Nancy Pearcey – Not Finding Truth

The following is a response to a post by Nancy Pearcey to promote her book Finding Truth. She claims five points found in Romans chapter one serve as a foundation to address other worldviews. 

The life-diminishing blunder of following a holy book instead of honestly examining reality is never more salient than it is in Nancy’s 5 points she extracts from Romans 1. 
1. (Identify the Idol) Calling an appreciation of reason (after finding it quite reliable after a lifetime of testing) an “idol” or god-substitute is as absurd as the liberals calling George Bush a “Hitler”. This intentional linguistic distortion to poison the well speaks directly to the degree of dishonesty Nancy and other apologists are willing to employ, absurdly to defend a “god of truth”. 
2. (Identify the Idol’s Reductionism) If you eliminate possible conclusions from your quest for truth as unacceptable, then you are not an honest seeker. Your psychological longing to have more intrinsic dignity than other animals is evidence of nothing. If it feels “dehumanizing” for you to be merely the product of a materialistic reality, and you, as a result reject that conclusion, you most certainly can not claim to be an honest seeker. No presuppositions are allowed for the honest seeker. 

3. (Test the Worldview) Excellent! This is correct! But no cherry-picking. If you have never seen something uncaused, and you therefore conclude both that 1) the universe is caused and that 2) there is an uncaused god, you are cherry-picking. Pay honest attention to all the things you have never seen including a) a disembodied mind, b) life after death, and c) the mechanism that something “spiritual” could manipulate the physical world. If you find inexplicable contradictions on both sides, be willing to say “I don’t know”. And test well the claims of Christianity, not the least of them the Romans 1 claim that the unevangelized have enough information to make them culpable to a degree that would deserve hellfire. Test the power of prayer against the vast bodies of statistical data we have today. Test the wisdom granted by the Holy Spirit against wisdom after a good education. Assess how many logical fallacies those with the Holy Spirit commit against those without the Holy Spirit. Statistically the data for the power of the Holy Spirit in respect to divorce rates, obesity rates and crime rates in areas in which the Holy Spirit is claim to be most powerful. Yes! Test your worldview! 

4. (Test the Idol) Nancy claims that every reductionist worldview contradicts itself. Yet here I remain, willing to answer questions about my worldview so that any contradictions can be exposed. Fire away. If you ignore the coherent statements of the many individuals with non-religious approaches to the world, and hunt for ideologies that are incoherent or inconsistent, you’ll find them. It’s like finding a mistake in Tommy’s equation, then claiming your own equation must be therefore correct. This is probably the biggest deception among apologists today; demonstrate someone is wrong and imply you are therefore correct.

5. (Replace the Idol) Yes, if you can find someone who is wrong, you can then dishonestly suggest your own ideology is therefore correct. And this is done all the time. Demonstrating someone else’s god (idol) is made of clay does not make your own iron god anything more than iron. This move is both irrational and dishonest.

Critical thinking is great! But let’s not pretend motivated reasoning billed as critical thinking is anything less than dishonest.

Would you kill a “terrible” two-year-old?

In one of the most surreal encounters with Christians to date, I recently discovered that the order by Jehovah to kill the Amalekite infants is not just a little uncomfortable for those claiming the Bible is the source of truth.
Here is the command of Jehovah in question.

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. (1 Samuel 15:3)

 (Lest there be any confusion, the Hebrew word translated “infant” means to suckle. These were nursing infants.)

Consider the following 2 possibilities.
  1. You are a god who wants all the Amalekites killed. You don’t want any confusion about your wishes. How would you state your commandment?
  2. You are a god who wants only the adult Amalekites killed. You don’t want any confusion about your wishes. How would you state your commandment?
  • The phrasing of 1 Samuel 15:3 is nearly precisely the words I would use if I were the god in scenario #1.
  • The phrasing of 1 Samuel 15:3 is most certainly not the words I would use if I were the god in scenario #2.

Christians claim the Bible was authored by an actual creator of the universe who presumably can articulate his wishes without ambiguity or vagueness. Let’s look at the verse again.

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. (1 Samuel 15:3)

Does this commandment not clearly require that infants be killed? Incredibly, some Christians I’ve recently engaged say that this verse says no such thing.
“It’s hyperbole.” (An actual statement of a Christian to explain away this verse.)
Hyperbole? Really? Was it hyperbole when Jehovah stipulated that no one touch the Ark of the Covenant, then killed Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:7) out of anger when Uzzah attempted to keep the Ark from falling to the ground?
This is one of the most egregious intentional distortions of the Bible by its own proponents I’ve ever seen. It is shameful to say the least. You don’t get to claim the Bible is the clear revelation of the God of the Universe, then ignore it when it goes out of its way to require the killing of infants.
And the absurdity does not stop there. I asked a few clear questions to understand the actual position of these Christians.
I asked “Would you kill an infant if your god so commanded?
Of the 8 or so Christians engaged on the thread, zero were able to answer “yes” or “no”, even after reposting the question five times.
One of the posters actually stated “He wouldn’t ask, so the question is irrelevant. You have yet to show us where people killed infants for Jehovah.
Let’s go back to the story of the Amalekites.
But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs–everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.” (1 Samuel 15:9)
What do you think? Were the weak infants killed?
But does it actually matter? The only relevant question is whether Jehovah intended his audience to belief they should kill infants. Here is the verse again.

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys. (1 Samuel 15:3)

Is there any equivocation? None.
Is there any reason why Christians, if they were honest, should not be able to clearly state whether they would or would not obey a clear commandment of Jehovah to kill infants? None.
This is the current state of Christian apologetics. Evasion of questions, and the distortion of the very Bible they claim to venerate.
Fortunately, this depth of absurdity is what is driving millions of more rational young people away from the nonsense of Christianity towards a reality of open-eyed empathy in which the commandment to kill an infant by any authority can be answered with an unequivocal “no“. 

How do we know our minds are reliable?

There has been a recent odd argument that, if our brains are the product of evolution in which survial is the only “goal”, then we can not have any certainty that our mental processes are generating true conclusions. I responded to this notion on a Facebook thread begun by a Christian apologist recently.

Thanks for a well-formulated response, Nancy.

You asked how I know rational thought is a valid means of knowing truth.

Suppose you find an old compass in the middle of the woods. You want to know whether it functions reliably. What should you do? Do you attempt to discover the manufacturer of the compass? Probably not. Do you need to know how the compass ended up in the middle of the woods? I doubt it.

All you need to do is to test the compass. To the degree that the compass gives you sufficient predictive power to successfully navigate your way through the woods, to that degree you are justified in your confidence in the reliability of the compass.

The same is true for rational thought and our minds that process rational thought. To the degree that rational thought succeeds in accomplishing our goals, to that degree we are warranted in Continue reading

Phil Stilwell on Quora

I’m starting to post answers on Quora. 

Here’s the link.

The following was my latest posting of an answer.

The most basic false belief within Christianity today is the notion that salvific faith is rational. 

Salvific belief (belief that leads to salvation) is treated as binary in the Bible: either you believe in Jesus or you don’t. This is consistent with the binary dichotomy of Heaven and Hell, but it is not consistent with rational belief. 

Rational belief is a degree of belief that maps to the evidence. For every proposition that requires an inductive assessment (this excludes our immediate perceptions), evidence, both confirming and disconfirming arrives incrementally. 

Consider the following scenario. Continue reading

A coherent and actionable goal for AI?

Can the following goal proposed for AI be successfully implemented?

“Our coherent extrapolated volition is our wish if we knew more, thought faster, were more the people we wished we were, had grown up farther together; where the extrapolation converges rather than diverges, where our wishes cohere rather than interfere; extrapolated as we wish that extrapolated, interpreted as we wish that interpreted.”

On Suicide

The thing about saying anything less than negative about suicide is that your audience will try to blame the position on the fact you’re feeling suicidal, a position they are certain you would not hold if things were going well.

So the best time for me to write on this topic is now, at a time that I’m feeling quite positive.

Suicide. I tend to believe that a good number of suicides, perhaps a majority, were attempted while the individual was short-sighted. Life most certainly has a way of evolving out of a bad spot into something quite amazing.

I was suicidal after my divorce 2 decades ago. A depression held me in its grip for more than 2 years. The pain of the divorce kept me in a dark, but very introspective4 and creative mode. As I slowly emerged from the darkness and looked around me, I realized that life can morph into hundreds of different and brighter forms. I’m so very glad I did not end my life at that time.

However, this is not always possible for everyone at every time. There are situations that allow little hope for future happiness. This is seldom the end of a relationship. It more often occurs when a sickness or disease makes life unbearable due to the physical or emotional pain.

Age is also a factor. Each year I feel more and more satisfied I’ve lived life. There are still many things I intend to do, but I don’t think anyone can say Phil did not live a very full life. So, if I found myself experiencing excruciating pain with no hope of relief, I’d have no problem considering suicide as an option.

While acute and relentless physical pain may be a common legitimate reason to contemplate suicide, I think there are very few cases in which emotional pain would warrant suicide. Admittedly I base this on the fact that I came out of, what I considered to be, an extremely painful depression after my divorce. There may be degrees of depression I have not experienced, or situations in which the emotional pain does not subside. But I tend to doubt it. I don’t think I’ll ever again think about suicide simply due to emotional pain.

The following are the factors I think everyone suffering physical pain should carefully weigh before considering suicide.

The severity of your pain.
The hope of recovery.
Your potential productivity in spite of the pain, giving special consideration to the degree that you can help others.
The degree to which you have already had a great life.
Those negatively affected by your death.

The factors you should not consider include the following.

What others think is the “moral” decision for you to make.
The way your death will be a way to “get back at” or “take revenge on” anyone.

I would suggest that, in most cases, consulting those you love is a good idea. And you definitely do not want to leave anyone you love uninformed about your reasons, leading to them blaming themselves in some way. But ultimately, it is your life to end. If you have family members who would rather see you in immense pain than to have you missing from their overly-dependent lives, don’t feel guilty about deciding what is right for you…and probably also best for them.

Well, that was a bit too somber. Time to get back to living!

Good News for Apologists

Breaking News

In what Biblical scholars are calling the greatest doctrinal breakthrough in over three millennium, close associates of Jehovah have revealed that, what started as a simple prank, led to theologians writing hundreds of millions of pages of unnecessary convoluted arguments. It was Thor who, in an exclusive interview with Larry King, revealed that he, along with Aphrodite, managed to gain access to Jehovah’s iPhone while the Almighty was expressing to William Lane Craig the immense anguish braved by the Israelite soldiers whom He commanded to slaughter infants.

The divine pranksters altered the auto-correct feature on Jehovah’s iPhone to have some words automatically replaced with their opposites at the dawn of creation, leading to a hilarious three millennia of awkward apologetics. The inverted terms included the following.

“Hate” was changed to “Love”.
“Unjust” was changed to “Just”.
“Impatient” was changed to “Patient”.

The revelation of these changes definitively resolves the bewilderment theologians perennially experienced while attempting to reconcile the behavior of Jehovah with claims about his character. Thor and Aphrodite giggled for ages while apologists anguished over the notion of a god who becomes so wrathful over a single offense that he can think of nothing better to do than to damn to Hell the offender, and yet who is called “loving”, “just” and “patient”. The red-faced theologians now admit the revelation makes obvious sense, and have admonished the faithful to accept this far more sensible description of Jehovah’s character that is indisputably reflected in His 1) commandment to slaughter infants, 2) refusal to condemn slavery, 3) requirement for rape victims to marry their rapists, and, of course, 4) damnation to Hell of any sinner who follows a sin nature they neither requested nor can avoid.

Snorting his bemusement, Thor revealed to Larry King other, perhaps less disruptive, inverted terms.

“Speak to the finger” was changed to “Pray”.
“Screw Africa” was changed to “Amen”.
“Marvin” was changed to “Lucifer”.

When asked why they would do such a thing, Aphrodite invoked the long history of Jehovah co-opting pagan holidays for His own worship. Other deities are reported to have found the prank over-the-top as it has led to a prolific volume of painfully perverse YouTube videos defending this impossible description of a loving, just and patient Jehovah acting hateful, unjust, and not just a little impatient.

Jehovah refused calls on the incident, but it is rumored that Thor’s hammer was spotted hanging high on a high-school flagpole along with Aphrodite’s most recent Victoria’s Secret purchase.