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rational justification to avoid investigating miracle-claims

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  • rational justification to avoid investigating miracle-claims

    Fundamentalist Christians say non-Christians should be open to examining evidence for modern-day miracle claims, but these fundies likely haven't though of how cost-prohibitive any respectable investigation would be. One such example is the book Craig Keener's book, Miracles (Baker Academic, 2011). Keener supplies a large list of miracle claims but doesn't purport to prove them true, only show that miracles are alleged far more often than most people allow.

    How much time and money should the objective non-Christian be willing to spend on doing their own investigation into claimed miracle-healings?

    Suppose a skeptic lives in California, and hears about a miracle-healing happening in Florida.

    Suppose she googles the name of the allegedly healed person and finds a webpage purporting to document the event.

    How much investigation should this skeptic engage in?

    Should she attempt to authenticate alleged medical documents appearing on the website?
    Should she she attempt to gain further medical history of the healed person to make sure there is no "more to the story" that might change things?
    Should she attempt a face-to-face interview with the healed person, or do you say interview by phone or email is sufficient? What makes you think everything that could be gained in a face-to-face interview could be gained through email or phone? If that were the case, then maybe courts of law are wasting public money and time by requiring live witnesses to testify in person before the fact-finder? If you were accused of rape and the witness against you was not available to testify for the jury except by phone or email, would you accept that as sufficient?

    What's wrong with wanting to make sure the person you are communicating with is really who they say they are? Can you really do that if you simply talk on the phone or email?

    Should she attempt to interview the diagnosing physician? Should she get a second medical opinion?

    Should she try to identify and contact others who have an opinion on the credibility of the healed person?

    This skeptic would have to fly to Florida (pretend she is married with kids, and needs to get there and back as quick as possible), buy food the whole time, rent a motel for at least 2 or 3 days to conduct interviews with witnesses who may live near the claimant, and this is all multiplied if other witnesses exist who live out of state, she would have to likely rent a car, she would have to pay the expenses of a doctor for a second medical opinion if the claimant has only a single diagnosis of the claimed healing, etc, etc.

    Isn't it obvious that a seriously thorough miracle investigation that is most likely to expose any fraud that may exist, would cost somebody a few thousand dollars for each miracle claim?

    If fundies wish non-Christians to be open to examining modern day Christian miracles claims, they cannot blame those potential investigators who make the enterprise irrational by wanting to do the kind of thorough investigation that would end up being cost prohibitive for everybody except those who are super rich and super lonely. And the time required to do such investigating would be sufficiently long that most mature adults with normal lives would rather continue raising their kids and going to work everyday instead of taking two weeks off to go tracking down all available evidence for and against any given miracle claim.

    For all these reasons, it is the Christian fundamentalist who is irrational for telling non-Christians to be open to examining modern day miracle claims. But if we don't have an obligation to rip apart our current lifestyle just to satisfy fundie apologists, then we can continue to view those claims with suspicion despite the fact that they are available to be investigated.

  • #2
    Thank you for the thoughtful post B&H. Before getting into the meat of your post I've decided to give you some advice.
    1. When you write an opening post its not a good idea to overload it with questions, since you'd want the discussion to be tight and focused. Also you want to avoid responses becoming endlessly fractioned, trying to respond to all the question marks.
    2. Its a very, very, very bad idea to start a conversation with Christians and accuse them of being "fundies". I can almost hear you slipping in the word "Stupid" as well. It will pretty much kill any sympathy for what you're writing for that reason alone. Thankfully I've got tough skin, I'm feeling especially tolerant tonight, and I respect that we can all make mistakes in our conversations. However I hope this is the last time you call me, or anyone here a "fundie"


    Thankfully, I think I can extract from what you write, a concern about the epistemological approach one should apply to discussing miracle claims, as well as what is practically feasible for someone investigating Christianity.

    I've been there myself so I share that concern.

    Here's what I have to say to you about your main questions:

    I don't think anyone is asking all non-Christians to examine, in full investigative style, modern miracle claims. The idea is that such investigations have already occured, and its sufficient for the non-Christian to read and verify those investigations to some extent. If you're talking about novel claims that no one has investigated yet, then I'd answer yes to most of your questions about what's needed to investigate it properly.

    I also don't think - though I should be careful as I've not read Keener's book - that most Christian apologists use modern miracle accounts as the strongest kind of evidence for God's existence. This is for good reason as the evidence will only ever get so strong, and won't afford you the kind of certainty you'd get from direct experience, or from natural philosophical arguments. Its used mostly as an eye opener. We present to non-believers a range of extraordinary events that have no natural explanations, or no likely natural explanation... mostly to open their eyes to the mere possibility that there's more to existence than 'atoms bouncing around'.

    Its hard convincing people who don't believe in God to sit in church for a while, read the Bible, or think about theology, if they're completely convinced that they've got the world figured out.

    So for apologetical reasons that's typically what that kind of evidence is used for.

    Whether I'd judge you irrational for dismissing the evidence... that depends on why you'd be doing so. If you're doing it because, given what you believe, it'd be a waste of time, then I might point out a begging the question fallacy, however I wouldn't press you as entirely irrational, just mistaken. If you dismissed it because by historical accident you only examined fraudulent miracle claims (perhaps merely by looking up known debunked cases - remember the Catholic Church regularly dismisses miracle claims), then it depends on how thorough you were in your investigation. If you dismiss it by holding up a Humean style argument against miracles, then yes I'd take you as being irrational.

    As for likely examples of miracles, look up the miracle healing cases in Lourdes. They have a register filled with spontaneous cancer cures and the likes.

    What's wrong with wanting to make sure the person you are communicating with is really who they say they are?
    Can't resist, pedantic note, you're making a loaded question fallacy. Now who's irrational?

    Isn't it obvious that a seriously thorough miracle investigation that is most likely to expose any fraud that may exist, would cost somebody a few thousand dollars for each miracle claim?
    Something like that, the Catholic Church has found its share of fraudulent bleeding statues. Only one so far has gotten a stamp of approval, which only goes so far as saying "No Catholic may be prevented from considering this a genuine miracle."
    Last edited by Leonhard; 08-23-2014, 09:01 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by B&H View Post
      Fundamentalist Christians say non-Christians should be open to examining evidence for modern-day miracle claims, but these fundies likely haven't though of how cost-prohibitive any respectable investigation would be. One such example is the book Craig Keener's book, Miracles (Baker Academic, 2011). Keener supplies a large list of miracle claims but doesn't purport to prove them true, only show that miracles are alleged far more often than most people allow.
      On your initial thread you proclaimed yourself a Christian (with liberal leanings), so why are you talking about the aim at non-Christians and skeptics? If you are a Christian I would expect you would be sympathetic to possible verification of theism. But you speak of "Fundies", who as a rule don't tout miracles anyway. That would be Pentecostals. Further confusion comes from labeling yourself "non-denominational", a standard code-word itself for "Fundamentalist". This gives the impression that you are not really a Christian of any type, since you know so little of the terminology and are showing such hostility to Craig Keener, a noted Christian scholar. I suspect by "non-denominational" you just mean that you never attend church. Maybe you should define what you mean by "Christian". My apologies if you are just playing Devil's Advocate. Hopefully I at least have helped you to use terminology more carefully.
      Near the Peoples' Republic of Davis, south of the State of Jefferson (Suspended between Left and Right)

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      • #4
        Originally posted by B&H View Post
        Fundamentalist Christians say non-Christians should be open to examining evidence for modern-day miracle claims, but these fundies likely haven't though of how cost-prohibitive any respectable investigation would be. One such example is the book Craig Keener's book, Miracles (Baker Academic, 2011). Keener supplies a large list of miracle claims but doesn't purport to prove them true, only show that miracles are alleged far more often than most people allow.

        How much time and money should the objective non-Christian be willing to spend on doing their own investigation into claimed miracle-healings?
        Well, to partially answer your question; millions have already been spent with the overwhelming number of so-called miracle claims soundly debunked. In the 90s and early 2000s I worked for a Christian publication who's owner had a vendetta against charlatan "healers" and spent nearly a million dollars exposing their lies. It was surprisingly easy to do. Mostly, one only need follow up with the person "healed" him or herself. Most were homeless folks or extremely poor folks who were paid to go along with the show. They would readily admit to this - provided you hand them a $100 bill for the info! The others were people who clearly had mental issues who when you talked to them probably thought we were from Mars, they were so out of it.

        One of the charlatans the guy held in the highest of contempt was a televangelist by the name of Benny Hinn. They were actually able to track purchase orders for bulk shipments of wheelchairs and crutches that were used as "props." The producer for the television version of this expose (it was turned into a Dateline special a few years back) confronts Benny Hinn with the purchase orders and taped confessions from the homeless people and the look on his face was priceless. He admitted nothing, but was very anxious to leave the interview. Ha!

        Anyway, Leonhard has given you some sage advice. You won't find too many people on T-Web who believe in present day miracles (at least not the truly miraculous miracles- you know; like raising someone from the dead or turning water into wine, feeding the multitudes with five loaves and fishes, etc...).

        I think the Bible calls such Christians "Laodiceans" in the book called Revelation.

        It's not too difficult to understand why this would be. You see, there was a time when believing in Christianity REALLY set one apart from the rest of society. They were usually poor, uneducated and uncompromising on things like morality and virtue. They would shun all the trappings of modern day life - especially wealth and the accumulation of property, because they hold their "treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal."

        Now days, it appears that Christians embrace the Republicans and the worship of gaining and maintaining wealth. They shun the poor (calling them lazy and unproductive), and mock those who feel the Christian mission is to heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and come to the aid of the defenseless.

        There are quite a few skeptics who have open challenges to those Christians who still believe in miracles to come with solid proof of any claims, but these challenges remain unfulfilled.

        I must confess, when I first became a "born again" Christian, it was through the Pentecostal Church, a denomination of Christianity that only uses the Bible for illumination on how to be a Christian. Therefore, they take it at face value, and usually interpret it quite literally. In other words, when the Bible says that Christians are given authority to cast out demons, heal the sick and raise the dead and perform miracles in the name of Jesus, they actually believed that that is what those words meant.

        But, I'll leave it to the Christians on T-Web to explain to you why that isn't the way it REALLY is. I sure don't get it.

        NORM
        When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Leonhard View Post
          Thank you for the thoughtful post B&H. Before getting into the meat of your post I've decided to give you some advice.
          [LIST=1][*]When you write an opening post its not a good idea to overload it with questions, since you'd want the discussion to be tight and focused. Also you want to avoid responses becoming endlessly fractioned, trying to respond to all the question marks.
          I am competent enough to keep the discussion on topic regardless of any efforts by others to start taking it in a different direction.

          [*]Its a very, very, very bad idea to start a conversation with Christians and accuse them of being "fundies".
          Its also a very bad idea to blindly presume I was talking about all Christians when I said "fundies". I use "fundies" as shorthand for "fundamentalists", and since no offense was intended, any offense taken is irrational. So unless you plan to argue that all Christians are fundamentalist in their view (count me out, I'm a liberal Christian), stop trying to make offensive something that isn't.

          I can almost hear you slipping in the word "Stupid" as well.
          Only because you mischaracterize my use of "fundie" as offensive, when it is just a very popular way to abbreviate "fundamentalist Christian".

          It will pretty much kill any sympathy for what you're writing for that reason alone.
          But given that my argument stands on its own merits, lack of sympathy among those who disagree with it is irrelevant.

          Thankfully I've got tough skin,
          How tough does your skin need to be, to recognize that "fundie" is short for "fundamentalist Christian"?

          I'm feeling especially tolerant tonight, and I respect that we can all make mistakes in our conversations.
          You never established that I made any mistakes in the OP. The condescension will not injure my willingness or ability to respond, but it is noted for the irony.

          However I hope this is the last time you call me, or anyone here a "fundie"
          I find it difficult to believe that a presumably mature brother or sister in Christ could bother making such a big deal out of the abbreviated form of a word. Your skin is somewhat thinner than you think, given your clear preference to make a big deal out of something has zero relation to the merits of my OP.

          Thankfully, I think I can extract from what you write, a concern about the epistemological approach one should apply to discussing miracle claims, as well as what is practically feasible for someone investigating Christianity.
          I've been there myself so I share that concern.
          Here's what I have to say to you about your main questions:
          I don't think anyone is asking all non-Christians to examine, in full investigative style, modern miracle claims.
          Nothing less than a full professional-level investigation will guard the most against possible fraud.

          The idea is that such investigations have already occured, and its sufficient for the non-Christian to read and verify those investigations to some extent.
          Suppose one single book is dedicated to documenting a single miracle claim. How much time and energy must the non-Christian spend investigating that book's evidence and claims, before the fundamentalist apologist will agree they've done enough?

          If you're talking about novel claims that no one has investigated yet, then I'd answer yes to most of your questions about what's needed to investigate it properly.
          So if some church in the Congo claims an amputee was healed and nobody has published an investigation into that claim yet, then the non-Christian resident of California who hears about that claim has the duty to expend the time and money necessary to go to the Congo and interview all the witnesses and authenticate all the medical documents? Would you call such a person irrational if they chose to prioritize their need to hold a daily job and feed and house their family, above performing this investigation?

          I also don't think - though I should be careful as I've not read Keener's book - that most Christian apologists use modern miracle accounts as the strongest kind of evidence for God's existence.
          The OP was intended to rebuke fundamentalist apologists who push modern-day miracles.

          This is for good reason as the evidence will only ever get so strong, and won't afford you the kind of certainty you'd get from direct experience, or from natural philosophical arguments.
          True, but again, I wrote for fundamentalist apologists who push modern miracles like that. One such example is catholic apologists who push the miracles at Fatima and Lourdes.

          Its used mostly as an eye opener.
          An irrational eye opener, given that it is not news that plenty of people in the modern world claim miraculous healing, and it is not news that a proper investigation of any such claim would be too time-and-cost-prohibitive to justify doing the level of investigation required to rule out the possibility of fraud or inaccuracy as much as possible.

          We present to non-believers a range of extraordinary events that have no natural explanations, or no likely natural explanation... mostly to open their eyes to the mere possibility that there's more to existence than 'atoms bouncing around'.
          But unless you argue that they have obligation to investigate those claims, you aren't telling them anything new by saying various people in the modern world claim miraculous healings.

          Its hard convincing people who don't believe in God to sit in church for a while, read the Bible, or think about theology, if they're completely convinced that they've got the world figured out.
          modern day apologetics has a nasty tendancy to cause its own champions to completely discount the movement of the Holy Spirit and act as if proving Christianity involves nothing more than collecting and presenting historical evidence.

          So for apologetical reasons that's typically what that kind of evidence is used for.
          Whether I'd judge you irrational for dismissing the evidence... that depends on why you'd be doing so. If you're doing it because, given what you believe, it'd be a waste of time, then I might point out a begging the question fallacy, however I wouldn't press you as entirely irrational, just mistaken. If you dismissed it because by historical accident you only examined fraudulent miracle claims (perhaps merely by looking up known debunked cases - remember the Catholic Church regularly dismisses miracle claims), then it depends on how thorough you were in your investigation.
          And investigations sufficiently thorough so as to ferrt out any possible fraud or mistake, are time and cost prohibitive for the average non-Christian.

          If you dismiss it by holding up a Humean style argument against miracles, then yes I'd take you as being irrational.
          The only part Hume got wrong was saying a miracle was a violation of natural law.

          As for likely examples of miracles, look up the miracle healing cases in Lourdes. They have a register filled with spontaneous cancer cures and the likes.
          What type of investigation would have more potential for ruling out fraud or mistake? The type that limits itself to books and webpages, or the type that involves face-to-face interviews with the claimed eyewitnesses, anybody else who has personal knowledge of those eyewitness's credibility, and authenticating the medical documents?

          snip
          Last edited by B&H; 08-24-2014, 01:20 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Adam View Post
            On your initial thread you proclaimed yourself a Christian (with liberal leanings), so why are you talking about the aim at non-Christians and skeptics?
            Because as a liberal Christian, I disagree with fundies that unbelievers are irrational to reject the gospel. The historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus or any other miracle is unpersuasive. I don't believe the gospel because of anything in apologetics, but solely the power of the Holy Spirit. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.

            If you are a Christian I would expect you would be sympathetic to possible verification of theism.
            I believe there is evidence for God, but it does not consist of historical evidence for the gospel, it consists in the moving of the Holy Spirit.

            But you speak of "Fundies", who as a rule don't tout miracles anyway. That would be Pentecostals.
            False distinction, "fundie" does not mean "southern baptist who thinks tongues are not for today." It means a Christian who believes the bible is the inerrant word of God and that there are several doctrinal statements a person much believe before they can be saved. And you need to google a bit more if you think fundies aren't pushing modern day miracles. See http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/...-amputees.html

            Further confusion comes from labeling yourself "non-denominational", a standard code-word itself for "Fundamentalist".
            Well I really am non-denominational. Your point is pointless since I am not going to give you my real name just to satisfy your curiosity as you distract from the purpose of the OP and engage in internet-based psychoanalysis.

            This gives the impression that you are not really a Christian of any type, since you know so little of the terminology and are showing such hostility to Craig Keener, a noted Christian scholar.
            You gave no argument that I know "so little of the terminology". I did not show hostility to Keener, I simply correctly noted that he gave a large list of unconfirmed miracle reports in his two volume set, then proceeded to show how stupid and irresponsible the average non-Christian would be to conduct the type of investigation into those claims that would guard against fraud or mistake. Please stop trying to distract the discussion with your attempt to make things personal and just deal with the OP on its merits. You have no idea whether anybody you know solely from the internet is telling the truth or lying about their salvation status. I can profitably discuss apologetics matters with you without trying to psychoanalyze you, I ask that you return the favor.

            I suspect by "non-denominational" you just mean that you never attend church.
            Then you would be wrong. Please stop trying to draw conclusions about my personal life through internet-based psychoanalysis and just stick to the merits of the OP argument.

            Maybe you should define what you mean by "Christian". My apologies if you are just playing Devil's Advocate. Hopefully I at least have helped you to use terminology more carefully.
            I view myself as a Christian because I confess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. No, that doesn't require that I refrain from exposing the problems of miracle-investigation, and it doesn't mean I have to view the bible as inerrant. You need not apologize, I'm not playing Devil's Advocate, I sincerely meant everything I said. You have not helped me use terminology more carefully whatsoever, since I never used terminology in an incorrect fashion in the first place. I find it suspicious that you prioritize personal stuff about me more highly than you do the argument that I posted. Can we get back on track?

            As a liberal Christian, I think it is rather stupid to expect non-Christians to perform their own serious investigations into any miracle claims originated outside their city of residence. What do you think?

            Comment


            • #7
              B&H, first of all I warned you that posting multiple question marks like that in a smorgasbord will result in fractioned responses, which is oddly enough exactly how you chose to respond to post that made only four substantual points:
              1. No one is asking each non-Christians to evaluate each miracle, in a full investigative style.
              2. Miracles are primarily used as eye-openers; explanatory anomalies that don't fit will with naturalism.
              3. Whether you or anyone should be labelled irrational depends on upon why you're dismissing miracle claims.
              4. The miracles recorded in the Lourdes register are a good starting point for legitimate modern day miracles.


              The thing is, people don't do fractioned posts because its difficult or even clever, but because it makes it artificially easy, at the cost of quality. Its a cheap solution to responding to complex posts: Just respond to it bit by bit, and all of it; sound-byte vs sound-byte. Considering some of the typos you make, I have a feeling you just hit quote on my post, inserted more quote tags, and typed away quickly in response to each before hitting reply.

              Basically instead of responding to the substance of a post, its broken it down into twenty quotes, with each quote responded to as if it was a post on its own. Unfortunately that artificially inflates the size of posts, and it tends to make them ugly and fairly hard on the eyes.

              It also has a tendency to make people repeat themselves.

              I think there are two salient parts of your post, though its hard to pick out because of the fragmentation. If you feel I've missed your most brilliant bit of cleverness, point it out. Otherwise I'll assume that what I'm giving here is what is really the points you're making, consistent with your OP.

              How much time and energy must the non-Christian spend investigating that book's evidence and claims, before the fundamentalist apologist will agree they've done enough?
              If the person merely has a private opinion, and don't really care either way, I don't think any epistemological demands can be made since the person isn't really making any claims.

              If, however, this hypothetical liberal Christian or atheist, is telling the apologist "The people at Fatima were just crazy and the Vatican is corrupt, so that explains it." I think a bit more can be reasonably expected, by the apologist of this person. I wouldn't mind telling this person that he hadn't done enough work to know what he's talking about.

              Firstly, they must know enough to talk competently about the miracle for one. It doesn't do to hear a person talking about mass hallucination as an explanation for Fatima, as that really doesn't explain any of the evidence given and also shows that the person is ignorant of what real mass hallucinations are like.

              Secondly, if they're trying to debunk it, they must have a sound working theory of why the given miracle isn't genuine. This sometimes happen, Joe Nickel (whom I respect) was great at discovering how some bleeding statues were artificially produced. He has his own theory of what happened at Fatima or the Shroud of Turin which I don't think are good, but I can't argue that he hasn't done his work. In other words, I think he's merely wrong, not ignorant.

              If a person was to read Nickell's book and adopt his theories for himself, I'd say he should also be mindful of apologetical treatments of Nickell and be able to weigh in on that.

              This is no different than when having opinions on any other things. So I don't see what's the problem with this.

              If you want to claim that something is bogus, you can be expected to defend this.

              ...proper investigation of any such claim would be too time-and-cost-prohibitive to justify doing the level of investigation required to rule out the possibility of fraud or inaccuracy as much as possible.
              There are three fallacies in this:

              Vagueness, as you never specify how much investigation would be 'enough'.

              Its also a non-sequitor as there are miracles with great levels of investigation, and as long as those exist, and there are no reason to doubt the validity of the investigations. Unless of course you're making the claim that no miracle has ever been properly investigated, which you might, but I'd like to hear you state that.

              There's also a false premise fallacy as I denied that ordinary people had to launch their own grand investigations for every miracle.
              Last edited by Leonhard; 08-25-2014, 10:34 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by B&H View Post
                I use "fundies" as shorthand for "fundamentalists", and since no offense was intended, any offense taken is irrational.
                I don't believe this follows. I knew a man who used to refer to immoral people who happened to be black by the N-word. In his view, the N-word applied only to the black equivalent of what is sometimes called "white trash". He didn't mean any offense with his use of it. But it doesn't follow from his lack of intention to offend that any offense taken on the part of African Americans was "irrational". It was completely rational, because the term he used was widely regarded as an insult. He used it anyway, and then charged African Americans who were offended by it as "irrational".
                When you use a term that's widely deemed as insulting, and offense is taken on the part of the people you're referring to with that term, then the offense taken is not irrational. It would actually be irrational not to expect them to be offended.


                Originally posted by B&H View Post
                How much time and money should the objective non-Christian...
                Who says that non-christians are objective?

                “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." (Jesus---Matthew 12:30)
                Last edited by Mr. Black; 08-25-2014, 01:46 PM.
                Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:20)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mr. Black View Post
                  Who says that non-christians are objective?

                  “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." (Jesus---Matthew 12:30)
                  I agree with the sentiment here, but as far as I remember you didn't consider non-Christians globally irrational.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Leonhard View Post
                    I agree with the sentiment here, but as far as I remember you didn't consider non-Christians globally irrational.
                    What do you mean by "globally irrational"?
                    I merely meant that everyone (Christian & non-christian alike) interpret the evidence according to the basic assumptions inherent in their professed worldview. There is no neutral.

                    Good to see you again btw. :)
                    Last edited by Mr. Black; 08-25-2014, 02:18 PM.
                    Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:20)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Mr. Black View Post
                      What do you mean by "globally irrational"?
                      I merely meant that everyone (Christian & non-christian alike) interpret the evidence according to the basic assumptions inherent in their professed worldview. There is no neutral.

                      Good to see you again btw. :)
                      Globally; in everything. In other words, they're always irrational. I think one can graciously argue that non-Christians can be right, or even objective on occasion when they assess the evidence for modern day miracle claims.

                      Of course if you start out assuming that God doesn't exist (or doesn't interact with the world much), then you'll eventually be forced to make a wrong conclusion if you ever examine good evidence, but in that case I think the atheist or liberal Christian would be forced to admit that there are anomalies out there they can't account for.

                      Nice to see you again as well Mr. Black.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Leonhard View Post

                        irrelevant trifles about posting style snipped.

                        If the person merely has a private opinion, and don't really care either way, I don't think any epistemological demands can be made since the person isn't really making any claims.

                        If, however, this hypothetical liberal Christian or atheist, is telling the apologist "The people at Fatima were just crazy and the Vatican is corrupt, so that explains it." I think a bit more can be reasonably expected, by the apologist of this person. I wouldn't mind telling this person that he hadn't done enough work to know what he's talking about.
                        When you say a "bit" more, is that what you later call the fallacy of vagueness? Indeed, how much investigation do you think needs to be done by the person who doesn't think a specific miracle claim is true? Am I morally obligated to refrain from calling a miracle claim false until I have personally interviewed the claimant, or can I start voicing my skepticism after doing somewhat less intensive investigation? How do you know what level of investigation would discharge the obligation of the miracle-denying party?

                        Firstly, they must know enough to talk competently about the miracle for one. It doesn't do to hear a person talking about mass hallucination as an explanation for Fatima, as that really doesn't explain any of the evidence given and also shows that the person is ignorant of what real mass hallucinations are like.

                        Secondly, if they're trying to debunk it, they must have a sound working theory of why the given miracle isn't genuine. This sometimes happen, Joe Nickel (whom I respect) was great at discovering how some bleeding statues were artificially produced. He has his own theory of what happened at Fatima or the Shroud of Turin which I don't think are good, but I can't argue that he hasn't done his work. In other words, I think he's merely wrong, not ignorant.
                        Ok.

                        If a person was to read Nickell's book and adopt his theories for himself, I'd say he should also be mindful of apologetical treatments of Nickell and be able to weigh in on that.
                        Ok.

                        This is no different than when having opinions on any other things. So I don't see what's the problem with this.
                        Then the problem is not you, but all the other extremist fundies out there that us liberals and skeptics must face. Thanks for your opinion.

                        If you want to claim that something is bogus, you can be expected to defend this.
                        If I claimed there is an invisible fairy living on my neighbor's head, could you rationally voice skepticism of that claim without doing any empirical investigation into said neighbor? If so, then why should liberal Christians or skeptics be required to be familiar with all of the data surrounding a particular miracle claim before they can confidently hold a skeptical opinion? If its ok for you to become so generally skeptical of fairies that you can rationally be skeptical of any fairy claim, it might be possible to rationally justify a general disbelief in miracles that would in turn justify an a priori skepticism of miracle-claims. These positions are not conclusive, but we don't need "conclusive" to justify a starting skepticism.
                        There are three fallacies in this:

                        Vagueness, as you never specify how much investigation would be 'enough'.
                        Straw man, how much investigation should be done is the problem of those fundies who say liberals/skeptics have moral obligation to investigate. These fundies never indicate how much investigation, but are predictably unsatisfied with any level of investigation where the investigator comes away skeptical.
                        Its also a non-sequitor as there are miracles with great levels of investigation, and as long as those exist, and there are no reason to doubt the validity of the investigations. Unless of course you're making the claim that no miracle has ever been properly investigated, which you might, but I'd like to hear you state that.
                        Straw man, the fact that some miracles have been the subject of great investigation does justify my doing less investigation. If I am going to reach a conclusion about a specific miracle claim, I have the right to insist that I interview the witness for myself instead of relying on data provided by some book, email or webpage.

                        There's also a false premise fallacy as I denied that ordinary people had to launch their own grand investigations for every miracle.
                        Straw man, your taking a more relaxed view than the fundies on how non-fundies can discharge their empirical obligiations is nice, but does not speak for the more dyed-in-the-wool fundies who will scream "insufficient investigation" everytime some non-fundie draws a conclusion denying the miracle.

                        At most, all you are proving is that YOU PERSONALLY would not require full scale investigations by skeptics into miracle claims. You will have to wait and see whether other Christians or fundies disagree with you on that point.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Leonhard View Post
                          snip

                          Of course if you start out assuming that God doesn't exist (or doesn't interact with the world much), then you'll eventually be forced to make a wrong conclusion if you ever examine good evidence, but in that case I think the atheist or liberal Christian would be forced to admit that there are anomalies out there they can't account for.
                          Please describe any anomaly out there that you think liberal Christians who deny modern miracle claims, would have the most difficulty accounting for.

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                          • #14
                            B&H, you started out an OP which was targeted vaguely at what you called 'fundamentalist Christians', being as this was one of your few posts here and you seemed not particularly affiliated with any sort of Christian worldview, I judged that you were referring to evangelical Christians in general. That's why I warned you not to use the word 'fundie' which is useless here.

                            Who were you talking about anyway?

                            You've given no concrete examples, only questions, and I've responded to those questions. I can't be faulted for not targeting the group you're thinking about, if the group is only clearly defined in your own head.

                            And if you wanted me to say that some apologetics groups use evidence from miracles in improper ways, then sure, that was implied as soon as I said that typically apologists don't use it for that purpose. I don't know much about Keener though, so I won't comment for him, I've yet to read his book though I intend to eventually. Since you've stated no criticism of the book, or what you consider bad about it, I've assumed that it was irrelevant to your questions.

                            We do seem to agree on a few things now:

                            You've stated 'ok' now, at least to some of the things I want a critic of a miracle to be able to answer. So we agree here at least. Also that what's demanded of a person depends upon what the person claims.

                            Going on:

                            The first two 'strawmans', weren't straw man fallacies. It was you who were demanding that a full investigation should be performed by all people interested in verifying the miracle, one that went as far as possible to exclude fraud. And you specifically imply that it must be done by the individual, and not by proxy of some other and possible more capable skeptic's investigation.

                            You can't read a book about it, you must do the interview yourself. Is that what you're saying?

                            Otherwise apologists using miracles as epistemological 'eye openers' would be irrational in your own words. You were clearly not, at least in that passage that I was responding to, referring to the demands from apologists of non-Christians.

                            It was also left a little vague, as to what this full investigation would look like, except extreme thoroughness, and it struck me as a demand of some bad skeptics that no investigation of a miracle is good enough.

                            That position has not been held by CSICOP, by James "The Amazing" Randi, Joe Nickell, or any other body of skeptical investigators. And none of them, have ever asked that their investigations be repeated by every single skeptic in existence. Most of these ultimately dismiss miracles for one reason or another, James Randi and Joe Nickell are about as staunch atheist as you can get. The CSICOP has had Christians* on board though for a while.

                            That demand is just ridiculous. I genuinely hope I'm misreading you. If I am, then the only response you need to give to apologists, is that you've read their work and you can respond to it on their own level. Then it would be an argument about why you're wrong, not that you're ignorant.

                            Can you name, and cite, some apologists who demand what you claim they demand?

                            That is, that every skeptic, on his own, needs to do as full an investigation as possible to be capable of arguing against them? And not merely that no adequate skeptical investigation has ever been done?

                            And again, for the third time, look up the miracles of Lourdes. Specifically the The Lourdes Medical Bureau. We can talk about those if you want, however that should be in another thread and not this one, as its irrelevant to what you're talking about in your OP.


                            * Interestingly a similar group in Denmark (my home country), was manned entirely by devout Lutherans who exposed sham spirituality, guru con artists, and investigated cults.
                            Last edited by Leonhard; 08-25-2014, 09:16 PM. Reason: Fixing typos and missing words.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Mr. Black View Post
                              I merely meant that everyone (Christian & non-christian alike) interpret the evidence according to the basic assumptions inherent in their professed worldview.
                              Should Christians and non-Christians both be questioning their assumptions?

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