News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 19, 2009 in News,Scientology

I recently added a bunch of debates to my list of 400+ atheism vs. theism debates. Also, there is apparently a blog devoted to reviewing and rating (on a 5 star scale) all the debates on my list: Agnostic Popular Front.

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My exchange of letters with Christian blogger Vox Day continues to attract more interest. John Howell offers a summary of the exchange so far, along with his own comments. I am shocked at Howell’s perspective on the exchange – it seems completely alien to me:

  • I said there are a multitude of Christian theologies and so I can’t be expected to guess what Vox’s unorthodox views are. Howell interprets this point as a “theological version of the multiverse theory.” Huh-wuh?!
  • Howell thinks I “may have earned” Vox’s continuous stream of insults. How, I can hardly guess. By not being able to guess which of a thousand Christian theologies Vox endorses? This is especially weird since Howell himself admits that he didn’t get Vox’s obscure references.
  • Howell accuses me of trying to bait Vox into a debate over Neo-Darwinism, though this is certainly not my inner experience of the exchange. I’m not a biologist and almost never debate evolution. I just couldn’t let Vox’s grossly incorrect statements about evolution to go unchallenged.
  • Howell sees my phrase “Vox Day Christianity” as an insult, when I meant nothing of the sort. I just used the term to distinguish Vox Day’s Christian theology from orthodox Christian theology.
  • Howell thinks I am trying to squeeze out of defending desirism, despite writing so much about it in recent letters that his readers complain that my answers to Vox’s ethical questions are too long and complex! The truth is that I think evolution and desirism are irrelevant to the central debate we are having, and I am as eager as Vox to return to our primary subject matter.

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Josh Sullivan received from his grandmother a “33-page handwritten letter lamenting my unbelief, urging me to reconsider, and ultimately appealing to a fear of hell for the decisions I make about what I choose to not believe in.” [Download the first 18 pages here.] So he wrote back a 17-page letter – complete with 5 images and 57 footnotes – explaining his unbelief. [Download here.] Also see the reddit comments.

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Finally, I’ve been tagged by John at Debunking Christianity to participate in an internet meme called You Would Never Guess, which demands of its participants: “you have to tell me something unusual about yourself that I probably wouldn’t guess about you.”

Well, that’s off-topic for this blog, but I can get away with stuffing it away in a News post.

It’s hard for me to find something about myself that people couldn’t guess. My life is all over the internet. I’ve got my personal website; my old website with self-help guru ratings, my pot-smoking story, and more; my old Christian blog, which recorded my gradual deconversion from Christianity;  a nude video of me on YouTube… There’s also Listology, where I’ve posted my favorite short poems, my own poetry, my paradigm shifts, my attempt to write a history of video games considered as art, my list of best movies of the decade, my passion for contemporary classical music, and more. So… what haven’t I written about myself that my readers couldn’t guess?

Let’s try this:

I am a member of the International Association of Scientologists. I have graduated from a paid Scientology course, and am currently taking another. I attend Scientology events, and I often hang out at the Scientology Celebrity Centre in Hollywood.

Why?

Shhhh.

It’s a secret.

But it’s not because I believe in Xenu or because I think Scientology is more effective for personal development than scientific psychology. It’s also not because I want to “infiltrate” Scientology or harm it.

That is all.

I hereby tag faithlessgod at No Double Standards to participate in this meme.

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{ 82 comments… read them below or add one }

Chuck October 19, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Something to do with … Toastmasters.

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lukeprog October 19, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Awwww, Chuck, you give away all my secrets! :)

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John H October 19, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Hi there,

I thought I might drop by and ask your forgiveness for any ill effects you may have suffered from the shock I gave you :-)

A couple of points: The primary one – in your first and fourth bullet points above you make my point. Whatever Vox Day is – it is not some sort of theological rebel or liberal. He is pretty flat out orthodox. The only real departure is his doubt about God’s omniscience (and he backed it from scripture instead of some human concept of what God “must be”) – but he brought that up after the points you were discussing. Let me be clear – he was nearly citing C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity. This is the most heavily read apologetic of the 20th century – and still made someones top ten list a couple of days ago in position #1.

Why continue to represent him as unorthodox? If you really think him unorthodox, then you continue to make his point that you do not know what orthodoxy is. If you do not really think him unorthodox, what is the point of holding that ground?

Next: I read his letter #3 (obviously) and I think “continous stream of insults” is a bit over-the-top as a description of what I read. However, just as you may not have known (but probably did) that your constant references to fairies, Zeus, magic, Vox Day theology, etc. are all pretty degrading to your opponent when trying to have a civil argument with an orthodox theist – maybe I just do not know what you do, and do not, find insulting.

I think you “earned” the insults that I wish Vox Day would refrain from launching because I think you are – as I feel like you are with my comments – being a bit obtuse. Certainly, I never said it was because you couldn’t guess his theology. The only thing close in that regards was that you didn’t research his theology, and when confronted with something you didnt understand you – instead of just asking what he meant – decided to make calling him obscurist part of the first dip into personal issues in the series.

Up to, but frankly not including, your 4th letter I have found this to be a fascinating exchange. I sincerely hope you and Vox Day can pull it out of the ditch it feels like it is going into.

Take care,
John

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TK October 19, 2009 at 10:33 pm

I’ve always been a bit confused by why C.S. Lewis is considered to be a hallmark of “mainstream” Christian theology. By and large, his theology, like his apologetics, is embarrassingly incoherent, unsound, incomplete, and generally bad, and I could name no shortage of Christians who have never even read one of his books.

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lukeprog October 19, 2009 at 10:36 pm

John,

You ask how Vox is unorthodox. Examples:

1. An orthodox Christian wouldn’t agree with me that “an all-good, all-powerful God doesn’t fit very cleanly with the amount of pointless suffering we see all around the world.”

2. As you’ve noted, Vox’s views on omniscience are unorthodox.

3. An orthodox Christian (at least, no Christian I know other than Vox and Douglas Wilson) would say that God would be morally right to rape and mutilate millions of innocent children.

In any case, why should I have assumed that Vox is orthodox? Whether he is orthodox or not, I still need him to explain his own views. I can’t just guess what they are.

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John H October 19, 2009 at 10:52 pm

TK:

I’ve always been a bit confused by why C.S. Lewis is considered to be a hallmark of “mainstream” Christian theology.

He isn’t – he is a hallmark of Christian apologetics. More specifically, by developing a book on a “mere” Christianity he created a hallway – to use his analogy – from which folks could go through different doors and find a coherant, sound, complete and good theology – but still be anchored by the commonality of the hallway with the rest of the Body of Christ. He specifically refrained from identifying his theological beliefs in the book.

As an apologist myself, I understand I am not at all a theologian. To put it in different terms, he and I are not theoriticians – we are popularizers

By and large, his theology, like his apologetics, is embarrassingly incoherent, unsound, incomplete, and generally bad

Are you a Christian? If so, I might give you a forum to make this case – it would be interesting to bounce off. If not, I am not sure what grounds you have to assess what constitutes good and bad theology.

and I could name no shortage of Christians who have never even read one of his books.

I could name no shortage of Christians who haven’t read the Bible cover to cover. So?

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John H October 19, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Luke: You ask how Vox is unorthodox. Examples:

1. An orthodox Christian wouldn’t agree with me that “an all-good, all-powerful God doesn’t fit very cleanly with the amount of pointless suffering we see all around the world.”

I think this is a very orthodox position – otherwise we wouldn’t have been discussing the “problem of evil” since probably right after Adam found Cain dead.

2. As you’ve noted, Vox’s views on omniscience are unorthodox.

I haven’t studied Greg Boyd much – much VD’s take in The Irrational Atheist is scripturally-based and difficult to argue with. And, you should have known about it his position on the omniscience vs omnipotence issue going in since it is in his book. The common cornerstones of orthodox protestant faith are:

1. Christ alone – check for VD
2. Scripture alone – check for VD
3. faith alone – check for VD

3. An orthodox Christian (at least, no Christian I know other than Vox and Douglas Wilson) would say that God would be morally right to rape and mutilate millions of innocent children.

How do you feel about abortion? Oops sorry – dont answer that.

This is one of those things that would make me want to slap atheists. First, I would have to go back and re-read the section – but I really do not think VD really agreed to that. What he said, which is very damn orthodox, is that the Creator is the definer of morality; and that only his standards would judge that event should it occur. Not yours. Not mine. This is where you get to say that “Well, if he would think it was ok I am glad I am going to hell”. However, only human beings have been guilty of raping and murdering millions of children. I do not think they got any brownie points from God for it.

This is one of those things that I thought about putting on my list in my comments and didn’t – your baby analogies were continuously offensive.

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Beelzebub October 19, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Please tell me it’s because you plan a ritual killing of Tom Cruise. My admiration would grow tenfold.

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Beelzebub October 20, 2009 at 12:19 am

This is one of those things that would make me want to slap atheists. First, I would have to go back and re-read the section – but I really do not think VD really agreed to that. What he said, which is very damn orthodox, is that the Creator is the definer of morality; and that only his standards would judge that event should it occur.

You’re being a little too kind to Vox Day. But I assure you, his position is that if God asked him to kill babies, he’d do it. When I was still able to comment on his blog I once proffered the sanity-check “but I assume Vox means that God would never ask that of him.” You know what I got? {The sound of crickets.} No, VD-Christianity means that any human intuition of morality is null and void, and when you think about this you will ultimately conclude that VD-Christianity is a form of cosmic authoritarianism. This is why pointed but naive questions like “How would you know you’re not following a demon?” are actually quite irrelevant to VD-C. It doesn’t matter to them! Their God is God, to be followed no matter what!

As a side note, this is why the Euthyphro dilemma bounces off them as ineffective. When there is no possible way God can be held accountable to a morality because God is in essence an A-moral agent, the dilemma collapses.

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Joseph October 20, 2009 at 12:39 am

It’s a pity that you hadn’t read more of Vox’s writing before engaging in this letter exchange. If you had, you probably would have been better prepared to prevent Vox’s bald assertions of ridiculous facts, rhetorical low blows, and drama queen histrionics from overshadowing the debate.

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Beelzebub October 20, 2009 at 2:10 am

Getting to know Vox Day is to realize that he’s really a troll at large. His “intellectual life,” if you want to call it that, is based on garnering attention by creating confounding contrarianism, obscurantism (as Luke noted), and general controversy. It might be helpful to realize that he favors Ann Coulter, who’s “work” is very much in the same spirit as his.

My general misgiving for giving VD any stage at all follows the blog tradition of not feeding trolls. PZ Myers has wisely avoided any unnecessary contact with him, though I can’t fault Luke for trying. I agree very much with the tone of this latest letter. VD needs to be told over and over again — like a child, unfortunately — that his behavior is unacceptable.

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drj October 20, 2009 at 4:25 am

As a side note, this is why the Euthyphro dilemma bounces off them as ineffective. When there is no possible way God can be held accountable to a morality because God is in essence an A-moral agent, the dilemma collapses.

What’s funny is… the Euthyphro dilemma is supposed to work on people like Vox. Its supposed to confront them with a reductio ad absurdum – that it should to be absurd to think morality is arbitrary, evils are actually goods when commanded by the right being, and that all statements about the goodness of God become meaningless. What can you do though, when one simply fails to recognize the “absurdum”, in reductio ad absurdum?

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John H October 20, 2009 at 6:54 am

Beelzebub: No, VD-Christianity means that any human intuition of morality is null and void, and when you think about this you will ultimately conclude that VD-Christianity is a form of cosmic authoritarianism. This is why pointed but naive questions like “How would you know you’re not following a demon?” are actually quite irrelevant to VD-C. It doesn’t matter to them! Their God is God, to be followed no matter what!

This sounds awesome in this place – but it is not how even bad Christians work.

How do they say they get their messages on how to proceed from their “authoritarian God”? Direct voice? Sky-writing? There are real problems in Christianity (as in all of humanity) with where Christians derive their authority from in the name of God – but you would have to be a whole lot more specific than this.

In VD’s case, and I have only really begun to pay attention to what he writes, he quotes Greg Boyd who is one of the founders Open Theology. So, I would want to hear what VD or Boyd think about sola scriptura (they both apparently believe this) and the ministry of the Holy Spirit – and, since VD quotes Lewis so much, what VD thinks about natural moral law and the source of conscience in humans.

In the meantime, I haven’t seen anything in what little I have read that he has written that could give me any grounds to agree with what I quoted from you.

drj: that it should to be absurd to think morality is arbitrary, evils are actually goods when commanded by the right being, and that all statements about the goodness of God become meaningless.

I am not good at my prefixs – but “a”moral is not really correct. More like “extra” or whatever “above” would be. Morality is a purely human invention, and even though I believe in natural moral law, a societal invention.

That morality – even in purely secular terms – is arbitrary. There are millions upon millions of people who died – in bulk – at the hands of their own governments in the 20th century as testimony to the arbitrariness of human morality.

So, from my view, you are a creature (a created being) who have, along with other creatures, decided on some basis to agree to a morality – some way to guage right and wrong. That is awesome and I hope it is actually a good one (all human ones hardly have been). Now, you decide to apply your creature-created concept of morality to your creator – the person who formed you and your ability to reason in the first place.

What makes you think that creator is subject to the morality you have thought up? Even if I am right about natural moral law and your deep, not surface, conscience is an overflow of that Creator’s character and goodness?

In my opinion, all humans ,violate their own consciences regularly – if not daily – and then come up with all sorts of ethical and moral systems to justify it to themselves and others. Then, they group together with other folks who share those systems of justifications and re-enforce each other. Finally, they decide to apply those moral and ethical systems to others. All the while, they are still squelching their own deep consciences regularly – if not daily.

So, whose arbitrary morality gets applied to God?

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Haukur October 20, 2009 at 6:59 am

Gods, that’s a lot of bad self-help writers!! I’ve clicked on about half the names already but so far only found one book you classified as ‘good’. Maybe arranging the list so that readers could see the good books at a glance would be helpful? :)

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drj October 20, 2009 at 7:28 am

So, whose arbitrary morality gets applied to God?

Well, for one, if you believe in objective morals, then we do not create morals. They are discovered. One could easily judge a deity by objective moral facts, and find that he is immoral. There are plenty of non-theistic theories for objective morality.

On the other hand, if you don’t… well yes that poses some questions as to how one exactly would judge the morals of God.

But, we don’t even really have to worry about that mess, since there is something else to contend with first. We can look at the remarkable coincidence that Yahweh’s moral character seems to evolve in such a way that it tracks with human development. It starts out primitive, unsophisticated, brutal, and tribalistic… then evolves over time in sophistication and moral nuance. In other words, we can compare Yahweh’s behavior, to man’s behavior and see that the two don’t really differ at all – and consequently conclude that the best explanation for the morally questionable acts of Yahweh is not that He actually had any morally permissible for them, but that Yahweh simply manmade. It simply fits better than any other shoe.

Yahweh is one of those post-hoc rationalizations that you mention, to excuse some of the more atrocious whims of our own flawed nature. :)

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Dan Alighieri October 20, 2009 at 8:34 am

@drj
Could it not be that – its the Jewish understanding of Yahweh that has changed over time not Yahweh. By your reasoning couldnt it also be argued that the universe has changed tremendously since the first astronomers? Coincidently it has changed along with the changes in our understanding of it. I mean the Earth used to be the centre of the universe and isn’t it anymore – strange that now we have started thinking it orbits the sun it actually has started orbitting the sun. Maybe the universe is also a human construct. Or more likely that the universe and Yahweh have always been the way they are just our understanding has changed.;)

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Lee A. P. October 20, 2009 at 8:49 am

“By and large, his theology, like his apologetics, is embarrassingly incoherent, unsound, incomplete, and generally bad”

I agree. I created a thread on freeratio about and it generated some good discussion. It can be found here:

http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=275293

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John H October 20, 2009 at 8:55 am

drj: Perhaps – it is certainly one of the most rational theories I have heard.

I see it as more the teacher and a child – when the child is ready the teacher appears. Paul talks about the law that way all through his letters in the New Testament.

The Garden: direct theocracy in its realist sense. Unity with God. Then, the fall – man decides (figuratively or really) that he too can be as God and make the decision between right and wrong. Human morality is born. Incidentally, the word evil in the tree of good and evil can be interpreted as “ruining by breaking into pieces” – individuality is born. Adam takes care of his own fig leaf – leaves Eve to hers

Pre-Noah: no laws or direction from God.

Noahide covenent: very minimal set of rules.

Mosaic covenant: a real moral and legal code. As Paul says, it does not make people righteous – it only serves to point out their unrighteousness.

Christ fulfills the law: no longer written on paper, but on our hearts through the holy spirit. No arbitrary rules to bind us – simply the Holy Spirit leading us.

Someday: back to the Garden – direct rule by Christ returned.

Now, I might grant you your anthropological view of it if the Bible were not consistent and internally cohesive about that plan and its unfolding – and cohesive despite being written over thousands of years. Also, it contains some pretty good predictions about exactly how our morality would evolve over those thousands of years

As to “objective” morality – I think there is objective morality after all I am into natural moral law – but since I think that overflows from God into our deep conscience I do not expect it to be a problem for Him to meet. Also, I am pretty hesitant to trust any human concept about what is objectively moral and what isn’t

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ayer October 20, 2009 at 9:10 am

drj: “Well, for one, if you believe in objective morals, then we do not create morals. They are discovered. One could easily judge a deity by objective moral facts, and find that he is immoral. There are plenty of non-theistic theories for objective morality.”

The problem here is the failure to distinguish between the objective morality that applies to humans, for which God is the ontological grounding in his very character as “the Good,” and morality as applied to God’s behavior. As William Lane Craig put it:

“I think that a good start at this problem is to enunciate our ethical theory that underlies our moral judgements. According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses. We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as “playing God.” Human authorities arrogate to themselves rights which belong only to God. God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second. If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative.”

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bob k. mando October 20, 2009 at 9:49 am

Howell accuses me of trying to bait Vox into a debate over Neo-Darwinism, though this is certainly not my inner experience of the exchange. I’m not a biologist and almost never debate evolution. I just couldn’t let Vox’s grossly incorrect statements about evolution to go unchallenged.

1 – you proposed an exchange of views which would “skip all the usual arguments” about the validity of theism/atheism.

2 – you then immediately attempted to bait him into defending YEC … which isn’t even essential to theism. and is also, by the by, a typical atheist argument against theism. you know, one of those things you said you weren’t going to engage in.

3 – to wrap it up in a nice little bow, you practically claim here ( “not a biologist” a plea of personal ignorance, “don’t often debate” a plea of personal inexperience ) that you aren’t even qualified to argue the pro’s and con’s of evolution anyways. so you are attempting to force a debate on an irrelevant subject about which you are unqualified to champion because … ?

The truth is that I think evolution and desirism are irrelevant to the central debate we are having,

so … why do you insist on inserting things that you yourself claim to assess as “irrelevant” into the debate?

one might almost think that you were afraid to engage on the actual issues….

i’m thinking i see a pattern here.

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Chuck October 20, 2009 at 10:30 am

And yet, when we say someone is “playing God”, we don’t mean it as a complement.

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John H October 20, 2009 at 11:18 am

Ayer: Thank you – that was a much better statement than I came up with :-)

Lee A.P.: From your link above —

There’s the trilemma, which has been shredded to pieces, even though it was self evidently stupid to being with,

Since the Trilemma is the heading quote on my blog (thanks for the insult :-)) I am going to give you, and the rest of the audience here, a chance to show that – go here: “An Invitation to a Shredding”

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ayer October 20, 2009 at 11:26 am

Chuck: “And yet, when we say someone is “playing God”, we don’t mean it as a complement.”

Yes, because for a human to play God is an act of hubris; not so for God to be God

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Josh October 20, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Ayer,

I have always failed to see how that ditches the dilemma. It seems to be a full fledged acceptance of “it’s good because the gods say it’s good.”

Now, that’s fine and consistent and everything… but I really don’t see how it avoids the dilemma.

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Chuck October 20, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Ayer,

I agree with the first half of that sentence.

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John H October 20, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Josh: I have always failed to see how that ditches the dilemma. It seems to be a full fledged acceptance of “it’s good because the gods say it’s good.”

I do not know what the dilemma is. Ayer is talking about doing acts that only God can do – and you talk about what God “says” is good.

Most divine command ethics folks base “divine command” on scripture – not the actual command of God to a person or group of people.

Most folks criticising “divine command” are far less clear about exactly which Biblical commands they consider to be immoral by their standards – or go back well into the Old Testiment when the Hebrews were a theocracy clearing out the promised land at God’s command. Since none of those commands would have any relevance past the event it was given in; I am not sure sure exactly what the issue is.

That is why y’all’s “slaughtering babies” statements are so “off-putting” – we are the folks generally opposed to abortion after all. And, our ethical grounding in scripture follows this idea:

Such passages of the Bible are not taken in a proof-text manner by Christian tradition (that is, they are applicable to the question, although they do not mention abortion), but as illustrations of a basic ethical principle of the created order — a unity of instruction, or “world-view”. And this provides for a syllogism, which forms the basis of the modern Christian pro-life movement. Scripture condemns the shedding of innocent human blood. The biblical insight into the order of things is that man is distinct from, and above an animal; and man is uniquely subject to God, whereas animals are given to man; and an unborn child is human and known to God. Therefore, even an unborn child is protected by God, as made in the image of God because it is human (an issue distinct from all speculations of when life begins).

or this one:

The concept of the sanctity of life is the belief that all human beings, at any and every stage of life, in any and every state of consciousness or self-awareness, of any and every race, color, ethnicity, level of intelligence, religion, language, gender, character, behavior, physical ability/disability, potential, class, social status, etc., of any and every particular quality of relationship to the viewing subject, are to be perceived as persons of equal and immeasurable worth and of inviolable dignity and therefore must be treated in a manner commensurate with this moral status.

I am not trying to start an abortion discussion – but the underlying Biblical principles Christians generally argue are there.

Now, Christians do not consistantly carry out either of those moral/ethical ideas; but if someone proposed that God told them to violate either of them I would require an immense amount of proof. If they said the Bible supported violation of either of those – I would have them for lunch.

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Lee A. P. October 20, 2009 at 12:45 pm

John, since the trilemma is the heading to your blog, I would go to the link I gave you at the freeratio forum (formally known as Internet Infidels) in order to defend that stuff.

The simple answer is that we do not know what Jesus said. We know what non-eyewitnesses wrote down decades after the supposed events. If you believe that the Bible is an accurate record then you may have a “trilemma” but then people who believe the Bible is completely historical generally accept Christs divinity anyhow.

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John H October 20, 2009 at 1:06 pm

No Lee,

I have no need to defend it – I am not the one saying that:

“By and large, his theology, like his apologetics, is embarrassingly incoherent, unsound, incomplete, and generally bad”

or

Theres the trilemma, which has been shredded to pieces, even though it was self evidently stupid to being with

If these were just atheist complaints about a theological concept – then that is one thing: y’all think theology in general is a waste of time and all of it is bad; and any apologetics are self evidentally stupid. Lewis is just part of the Christian crowd – and our opinion is what matters since you have basically rated everyone a “0″

Even with that, wouldn’t you fall into the “madman” category (so the trilemma holds) – unless you somehow think you are going to hold “great moral teacher” (how would that work with what he taught about God?). Certainly not God or Demon.

As I tell my theologically liberal co-religionists, if you do not accept the presentation about Christ in scripture then you cannot really call him a “good moral teacher” because you do not have any idea about what he taught. Same here, we can only discuss Jesus’ teaching on an academic level by assuming the Biblical account is true.

So, go on over and show how it is self-evidentally stupid.

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Lee A. P. October 20, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Again, we do not know what Jesus said. We know what non-eyewitnesses wrote about him decades later. I call all the gospels into question. They cannot be trusted.

I will say though, there is nothing that precludes delusion along with the ability to teach great morals.

Why don’t you at least hop on over to the board to challenge all the Lewis-haters to come to your blog and show you why Lewis’ trilemma is retarded.

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John H October 20, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Lee,

“I will say though, there is nothing that precludes delusion along with the ability to teach great morals.”

Well, there we disagree. As Lewis also said, Jesus didn’t teach anything – morality wise – that wasn’t taught before him and after him. What made him unique is the stuff that would of course made him delusional.

I will take my great moral teachings from someone without a god complex.

You, of course, know that I in no way accept your characterization of the Gospel writers as non-eyewitnesses (or companions of such). That is hardly in evidence.

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Beelzebub October 20, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Dr. J — Your comment has been immortalized by a post on VD’s blog. This is a great honor…not.

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Lee A. P. October 20, 2009 at 2:14 pm

“Well, there we disagree. As Lewis also said, Jesus didn’t teach anything – morality wise – that wasn’t taught before him and after him. What made him unique is the stuff that would of course made him delusional.”

I don’t think that Jesus’ moral teachings were special or unique. But I accept much of them and for there time much of there were probably “great”.

We know the gospels were written decades later by educated, Greeks. I do not see any sense in arguing this point with you as you seem to be an ultra conservative who believes that Mark wrote Mark and that John wrote John. The overwhelming consensus of scholarship is againt you but I know you do not care.

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John H October 20, 2009 at 2:25 pm

lee: Have you ever read Plantinga on the word “fundamentalist”. [insert "ultra conservative" where appropriate]

Yes, I think John (the Apostle) wrote John (your dismissal of me aside) – and I think it is pretty clear the “scholarship” on that swings back and forth. However, scholarship has a heavy task to overcome its authorship being certified universally by the first century fathers, including folks who knew him.

Scholarship also thought it was written somewhere late in the 2nd century until a certain documentary find that placed it being written before the apostle died. Science is forever messing up “scholarship”.

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Bearded Spock October 20, 2009 at 2:26 pm

The signature tell-tale tactic that reveals VD’s true character is his hiding behind his wife’s skirt. He made a big show of tolerating my dissenting views on his blog and then did nothing and said nothing when his wife blocked my I.P address. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if he hadn’t first made such big deal proclaiming how he wears the pants.

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matt h October 20, 2009 at 3:41 pm

i liked you insertion of the images into the 100 best paintings on listology, but you might want to reactive your photobucket account because it is currently down

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ayer October 20, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Lee A.P.: “The overwhelming consensus of scholarship is againt you but I know you do not care.”

The overwhelming consensus of scholarship affirms the authenticity of Jesus’ radical personal claim of divinity. The “Jesus Seminar” does not, but it is a fringe group. See: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/rediscover2.html

“The big problem with this hypothesis is that it is inexplicable how monotheistic Jews could have attributed divinity to a man they had known, if he never claimed any such things himself. Monotheism is the heart of the Jewish religion, and it would have been blasphemous to say that a human being was God. Yet this is precisely what the earliest Christians did proclaim and believe about Jesus. Such a claim must have been rooted in Jesus’s own teaching. And in fact, the majority of scholars do believe that among the historically authentic words of Jesus–these are the words in the gospels which the Jesus Seminar would print in red–among the historically authentic words of Jesus are claims that reveal his divine self-understanding.”

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Lee A. P. October 20, 2009 at 5:23 pm

And you quote from Bill Craigs website. Wowsers.

Multitudes of Jews did not attribute divinity to Jesus. The overwhelming number of them remained Jews. When Christianity took hold among the gentiles is when it went from fringe cult to large religion.

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ayer October 20, 2009 at 5:28 pm

lukeprog: “1. An orthodox Christian wouldn’t agree with me that “an all-good, all-powerful God doesn’t fit very cleanly with the amount of pointless suffering we see all around the world.””

Of course they would. If it was “very clean” then it wouldn’t be called the “problem” of evil (and C.S. Lewis would not have named his book “The Problem of Pain.”) The difficulty for atheism is that it fits even less cleanly with the existence of evil, since on atheism there is no ontological basis to even distinguish between and objective “good” and “evil” in the first place.

“2. As you’ve noted, Vox’s views on omniscience are unorthodox.”

No, because “unorthodox” equals “contrary to orthodoxy”, i.e., “heresy” and there are a variety of view of omniscience within orthodox “mere Christianity.” Vox’s are the same as Greg Boyd’s, who you were already familiar with prior to your exchange with Vox because you have cited him elsewhere on this blog.

“3. An orthodox Christian (at least, no Christian I know other than Vox and Douglas Wilson) would say that God would be morally right to rape and mutilate millions of innocent children.”"

I’m sorry, but I can’t see where in Vox’s letters he made the statement “God would be morally right to rape and mutilate millions of innocent children.”

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drj October 20, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Dr. J — Your comment has been immortalized by a post on VD’s blog. This is a great honor…not.

Thanks for the heads up. This will be entertaining. ;)

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ayer October 20, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Lee A.P.,

He didn’t say “multitudes of Jews.” The minority of Jews who DID become Christians would never have attributed divinity to Jesus unless it was based on Jesus’ own claim because such an idea was utterly foreign to their Judaism; indeed, it would be the very blasphemy that got Jesus crucified. They attributed divinity to him because he claimed it and his claim was vindicated by the resurrection.

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Lee A. P. October 20, 2009 at 5:58 pm

And the Christians who became Mormons would have never believed the crap Joseph Smith was spewing about becoming a God over your own planet one day. Only they did.

Horribly unconvincing. Never link to leaderu if you are looking to convince a skeptic.

By the way, you are nothing but a troll and a Fundamentalist parrot who simply throws up the same old Christian apologetics and refers to the popular apologists and religious philosphers we are all familiar with and while insisting that those guys have completely proven the case for Christianity. Like we are unaware of those guys? As if the game is over and we just have not realised it yet? Please. You believe in outragiously silly hidden worlds and beings. the burden of proof is on your side to prove all the stupid shit you guys believe in beyond a reasonable doubt and you have failed for hundreds and thousands of years. Despite having a credulous and superstitious populous to prey on, skepticism and reason have shined through. but then again I may be possesed by one of those evil demon monsters you superstitious twits believe in. you never know.

Hell, I think Bill Craig could take a Scientologists position and beat most of the atheists they trot out against him.

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ayer October 20, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Lee A.P.,

Thanks for sharing.

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Mark H. October 20, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Lee, calm down. It’s only the internet. :)

http://xkcd.com/386/

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Chuck October 20, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Ayer,

For the atheist, there is no Problem of Evil. Shit happens.

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lukeprog October 20, 2009 at 8:41 pm

matt h,

Cool, I got those images back up on the greatest paintings list.

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lukeprog October 20, 2009 at 8:44 pm

“Hell, I think Bill Craig could take a Scientologists position and beat most of the atheists they trot out against him.”

Exactly.

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John H October 20, 2009 at 9:26 pm

there is no Problem of Evil. Shit happens.

Exactly

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ayer October 21, 2009 at 4:21 am

Chuck: “Ayer,

“For the atheist, there is no Problem of Evil. Shit happens.”

I agree; that’s why it’s such a display of chutzpah when an atheist works up an outrage over the awful problem of evil so as to bash theism–under his own view there can be no such thing as “good” or “evil” to begin with (suffering is just an amoral and valueless result of natural processes). But since the existence of evil is obvious to 99% of the world, the atheist has a much bigger “problem of evil” than the theist.

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Jeff H October 21, 2009 at 5:37 am

ayer, don’t you get tired of telling people what their view entails? I mean, if you’re going to lay out the argument about how atheism necessarily leads to nihilism, fine, but otherwise, can you stop saying that atheism means that there is no such thing as “good” and “evil”? I say this only because you’re primarily speaking to atheists, who should, presumably, know what their position entails.

And besides, the argument is a red herring anyway – it doesn’t matter whether the atheist has a coherent concept of good and evil under atheism. If we are talking about theist morality and the problem of evil in the circle of theism, it matters diddly-squat whether the same problem arises in atheism as well. It’s like an argument about whether Coca-cola is bad for your teeth, and then a Coca-cola representative arguing, “Well, Pepsi is worse!” So what? That is not the issue at hand here…

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ayer October 21, 2009 at 6:00 am

Jeff H: “ayer, don’t you get tired of telling people what their view entails?”

I was responding to Chuck’s comment, which laid out what atheism entails. I think you have an issue with him.

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ayer October 21, 2009 at 6:07 am

Jeff H: “And besides, the argument is a red herring anyway – it doesn’t matter whether the atheist has a coherent concept of good and evil under atheism. If we are talking about theist morality and the problem of evil in the circle of theism, it matters diddly-squat whether the same problem arises in atheism as well.”

No, it’s not a red herring, it is the classic use of the tu quoque argument, e.g.:

” A makes criticism P.
A is also guilty of P.
Therefore, the criticism is confusing because it does not reflect A’s actual values or beliefs. ”

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Chuck October 21, 2009 at 6:34 am

I agree with everything Jeff said.

Atheism entails lack of God belief. It says nothing about conceptions of good and evil. FYI, all Zen Buddhists are also atheists. Not that I’m *that* sort of atheist, but if you us to listen at least get your terms right.

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Mark H. October 21, 2009 at 6:51 am

Lee A.P.: Nevermind. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize what you’re dealing with.

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ayer October 21, 2009 at 7:23 am

Chuck,

I think you had it right the first time. On atheism, “s**t happens.” That about sums it up.

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Jeff H October 21, 2009 at 8:10 am

No, it’s not a red herring, it is the classic use of the tu quoque argument, e.g.:

” A makes criticism P.
A is also guilty of P.
Therefore, the criticism is confusing because it does not reflect A’s actual values or beliefs. ”

Well, I was going to link to Wikipedia and mention that “tu quoque” is generally considered a logical fallacy, but then I realized you copied and pasted your argument structure straight from there. I think it’s common courtesy to give credit where it’s due, but no matter.

The way you are forming your argument, I don’t think it falls under this form of the “legitimate tu quoque” argument. You are essentially saying (if I understand correctly), “You say theism has a problem of evil, but atheism can’t even account for good and evil. Therefore, you’ve got an even bigger problem.” First off, if an atheist at least believes that he/she can account for good and evil, they will reject your second premise.

Secondly, your argument is essentially akin to, “You criticize my solution, but you’ve got no better one. So you have nothing to add to the debate.” Even if it were true that Person B has no better solution to a problem, that does not stop them from pointing out flaws in Person A’s solution. If theism has a coherent definition of good and evil, then we can use those definitions to demonstrate the problem of evil within theism, even if, under atheism, there is no coherent definition. The lack of good and evil under atheism may well be a real problem (although I don’t think it is), but that is not at issue. The fact that you bring it up, then, makes it a red herring. It’s an attempt to deflect the debate from the problem of evil within the theistic framework.

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Todd White October 21, 2009 at 9:21 am

The first link about John Sullivan is broken, I think. Can you let me know when it’s fixed? Thanks.

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Lee A. P. October 21, 2009 at 9:37 am

“Lee A.P.: Nevermind. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize what you’re dealing with.”

Its ok. Those images were funny anyway.

Hey don’t you know Bill Craig and Plantinga have proven Christian theism? The jig is up man! Ayer defeated us dumb ole atheists.

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lukeprog October 21, 2009 at 10:10 am

Todd White,

I fixed it. Thanks.

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John H October 21, 2009 at 10:40 am

Lee: At least for me, I never said theism is provable at all by human argument or logic – nor is atheism for that matter.

If you are talking about my quote of Plantinga (I do not see that Ayer quoted him) – it was just a funny little bit he did on the use of the word “fundamentalist”.

I do not think you bothered reading it – only someone with admin clearance went there from here.

Plantinga, BTW, also does not believe God’s existence can be proven, or disproven, by human argument or logic.

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Lee A. P. October 21, 2009 at 11:08 am

John,

It wasn’t you.

It was ayer who comes along in each post and basically says “Craig said this and Plantinga said this and when they did they destroyed the non-belief position”. HA!

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John H October 21, 2009 at 11:18 am

Lee,

Thanks. The one thing I have to avoid as an apologist is falling into the trap of thinking the existence of God can be proven intellectually.

Assuming I continue to wander through here, you have permission to beat me if I do. :-)

John

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Lee A. P. October 21, 2009 at 6:51 pm

John, I have decided that I like you. The picture of you on your blog suggests you to be grandfatherly. Since I love my grandfather more than myself and your picture reminds me of him, I have to reserve judgement towards you and your opinions on that CS Lewis dickcheese and that overrated Jesus guy. I vow right here, right now, to be nothing but nice to you on the internet despite my contrary opinions.

I think I might love you. You are a decent human in my eyes. I hope I am not wrong.

Love, your athiest damned friend,

Lee

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Lee A. P. October 21, 2009 at 6:54 pm

PS, re-reading the above post, I think it some readers may take it to be sarcasm.

I assure you my sentiments are serious and can be read 100% straight.

Lee

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ayer October 21, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Lee A.P.: “It was ayer who comes along in each post and basically says “Craig said this and Plantinga said this and when they did they destroyed the non-belief position”. HA!”

No, I don’t believe that theistic arguments “destroy” nonbelief. I actually agree with John (and with Plantinga)–there is no “proving” theism or atheism. I think theism is the best explanation of the evidence, but that’s not the primary basis of my belief. As Craig says, there is a difference between how you “know your faith is true” and how you “show your faith is true.” Apologetics is only “pre-evangelism”; it can cause an atheist to rethink his assumptions but only the Holy Spirit can lead him to actual, existential belief and commitment.

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Lee A. P. October 22, 2009 at 7:51 am

So all that stuff is a dog and pony show. What you really need is for a spook to get inside you and move you.

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ayer October 22, 2009 at 7:57 am

Lee A.P.: “So all that stuff is a dog and pony show. What you really need is for a spook to get inside you and move you.”

No, it serves to clear away the baggage but in the end it requires an existential commitment. But it sounds like you are equally opposed to both the evidential approach (since it offends you that a believer might try to “prove” his faith) and the existential approach (since that is too “spooky”). It appears your mind is totally closed.

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Todd White October 22, 2009 at 9:07 am

Thanks, Luke. While I probably sound like a crotchity old man (“How does this damn remote control work?”), I’m unable to get the link to Sullivan’s letter either. Is that link broken too? Thanks.

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Lee A. P. October 22, 2009 at 9:40 am

No, the apologetic defenses are lame and the evidence for the supernatural is supremely lacking despite your guys belief in angels, demons and hidden supernatural realms.

I started out a Christian predisposed to believing in strange things. It was an overwhelming preponderance of evidence that lead me to non-belief. So quite the opposite — an open mind made me change all that I once thought true — all that I desperatley wanted to be true.

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ayer October 22, 2009 at 9:54 am

Lee A.P. “It was an overwhelming preponderance of evidence that lead me to non-belief.”

Well, that’s clearly where we disagree. The overwhelming preponderance of the evidence supports belief, which is why William Lane Craig regularly spanks his debate opponents. If his opponents’ case was “overwhelming” then no amount of debate skill would enable him to prevail so consistently.

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Lee A. P. October 22, 2009 at 10:33 am

That is not true. Debate is a skill and a show. People can win debates with topics that are clearly false.

BTW, Craig gets spanked in print.

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ayer October 22, 2009 at 4:16 pm

“BTW, Craig gets spanked in print.”

Nope, he dominates his print debates as well. See:

http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Resurrection-Figment-Between-Ludemann/dp/0830815694/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256256954&sr=1-2

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drj October 22, 2009 at 4:39 pm

“BTW, Craig gets spanked in print.”

Nope, he dominates his print debates as well. See:

Craig stacks his debates – he avoids taking part in debate topics that question the actual historicity of the gospels, which of course, present the most fatal problems for his arguments. He basically gets his “four incontrovertible facts” for free.

If you think about it.. how else are you going to challenge the resurrection if not by going after the gospel’s historicity? The resurrection itself is part of the gospels..

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lukeprog October 22, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Todd,

No, that link works. But ya gotta have Adobe Reader.

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Todd White October 22, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Ah, that did the trick. Thanks, Luke.

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ayer October 22, 2009 at 5:46 pm

drj: “Craig stacks his debates – he avoids taking part in debate topics that question the actual historicity of the gospels, which of course, present the most fatal problems for his arguments. He basically gets his “four incontrovertible facts” for free.”

The whole point of historiography is that documents have to be analyzed to determine those portions that have greater likelihood of historicity than others (based on the criteria of multiple attestation, discontinuity, etc.). Craig does the same thing the Jesus seminar does in that respect (giving different parts of the gospels different “colors” based on the likelihood of their historicity), except that he cites the majority of scholarship in support of the four facts, while the Jesus seminar is in a fringe minority.

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John H October 22, 2009 at 6:12 pm

drj:

I haven’t particularly seen Craig deal with the historicity issue – but he is not an historical critic either.

The question with historical criticism – from my perspective – is whether you entire the process with a presupposition against supernaturalism or not. Obviously, Craig wouldn’t.

I would certainly think Craig would have access to, and understand, this kind of analysis: “The Historical Veracity of the Resurrection Narratives”

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Todd White October 23, 2009 at 7:09 am

I wasn’t too impressed with Josh’s letter to Grandma, and I wrote a rebuttal on my website. One quote:

“I don’t know whether Josh is ignorant of the difference between ‘macroevolution’ and ‘microevolution’ or if he is deliberately trying to confuse his grandma. But either way, he’s already lost a ton of credibility just 4 pages into the document.

http://mustardseednovel.blogspot.com/2009/10/why-debate-over-darwinism-matters-part_22.html

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Lee A. P. October 23, 2009 at 10:01 am

Macroevolutiomn is micro evolution over longer periods of time. That is it. If you accept one, then you cannot deny the other unless you believe in a young Earth.

The evidence for an ancient Earth is gargantuan. If you believe in a young earth you are either ignorant or retarded.

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Todd White October 23, 2009 at 10:18 am

Lee:

In my article, I quote the pro-Darwin scientist, Dr. Andrew M. Simons (among others)…

“A persistent debate in evolutionary biology is one over the continuity of microevolution and macroevolution — whether macroevolutionary trends are governed by the principles of microevolution.”

Dr. Simons, to his credit, is honest and informed about the problem. I’ll be polite, Lee, and say you are merely misinformed.

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Lee A. P. October 24, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Thats called “quote mining” White. The differing MECHANISMS over time are a part of ongoing discovery. It is funny that I used the word “discovery” as that is the “institute” from which you garnered your out of context quote.

Your beloved YEC is a form of mental retardation compared to the real science. Keep rolling around in your own shit with the rest of your kind and let the grown ups do their jobs. Ok?

Will you just let us Satanists do our job? Your book of revelations predicts all of this anyway correct? Why fight it? Just let the overwhelming satanic mega-conspiracy proceed. I mean, people may think me harsh and rude but this is what these fools think. A massive demonic conspiracy is at work involving virtually every scientific discipline, to make people think life came from a common ancestor so that man will reject Jesus.

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Mark H. October 25, 2009 at 1:09 am

Lee A.P.: A massive demonic conspiracy is at work involving virtually every scientific discipline, to make people think life came from a common ancestor so that man will reject Jesus.

Eh, whatever gets the job done.

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Todd White October 25, 2009 at 9:26 am

Lee: You are beyond parody. You automatically mock me for being a “YEC” AND a “Christian,” when I am neither. Honestly, you need to get out more. A person can make honest criticisms of Darwinism based on science, not religion.

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