginald H. Fuller, Foundations of New Testament Christology, 142)

              Please observe this Coyne. This is how historical research is done. One consults the leading scholars in the field. These are going to be basic facts I will accept until shown otherwise. Note that Christ mythicism is not even on the radar. These are also not a plethora of Christians scholars I've gathered. Coyne's approach would be like making an argument against evolution and thinking it has to be powerful because young-earth creationist scientists say so. But let's go on.

              For one thing, when a Messiah died, you went home or you found a new Messiah, as N.T. Wright says. There is no indication of any other movement where hope went on. Appearances by themselves would in fact lead the disciples to not think Jesus was alive, but that He was most certainly dead. The ancient world knew about such appearances and saw it as a sign that the person was indeed dead. It's interesting to notice that no one ever considered James, the brother of Jesus, to be the new Messiah.

              Second, you would think that if cognitive dissonance was applied, that there would at least be interaction with Leon Festinger. There isn't. Festinger's work wouldn't even apply well to cognitive dissonance anyway since the observers in fact numerous times interfered with the study group, thus damaging the results, but from what we do know, cognitive dissonance does not reach other people outside of the movement and the movement does in fact die soon afterwards. This is not the case of Christianity where even those opposed to the movement accepted it. One has to ask what it would take to convince you that your brother was Lord and Messiah. (And Bauckham, Hurtado, Bird, and others have made numerous cases to show the earliest Christology after the resurrection was that Jesus was and is fully deity.) In fact, When N.T. Wright responds to this argument in The Resurrection of the Son of God he says "The flaws in this argument are so enormous that it is puzzling to find serious scholars still referring to it in deferential terms --- which is indeed, the only reason for giving space to discussion of it here." (p. 698)

              Now Coyne wants us to believe that these stories of Jesus being seen as vindicated morphed into a resurrection. When? The earliest accounts we have are of a bodily resurrection per the creed in 1 Cor. 15. If we say that it was for the Gentile mission, the Gentiles scoffed at the idea of bodily resurrection. If we were talking about making a change to the accounts amenable to the Gentiles, we can talk about the Jesus found in the Gnostic Gospels. This Jesus is not at all a threat to the Roman Empire. Christians would be seen as quaint and bizarre, but hardly challenging Caesar. That's not what we see in the New Testament.

              Finally, in the honor-shame context of the New Testament, the Christians would have followed every rule of how not to make a new religion. Tie it in with the religion seen as most odd at the time, Judaism. Forego traditional practices that out you with society like animal sacrifice. Reject a morality common at the time, such as open sexuality. Have your Messiah be someone who was crucified, an utter shame. Make your figure be bodily resurrected, something that would be seen as a joke. Have your belief be a new belief since that would have been viewed with suspicion at the time. The wonder is that Christianity not only won overall, but survived.

              So no Coyne, we find the explanation laughable not because we have an a priori commitment to the myth, but because we do know how to do history. Perhaps Coyne should consider going through Wright's work and responding to it since the case is supposedly so obviously false, or go through Michael Licona's work here.

              On page 138, Coyne interacts with theistic evolution and asks can you believe there would be such a thing as theistic chemistry or theistic gravity? Why only apply it to evolution? Perhaps, but could we not put the shoe on the other foot. We hear talk about naturalistic evolution. Could we not say how ridiculous it would be to think of naturalistic chemistry and naturalistic gravity? Why do we speak of evolution? Because evolution is usually seen as a God stopper as it were. It doesn't have to be. Again, I leave this to others to debate, but proving evolution does not disprove theism. In fact, if anyone had a bias in this, I would have to agree with Plantinga that it would be the atheist since naturalistic evolution is the only game in town.

              Finally, when Coyne interacts with Plantinga, Plantinga in defending his view of creation does appeal to the devil as a possible cause for disasters in the world. Coyne says it's hard to imagine a serious philosopher saying something like this. Of course, Coyne should not talk about serious philosophy. After all, he says:

              Another problem is that scientists like me are intimidated by philosophical jargon, and hence didn’t interrupt the monologues to ask for clarification for fear of looking stupid. I therefore spent a fair amount of time Googling stuff like “epistemology” and “ontology” (I can never get those terms straight since I rarely use them).
              https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress...idge-workshop/

              Yes everyone. Jerry Coyne who has to google terms like epistemology and ontology is going to be telling Plantinga how he should do serious philosophy. This would be like me saying I have to google what a Punnett Square is and how to make one, but I am going to laugh at the thought of Coyne being a serious evolutionary biologist.

              Plantinga's argument however does not need to show the existence of the devil. The problem of evil is to ask if Christianity is consistent with itself and one aspect of Christianity is belief in the devil. If this is even a possible explanation, then Plantinga's argument stands. I am not saying I agree with it, but I am saying it is still not a problematic statement.

              But enough of this, next time, we shall see what Coyne says about how faith strikes back.

              In Christ,
              Nick Peters

              Comment


              • #8
                Faith strikes back

                The link can be found here.

                The text is as follows:

                How does Coyne handle it when faith strikes back? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

                Today we're going to cover chapter 4 where Faith Strikes Back as Coyne says. I was very pleased to see that he dealt with the Kalam Cosmological Argument of Bill Craig by...

                Well, okay. He didn't deal with that. But hey, you can't expect him to deal with everything.

                Instead, he chose to focus on the Thomistic arguments and he dealt there with...

                Okay. So he didn't deal with those.

                About the only arguments you see are ID and the moral argument. Even then, the moral argument is definitely misunderstood. As I am not someone who considers myself a proponent of ID, I will leave that to those who are.

                Naturally, we start with a god of the gaps argument, yet I wonder why this is always brought up. In the medieval period, people were looking for natural arguments for why things happened just as much as we were. Did they get them right all the time? No. Of course not. Just like we don't. In fact, when they filled in a "gap" that led them to have more of awe. It was a mindset that would look and say "I never would have thought about doing it that way." I suspect this is also one reason why that a requirement for a law I understand a scientist uses is that it is to be beautiful.

                On page 153, Coyne tells us that natural theology represents the attempts to discern God's ways, or find evidence for His existence, by observing nature alone. It does not rely on revelation or Scripture. I do not agree with Philipse who says it's an attempt to argue for a specific religious view. Let's consider the Thomistic arguments for instance, the main arguments I'd use in natural theology that all come from an Aristotelian worldview. Could Aquinas use those to argue for the Christian deity? Yes. Averroes and Avicenna could use them to argue for Allah. Moses Maimonides could have used them to argue for a Jewish concept. This is not a problem.

                You see, you're not going to sit down in an armchair and just ponder reality and stand up and conclude "Yes! I get it! God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ!" You won't stand up and say "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet!" You won't exuberantly shout "Moses is the greatest prophet of all." All of these take not just philosophical understanding, but historical understanding as well. Just thinking by itself cannot get you to Christianity just like it could not get you to any scientific theory in itself. You won't sit down and stand up elated to find out that we all evolved from a lower species. (You could come up and think that after pondering evidence you'd read recently, but without scientific evidence, you won't reach a scientific conclusion.)

                Natural theology was said to be extremely popular after science arose according to Coyne, which leaves me wondering what kind of reading he has really done. Aristotle and Aquinas are both in this tradition and their ways of thinking were extremely popular. Coyne considers the most famous argument to be the Watchmaker one of Paley. This is quite likely true to be the most famous one, but that does not mean that it was the best one. I personally think that after Descartes natural theology started going the wrong way by viewing the universe in a mechanistic sense. (It would help Coyne to read the rest of Paley beyond the Watchmaker argument. It's a shame that Paley's entirely brilliant legacy has been reduced to one argument.)

                Coyne also tells us that Hume refuted the case for miracles and Kant the logical arguments for God. Unfortunately, examples are lacking here. How did Kant refute these arguments? Which arguments were refuted? We don't know. I have already said with Hume that Coyne has not bothered to check a work like Earman's Hume's Abject Failure. In this one, the agnostic Earman says that if Hume's argument was followed consistently, that it would lead to not just the negation of miracles, but the negation of marvels as well. In other words, modern science would be killed if followed consistently. Hume's own argument was dealt with in his day also by the story of a tropical prince who lived in a world where the climate was always warm and being told to believe that there was such a thing as ice. Also, as said before, Coyne ignores the work of Keener. David Johnson of Cornell University Press says about Hume's argument that:

                "The view that there is in Hume's essay, or in what can be reconstructed from it, any argument or reply or objection that is even superficially good, much less, powerful, or devastating, is simply a philosophical myth. The most willing hearers who have been swayed by Hume on this matter have been held captive by nothing other than Hume's great eloquence." (Page 169)
                As I said further in my review of Keener, Hume had a problem with racism that affected his argument too.

                On pages 223-4, we have a quote from Hume:

                "I am apt to suspect the Negroes and in general all of the other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No indigenous manufacturers amongst them, no arts, no sciences."

                Some could answer "Okay. Hume was a racist. It doesn't mean he's wrong." On its face, no. It doesn't. There is something important here. Hume is automatically excluding the testimony of anyone that is not amongst his circle of people he considers educated. Who are the educated? Those are the ones who don't believe in miracles. If anyone believes in them, surely he cannot be educated. He must be some backwater person. Therefore, all educated people don't believe in miracles. It is a lovely piece of circular reasoning.

                Hume goes on to say

                "Not to mention our colonies, there are Negro slaves dispersed all over Europe, of which none ever discovered any symptoms of ingenuity, tho' low people without education will start up amongst us [whites], and distinguish themselves in every profession. IN Jamaica indeed they talk of one Negro as a man of parts and learning, but 'tis likely he is admired for very slender accomplishments, like a parrot, who speaks a few words plainly."

                To say "'Tis likely" indicates that Hume has heard a claim and has not bothered to really investigate it. He has just made an assumption based on his prior notion of the black race. Keener, however, does know who the Jamaican is and says "The Jamaican whom Hume compares with a parrot stimulating speech was Francis Williams, a Cambridge graduate whose poetry in Latin was well known."

                Sound like an uneducated parrot with slender accomplishments to anyone else? I didn't think so.
                With Kant, well without getting any specific arguments from Kant, it's hard to respond. I guess Coyne just wants us to take Kant by faith. All the arguments have been refuted because Kant says so even though we're not told where he says so or in what work.

                To return to the God of the Gaps, Coyne ironically had started off this section with a quote by Ingersoll.

                No one infers a god from the simple, from the known, from what is understood, but from the complex, from the unknown, and incomprehensible. Our ignorance is God; what we know is science.
                And yet he quotes Bonhoeffer saying

                How wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (And that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not what we don't know.
                Bonhoeffer was a theist and was pointing out the problem with the argument. Coyne is speaking about what laymen think and do, but he is not dealing with the real scholars in the field who are arguing otherwise.

                On page 157 when he talks about natural theology, he says it is always used to give evidence for that person's God. He applies this to morality asking how can we know who the origin of this morality is and that he has never seen advocates of natural theology answer this question.

                I can only think he's never asked someone who is a serious advocate of natural theology. I think Edward Feser would answer this question quite easily. I'll go ahead. You don't know. All you know is that it is consistent with what you believe. To find out which religion is true, you go to history. Feser himself does this in The Last Superstition. He makes a brief apologia for the resurrection of Jesus to establish Christianity while pointing to William Lane Craig as someone more authoritative.

                On page 162, Coyne gives a criticism of fine-tuning when we argue that the universe is designed well for life as we know it here. He asks why life should be based on matter at all. Why not simply souls? The answer is that He in fact did that. He created countless angels, but if He wanted to create another kind of being, it needed to be something beyond being+spirit. That's where matter comes in and material beings need a material place to live.

                For the multiverse theory, I am open to the possibility of a multiverse, but I do not see how this is a defeater for theism. Theists have long been asking to have this one universe explained. How does it explain one to say that there are many? It would be like saying you had solved a case of one murder by saying "Oh. There are a hundred other murder victims over here as well. Case closed." If there's more than one universe or even a system producing universes, then I want to know what is responsible for that. How did that come about? That just pushes the problem back further.

                Coyne also goes to Philipse again who tells us that if we can't answer a question, that undermines all of natural theology, but why should this be? This would be like saying we can't answer a scientific question undermines all of science. If you have ignorance in theology, that means your whole enterprise is doomed, but if you have ignorance in science, that's okay and is in fact a virtue. Coyne is wanting to treat theology like natural science saying that it should have predictive power. Well why should that be the case? It's not as if God is a material being that will respond to events in a mechanistic way.

                Let's say something along those lines about prayer experiments. They're bogus. Even if they come out positive, you could never control all the variables. You can say one group of patients isn't being prayed for by people, but how could you know that? In our day and age, most everyone in the hospital could have loved ones who will pray for them and then put up requests on the internet to have others be praying for them. We can't know who all is praying and who is devout and sincere in their prayers and matters of that sort. I consider it a curiosity to discuss, but God is a free-will being and we don't know all the variables nor could we possibly control for them.

                I'd like to start looking at his arguments concerning morality on page 170. Before we read about Coyne on philosophy, let's remember this quote of his:

                Another problem is that scientists like me are intimidated by philosophical jargon, and hence didn’t interrupt the monologues to ask for clarification for fear of looking stupid. I therefore spent a fair amount of time Googling stuff like “epistemology” and “ontology” (I can never get those terms straight since I rarely use them).
                https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress...idge-workshop/

                So remember, you're getting your philosophy here from someone who is intimidated by philosophical jargon and doesn't interrupt for fear of looking stupid and googles stuff like epistemology and ontology.

                This is also the same guy who has spoken about religion stepping outside of its field....

                When he talks about universal morality, Coyne tells us that there are some people who do lack empathy. (He has not made an argument yet saying that empathy is the basis for morality. You do not need empathy to have morality or to know morality.) He also argues that there are still many great evils that go on and that have gone on. That we have changed shows that universal morality does not come from God.

                It's kind of cute isn't it?

                No Coyne. The claim is not that moral customs are unalterable, but that there are moral truths that exist. (This is called ontology by the way, the study of being) We can be inaccurate in our knowledge of them and how we know them. (This study of knowledge is called epistemology.) In fact, this would be upheld Biblically as the greatest passage on this is found in Romans 2 and this just after Romans 1 telling how humans transgressed the moral law. The idea is there are some things you can't not know. As soon as you come to know what a human being is and what the taking of an innocent life is, you know murder is wrong. This is not based on a feeling about murder but on the action of murder itself. The way around this is to redefine the terms.

                Sure. I don't kill innocent human beings, but those unborn in the womb aren't human beings, so it's okay to kill them. Sure. I don't kill innocent human beings, but those Jews in the holocaust are not only not human, but they are not innocent because they are responsible for all the suffering in our society. In these ways, people can avoid saying that they are breaking a moral law that they find because their victims just don't count. Let's finish this portion on morality for now with one piece he has on page 177.

                He says the God hypothesis doesn't explain why slavery, disdain for women, and torture were considered proper but are now seen as immoral.

                Perhaps he's never heard of a doctrine called sin.

                They were because as Romans tells us, man fell from what he knew he ought to do. Want to see why women are lifted up? Look at the book that says men and women both are in the image of God. Look at the group also that went against slavery in the Roman Empire. Christians would regularly buy slaves just for the purpose of setting them free. What united both of these? The idea that mankind is in the image of God. Can Coyne offer us anything on materialism that will be a basis for equality?

                For now, let's move on to the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. Keep in mind that Coyne has told us he has to google terms like epistemology and yet he wants to tackle an epistemological argument from Alvin Plantinga, and you can think he's wrong in his argument, but he is no slouch in the field. For Coyne to enter into this is like saying because you've googled the rules of Chess, you're ready to take on the grand master. Yet Coyne is convinced that Plantinga's view is so clearly wrong it's a wonder why it's popular.

                Coyne says we could never have true beliefs according to Plantinga's argument without God's interference. That's not the argument. We could have true beliefs, but we would have no reason to think that they are true. Evolution programs me for survival and not necessarily true beliefs. If those beliefs help me with survival, then fine if they happen to be true, but the goal is still survival. If so, then I have a defeater for thinking that my beliefs are true, including the belief that I am a product of mindless evolution.

                Coyne also thinks the most important truth we can be aware of in Plantinga's argument is the existence of the Christian God and Jesus, yet I am skeptical of a claim that Plantinga would consider Jesus to be among our properly basic beliefs. I think Plantinga is making an argument for theism that is indeed consistent with his version of theism, but is not specifically meant for that version. Much of what we have is just mockery of it as if sin is a ludicrous concept to affect our view of God. Why should I not think this? If Scripture is true, there is a righteous judge that will judge us. Which of us would like to accept that?

                There are many more who have looked at Plantinga's argument and can say more about it. I have no reason to think Coyne has treated it well. At this, let's return to morality and we'll start that with a look at scientism. Let's start with some definitions he gives on page 186.

                Truth as conformity to fact.

                Fact as something confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.

                Knowledge is the public acceptance of facts.

                So much wrong here, but the centerpiece is facts so let's go there.

                In the time of Galileo we could not say it was a fact that the Earth goes around the sun. (We couldn't say we evolved is a fact either.)

                If truth is conformity to fact, we could not say that it's true that the Earth goes around the sun.

                And since it was not a fact, then no one could have knowledge of that. Now in essence, the last part could be accurate, but Coyne overlooked the definition as justified true belief. Even if you include the Gettier problem, knowledge is at least that.

                Also, Coyne says knowledge must be factual and publicly recognized so private revelation can't count. This seems over the top. If I wake up before Allie and start reading the Bible, do I need public verification to say I have knowledge that I read Scripture this morning?

                These are all questions I have concerning the claim.

                It gets worse. On page 189 we are told there are no objective moral truths. Morality rests on preferences. (And in the same paragraph we have a condemnation of slavery in the Old Testament and the conquest of the Canaanites. Never underestimate the fundamentalist ability to contradict so quickly.)

                But if truth is conformity to fact then to say there are no moral facts is to say there are no moral claims confirmed to such a degree it would be perverse to deny them.

                So do we want to say that don't murder innocent humans has not been established? It is wrong to rape has not been established? Coyne wants to say the Canaanite conquest is wrong, but He can't. He can't speak of moral progress or even an evolved morality. His basic argument would be God is wrong because He does stuff I don't like, which could be just as valid as saying "Christianity is wrong because it teaches monogamy while I prefer polyamory." (I am using that as a for instance and not at all saying he either condemns monogamy or favors polyamory.)

                So we have epistemological and moral relativism both, and this in a book about faith vs fact.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Keeping this going on 190, he says he disagrees with Sam Harris and says "If there are no objective truths, then morality isn't a way of knowing, but simply a guide to rational behavior."

                  But how can it be a guide to rational behavior? Isn't rational behavior that which is in accordance with reason? And if there are no moral truths to reason to, how can it be more rational to throw a life preserver to a drowning child than it is to throw a boulder at him? Rational entails there are behaviors that lead to acting in accordance to these truths, but Coyne has denied these truths. Huh?

                  Perhaps Coyne should have stuck with science....

                  Naturally, in all of this Coyne thinks Euthyphro is a great defeater showing that people derive morality not from God but from secular institutions.

                  This would have been interesting since Euthyphro was charging his father with impiety, a crime against the gods. Nice to know a secular institution was concerned about this. In the ancient world, this separation of church and state did not exist. Every action was religious and it affected the state. There were state gods to be worshiped, namely later on the Emperor himself. Euthyphro is not a question about how we come to moral knowledge, but rather what that moral knowledge itself is, and it is never denied that there is a holy. (And I would add it was answered by Aristotle who chose to define the good in the Nicomachean Ethics.)

                  It's like Coyne just wants to toss out every pet objection without studying it.

                  Kind of like he wants to reply to objections he hasn't studied either.

                  So what about claims that there are other ways of knowing like saying "My wife loves me" and that's not based on science. Well Coyne wants to say it is. Why? It's evidence-based. Unfortunately, the claim of love from my wife is more like the claim of love from God. Both are claims that we receive a claim and we judge it to be true based on the evidence that we see and we live accordingly. Coyne is still living in this world where he thinks that faith means belief without evidence so no wonder he gets everything else wrong.

                  On page 200 in defending scientism (Since every claim that is evidence-based is supposedly science) he says the claim only comes from the faithful that atheists practice scientism.

                  Massimo Pigliucci would be very surprised to learn he became one of the faithful.

                  On 209, Coyne quotes his friend Dan Barker (That explains a lot) in saying theology is a subject without an object.

                  But wait.

                  If that's true, then critiques about how God should have made the universe or revealed Himself or the very problem of evil no longer work because this is all theology. It doesn't mean God exists, but it means there must be some knowledge of what he'd be like if He did. I can have knowledge of what a unicorn would be like without believing they exist.
                  We all do theology. Some of us, like Coyne, just do it poorly.

                  He's also wrong that it's just theologians quoting other theologians. Metaphysics studies God for instance and all of Aquinas's arguments are empirical.

                  There is an attempt to show Christianity is not responsible for the rise of science. Naturally, he refers to everyone's favorite historian, Richard Carrier. Perhaps he should have mentioned how with Carrier, this science in ancient Greeks also rose as monotheism was becoming a more viable worldview. Science fits in just fine in a monotheistic context. It doesn't do so well in a polytheistic context. The Christian church carried this on as soon as they were not being persecuted by the emperor. It's just anathema to Coyne to think that Christianity could possibly be responsible for science.

                  Finally, to say the church impeded free inquiry, I would challenge Coyne with what one thinker on the topic says when he's presented with this idea that the medieval church was anti-science.

                  I love to totally stump them by asking them to present me with the name of one - just one - scientist burned, persecuted or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any. They usually try to crowbar Galileo back into the Middle Ages, which is amusing considering he was a contemporary of Descartes. When asked why they have failed to produce any such scientists given the Church was apparently so busily oppressing them, they often resort to claiming that the Evil Old Church did such a good job of oppression that everyone was too scared to practice science. By the time I produce a laundry list of Medieval scientists - like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa - and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church, my opponents have usually run away to hide and scratch their heads in puzzlement at what just went wrong.
                  So Coyne will say I've just found another Christian fundamentalist who agrees with me. Not quite. The quote is from Tim O'Neill and is found here. How does he describe himself?

                  Wry, dry, rather sarcastic, eccentric, occasionally arrogant Irish-Australian atheist bastard.
                  Yes. This is an atheist kicking this nonsense to the curb. Coyne can talk about the persecution of Galileo and Bruno, but there is more going on in both cases. Galileo was demanding that his ideas be accepted immediately and was a scientist speaking on theology. It also didn't help that he wrote a dialogue where he pictured the Pope as a simpleton. Galileo lived in a house arrest for the rest of his life where he freely pursued his studies and had a pension paid for him. Bruno was a tragedy, but it was more for his crazy theology than for his crazy science. (Yes. He was right about the Earth going around the sun, but much more of his stuff was just bizarre.) Now should that have happened? No. But it was not because of doing science. Also, this is already out of the medieval period so it can't be based on the Dark Ages.

                  It's a shame Coyne never really took on any major arguments for faith of any kind. If you come here and you're a new atheist, you're left thinking a devastating blow has been given. If you come here and you're a historical and philosophical reader, you leave scratching your head wondering how on Earth Coyne thinks this is a response.

                  In Christ,
                  Nick Peters

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Let's wrap this up!

                    The link can be found here.

                    The text is as follows:

                    What are our concluding thoughts on Coyne's book? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

                    It's time to wrap up our look at Coyne's book with asking why this matters. Now I do agree on this point. This does matter. As you can imagine, I disagree greatly with the conclusion of Coyne.

                    Coyne does list a number of evils that have been done by religious people. This cannot be denied. What can be denied is that Christians themselves aren't doing anything about this. When I lived in Charlotte, I worked at the Christian Research Institute. Hank Hanegraaff who ran it is quite well-known for dealing with the prosperity Gospel movement, including such ideas as that healing is guaranteed in the atonement. The overwhelming majority of Christians would look at the events that Coyne talks about and say that they condemn them as well. Now some could say that this is based on promises of Scripture, but such promises are read through modern lenses instead of understanding the social and linguistic context of the first century. For instance, ask anything in my name is not a blank check. It means that you will receive anything you ask for that is in line with the will of the Master, and sometimes healing frankly isn't in line with that.

                    If Coyne wants to say the kind of thinking done by these people should be stopped, I wholeheartedly agree. The reason it got this way is sadly, anti-intellectualism did sneak into the church. Such a view is really the exception to what has gone on in church history. I also contend that it has made its way into atheism, especially in the age of the internet where we live in a soundbite culture where someone thinks if you just put up a meme, the meme itself is an argument. Memes can be hilarious illustrations of arguments, but they should never be used as arguments themselves.

                    On page 229, Coyne warns about missionizing, which is an attempt to force your unsubstantiated beliefs on others.

                    The irony is so rich....

                    For one thing, I would really like to know how anyone can force a belief or even attempt to. We can only attempt to persuade. Some people will do a terrible job because frankly, they haven't done their homework and don't know about the historical evidence for their claims. (People like Jerry Coyne for instance and people like fundamentalist Christians) These people want to argue for what they believe but they don't read the best scholarly works out there that disagree with them. (Again, people like Jerry Coyne and fundamentalist Christians.) When they meet people who know what they're talking about, it's quite apparent that the person wanting to make the argument just isn't prepared.

                    So if I wanted to point to a clear example of missionizing, I'd point to Coyne's book. Remember everyone, this is someone speaking on philosophical terminology who says

                    Another problem is that scientists like me are intimidated by philosophical jargon, and hence didn’t interrupt the monologues to ask for clarification for fear of looking stupid. I therefore spent a fair amount of time Googling stuff like “epistemology” and “ontology” (I can never get those terms straight since I rarely use them).
                    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress...idge-workshop/

                    And as for theological arguments he says

                    This is an area about which I’m completely ignorant, and happy to remain so, because it sounds like a godawful cesspool of theological lucubration. It of course begins with three completely unsupported premises: that there is a God, that that God has a mind that has “beliefs,” and that how we act now somehow influences God’s beliefs about our actions long before we performed them. It sounds as if what we do now, then, can go back in time and change God’s beliefs. (That, at least, is how I interpret the gobbledygook above.)
                    Given those three bogus assumptions, the candidate will then spend many dollars ruminating about how God’s prior beliefs relate to the philosophy of time and metaphysics of dependence, whatever that means.
                    In other words, all the money is going to work out the consequences of a fairy tale. So much money for so much “sophisticated” philosophy!
                    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress...members-stuff/

                    So here we have someone who has to google basic terms in philosophy and who confesses to being ignorant in theology and happy to remain so, but yet wants to teach us on both of these.

                    Seriously?

                    Coyne also says that Natural Law on page 245 refers to innate morality supposedly vouchsafed to Catholics by God and understood by reason.

                    This from the one who complains about missionizing.

                    Natural Law is a rich tradition that goes back to the Greeks prior to Christianity. It is the simple idea that there is good and evil and we can all know them by virtue of being human beings and learning. We don't need any divine revelation for that. It's also not just a Catholic thing. Muslims and Jews could argue the same. So could Protestants. Perhaps it would have helped Coyne had he, you know, actually read something on Natural Law.

                    I'd also like to share how on page 250 ending a section on global warming, he talks about how the Vatican has an observatory, which is surprising to most people, and how Father Guy Consolmagno of it says it serves "to make people realize that the church not only supports science, literally....but we support and embrace and promote the use of both our hearts and our brains to come to know how the universe works." Coyne takes this as a clear expression that people believe what they like to be true rather than what science tells us. How is that so?

                    It's hardly necessary to add that the heart is not an organ for thinking, and that we can never understand 'how the universe works' by using our emotions, via faith, instead of reason. Father Consolmagno's heart, for example, has convinced him that if extraterrestrial beings exist, that they have souls like ours."
                    It's hardly necessary to point out to most people on planet Earth, which sadly do not include Coyne, that it's quite clear that Consolmagno is using metaphorical language here. He is not at all saying that he thinks with the heart any more than someone is denying science when they tell their wife "I love you with all of my heart." We can easily picture Coyne saying "The heart is not an organ for loving!"

                    For anyone out there who thinks like Coyne, the claim is simply that with our very beings we can work to know the universe. While it could include emotions, the quote does not refer to them. (It would be a mistake also to say love is an emotion. It can result in powerful emotions we call love, but love itself is not an emotion.) I am sure if Coyne was to debate Consolmagno, he'd find Consolmagno actually has reasons for what he believes, including about aliens.

                    So where does this all end? Coyne's big mistake here is the same one that many people make on the Christian side. By making the debate to be science vs. the Bible, most people in America will actually choose the Bible. God does more for them in their minds than science does. God gives them more wonder and purpose in their lives than science does. This is also tragic because Coyne would have to be able to admit that many Christians do have wonderful minds (Who wants to say people like Francis Collins are idiots?) and yet if he makes it an either/or proposition, then he is keeping some of those minds out of science.

                    Unfortunately, the way many Christians have handled issues like evolution has perpetuated this. Perhaps evolution will fall as bad science some day like some other theories have. I cannot say, but let us be open to the possibility. If it does, let it fall because it is bad science. There is no place for making it be the Bible vs. Science. If you believe the Bible, then you should believe that it won't contradict science. If that is the case, then the way to show something is wrong in the world of science is to do so scientifically. Using the Bible to do this just perpetuates the stereotype.

                    Coyne then in wanting to end the problem is in fact making it worse by his works. This is especially so when he writes about topics that he does not know about. It's really ironic that someone who wants to talk about evidence-based belief takes such a light approach to evidence in what he critiques. The objections that Coyne thinks are stumpers could be seen as parallel to what evolutionists think when they're told "Well if we came from apes, why are there still apes?" Now could I answer that question? No, because I'm not a scientist and I won't even try. That's why I don't speak on it. I do trust that regardless of my stance on evolution, it would be a bad argument anyway.

                    This gets us to the tragedy that in one sense, Coyne is right. Faith is opposed to fact. How? Because if science is really that evidence-based belief including history, had Coyne actually read the evidence, he would see a strong case that Christianity is true and Jesus rose from the dead. Since he does not treat evidence seriously but only cherry-picks what is in line with what he already believes without interacting with the best scholarship on the other side, then Coyne is acting on faith. In that case, had Coyne done a proper scientific inquiry, he would have seen that Christianity is true, but as a priest of his religion of scientism, Coyne cannot allow evidence that goes against his faith. The religion of Coyne and the science that demonstrates that Christianity is true are certainly incompatible. It looks like Coyne has decided to be a person of faith instead of a person of science in this case.

                    In Christ,
                    Nick Peters

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