Ask the Atheist (round 2)

by Luke Muehlhauser on January 24, 2010 in Ask the Atheist

Because I know everything, obviously.

Because I know everything, obviously.

Earlier, I invited my readers to ask me anything. You may ask more questions here, but please read the instructions first. Here is my second round of responses.

Question 006

Christopher asks:

Would you say that you were ever “saved,” as the term is understood by Christians, back when you were a practicing Christian?

There is no question I was saved. I was saved in the same way every other Christian I know has ever been saved. I believed in God, I accepted atonement theology, I loved Jesus, I read the Bible and worshiped and prayed and served. I had religious experiences. I saw miracles. God (or what I believed to be God) transformed my life. See My Fondest Memories of God.

Question 007

Haecceitas asks:

If (for whatever reason) you became convinced that substance dualism is the correct view in the area of the philosophy of mind, what kind of implications (if any) would this have on your thinking about theism vs. atheism?

Of course this would eliminate some major objections to theism, but dozens of objections remain, and a positive case for theism would still have to be erected. I doubt such a case would be successful unless the world was radically different than it is.

Question 008

Haukur asks:

Let’s say that all the traditional atheistic arguments succeed, and all the traditional theistic arguments fail. Let’s say the modal ontological argument fails to establish the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, and all-good being. Cosmological arguments fail to establish a creator of the universe. Design arguments fail to establish that the universe was designed to host intelligent life. Historical analysis fails to establish any miraculous events. Let’s say all that is true.

My question is, Why are you not religious? It seems to me that the worthlessness of religious activities (such as worship and prayer) is not established even if all the arguments above are granted. And in fact, there are people who agree with you on those arguments but still do engage in religious activities.

No, the worthlessness of religious activities is not established even if atheism is proven true.

There are some studies on whether prayer or worship or other religious activities do any good. Prayer doesn’t seem to do any good. I’m less familiar with studies on other religious activities, but my general impression is that it’s community that does a person good, not submission to supernatural beings.

But the reason I am not religious is that, in addition to my naturalistic worldview, I do not get much benefit from religious activities. I’m happier and more productive without them.

Question 009

TH asks:

Given the exponential growth of technology and the likelihood that physicalism is correct that consciousness is an emergent property of matter and energy, will you have your head frozen when you die?

If I’m lucky, I’ll survive until we can upload our consciousnesses and basically live forever. But I doubt I’ll last that long.

Will I have my head frozen, in the hopes that future technology will be able to revive my consciousness? I don’t know. I suppose it depends on cost and the likelihood of revival. I wouldn’t rule it out.

Question 010

Lee A.P. asks:

Is there any defense in the philosophy of religion for the following problem:

Much is said, especially with regards to William Lane Craig, about the witness of the Holy Spirit. Apparently, one can know things for certain when the “Holy Spirit” communicates with a person.

I do not know exactly how Craig views Satan but in Christian belief he is generally regarded as a being adept at trickery.

Given a supernatural world view that accepts evil beings adept at trickery, and given the fact that many Christians regard Satan as a brilliantly deceptive being, how can one ever know that they themselves are not the ones being tricked?

Many religious groups that have Plantingan-type epistemologies are likely to say that Islam/whatever is true and Christian experiences are deceptions of the devil, while Christians are likely to say that Christianity is true and religious experiences in other traditions are deceptions of the devil. Special thinking as usual.

My mom’s answer to this question about why she thinks other religions are deceived but she is not was “Because I know that I know that I know that I know.” I think that about sums it up.

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric January 24, 2010 at 8:54 am

Hi Luke

Here’s my question:

Many atheists will say, “There’s no evidence whatsoever that any god or gods exist.” Do you agree? If you agree, can you show that you’re using a definition of ‘evidence’ that doesn’t rule out data we uncontroversially judge to count as evidence for such and such in other cases? Or, if you disagree, what do you think some of the best evidence for god’s existence is (ideally with an explanation of some sort concerning what makes it the best evidence)?

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Christopher January 24, 2010 at 9:44 am

Hi Luke…Thanks for your response to question 006. Either you were saved (S) or you were not saved (~S). You endorsed S by stating, “There is no question I was saved.” On a plausible (reformed) account of salvation once you are saved you are always saved. Let (Q) be the proposition that you cannot lose your salvation. If S –> Q, S (your endorsement); thus Q. This implies the further proposition (P) LukeProg is still saved. But, you deny that salvation is possible (i.e. it is merely a cultural and psychological fabrication). The above results in some form of a contradiction. That is, by your own account, you are both saved and not saved. You might deny the assumption of “once saved, always saved.” Perhaps your atonement theology was decidedly liberal. But, you’re saying something stronger. You’re not saying that you lost your salvation, even though you were once saved, you’re saying that what you took to be salvation was not salvation because you were not in fact saved (i.e. there is no such thing as salvation or God for that matter). Given these considerations it might be natural for you to endorse (~S). That is, what you took for salvation was not salvation because there is no such thing as salvation; so, you were never in fact saved. However, this supports the idea that you never actually possessed a saving faith, in which case your testimony is irrelevant from a Christian perspective. Your deconversion story is yet another story of someone who never actually made their faith their own. Thus, your story is not a mark against theism in favor of atheism because you never actually knew God, you never truly had a personal relationship with him. You may have wrestled things out intellectually and emotionally, but your faith was inauthentic.

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drj January 24, 2010 at 10:14 am

Christopher: You may have wrestled things out intellectually and emotionally, but your faith was inauthentic.

Perhaps his general point was that his faith was as seemingly “authentic” as any other believer. It could be that his condition at the time was, in every relevant way, identical to that of a truly ‘saved’ believer.

In that light, his deconversion isn’t evidence that he was never saved, it’s evidence against the idea that there is such a thing as authentic Christian salvation.

If he can be both P and ~P, then the contradiction could very well lie with in Christian soteriology,.

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Alex January 24, 2010 at 10:28 am

Chris – it seems that you’re reading too much into Luke’s answer. An atheist can’t ever hold, of course, that anyone is ever saved in the strong sense (the sense which would imply that there is a God who saves people). I think that what Luke was saying is that he was “saved” in a weaker empirical and experiential sense (which could be the case even if atheism holds), just like every Christian he knew. In this sense, his testimony *is* problematic, because your claim that Luke’s faith was somehow inauthentic is a claim about his mental life, and not about the underlying metaphysics.

edit – drj beat me to it.

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Paul Wright January 24, 2010 at 11:29 am

Luke: there’s been some interesting discussion about getting your head (and possibly the rest of you) frozen over on Paul Crowley’s blog: here and later here. I suspect this was provoked by Eliezer Yudkowsky’s recent posting on Less Wrong on the subject (I don’t know whether you read Less Wrong: if not, allow me to recommend this list of Eliezer’s old postings: there’s some chewy stuff in there).

My main problem with cryonics is the loss of control: I have no way of influencing who wakes me up and for what purpose. There probably are fates worse than death, although I’m not sure how likely they are.

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Erika January 24, 2010 at 11:40 am

but my general impression is that it’s community that does a person good, not submission to supernatural beings.

Bingo! I believe it is in Bowling Alone where Putnam presents data that indicates that being involved in communities gives one the advantages that are usually attributed to religion. The advantage that religious people are more likely to belong to a persistent group that is independent of family and work. Membership, not belief, is the differentiating factor.

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ildi January 24, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Membership, not belief, is the differentiating factor.

There is a local band that has a fairly large, friendly following. I go see them every chance I get, as it is one of those rare venues where everyone is friendly, and the boys dance because they like to, and not solely to get laid. No matter how crappy my week has been, a couple of hours of dancing hard and listening to awesome music with like-minded people puts me outside of myself and back in sync at the same time. The bonus is, no supernatural belief system required!

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Haukur January 24, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Thanks for answering, Luke, I appreciate it. The study you cite was on the effects of distant intercessory prayer on the subject prayed for. I was thinking more of the effects of religious activities on those who participate in them. Also worth keeping in mind is that not all religious activities involve submission to supernatural beings. But I’m perfectly willing to believe that you are happy without engaging in any religious activities.

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lukeprog January 24, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Christopher,

You make several false assumptions about me in order to tell your story about what kind of faith I had.

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lukeprog January 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Haukur,

Yeah, like I said, that’s just nothing a topic on which I’ve had time to become familiar with the literature.

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Christopher January 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Hi DRJ…I could respond to your claim by introducing technical notions and argumentation, but (for better or for worse) I’m going to take a more casual and personal approach.

You mention Luke’s deconversion is evidence, “against the idea that there is such a thing as authentic Christian salvation.” However, both Luke’s conversion and his deconversion have this in common: they were solely founded on psychological (intellectual and emotional) assent and dissent from the propositions of faith. He read a bunch of stuff that contradicted his beliefs and was convinced that what he read was sufficient evidence against the truth of Christian theism and his so-called religious experiences. I would say his falling in or out of Christianity does not in any way impinge upon genuine Christian belief. It only shows that you can indoctrinate yourself intellectually in either direction.

It’s even possible that Luke’s deconversion confirms the veracity of authentic Christian faith because Luke’s faith was incomplete, and, as a result, when temptation or conflicting evidence came he was unable to stand firm in his faith. This is not to say he didn’t try. Luke tried intellectually and emotionally to retain his belief, but it didn’t survive because his faith was incomplete. Mere intellectual assent to the propositions of faith is incomplete faith. Many Christians, or so-called Christians, intellectualize their faith and yet live lives that do not reflect authentic faith. True faith transforms one’s thoughts, conduct, and character. If someone says they are a Christian, but they are unable to overcome habitual sin, then it’s possible that they are not really a Christian. Contrary to what you claimed on his behalf, Luke’s testimony indicates he was not as “authentic” as any other believer. It’s possible that what was missing from Luke’s life was the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not some freaky apparition that makes people behave like wild banshees in church services or have overtly emotional experiences, the Holy Spirit is the seal of Christ that abides in the true believer and urges him or her on toward holiness. Looking back at Luke’s blog from when he was a Christian I don’t see a testimony of greater patience, compassion, lovingkindness, power over sin, etc. I see a young man in the grips of sexual temptation and pride. I see a young man struggling to overcome un-Christian behaviors through self-will. I also do not read of his transformed life in his posts “My Journey to Atheism” or “My Fondest Memories of God.” I read about someone intellectually and emotionally striving after and trying to retain some cultural belief. His testimony is not relevant to genuine faith, although it is an example of how lacking complete or genuine faith can result in one falling away from the faith. But this is not surprising because the Bible makes it clear that over time the wheat will be separated from the chaff. Many self-professing Christians are not actually Christians.

Personally, I’ve had both inauthentic and authentic faith. I’ve lived completely without God, as I purposely left the faith because I didn’t believe God was real. I’ve also had inauthentic faith and attended church as a cultural thing or a thing that I did because my parents made me. But, I’ve also been on the other side and possessed genuine faith as validated by my changed life and my changed thoughts. I no longer do the things I used to do or think the way I used to think. This change has only occurred through humility, through asking God to do for me what I can’t do in a sustained way through self-will or mustering enough determination. Eventually self-will and determination run out, whether that’s in four years or forty years, leaving the “Christian” at a crises of faith, which was not faith in the first place but was an intellectual assent to a bunch of moral standards.

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lukeprog January 24, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Christopher,

Do you realize how arrogant it is, without any personal knowledge of me, to declare that I “never really believed”? I’m telling you, my faith was as authentic and complete as that of millions of other Christians who are still believers. If they’re “saved” now, I certainly was “saved” then.

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Hermes January 24, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Christopher, I take it you are not a Christian yourself, and if you are you are not earnest in your religious ideas (if any)? Would you consider either of those to be accurate statements?

I ask this in curiosity — from one non-Christian to another.

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drj January 24, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Christopher: Hi DRJ…I could respond to your claim by introducing technical notions and argumentation, but (for better or for worse) I’m going to take a more casual and personal approach.

I appreciate your long thoughtful response, but when we arrive at a logical contradiction like the one you describe – we have at least two possibilities.

Yes, one of those possibilities is that Luke was not “truly saved”. But another possibility is that this particular Christian doctrine of “once saved, always saved”, is false. The latter is a perfectly valid way to resolve the contradiction.

Obviously, background beliefs will determine which resolution to the contradiction one finds more plausible. I believe the case for naturalism is overwhelming, and the case for Christian theism is abysmal.

So naturally, I find the contradiction that you raised to be a problem Christian soteriology, rather than an indictment of the character of an apostates former faithfulness. This is a perfectly valid conclusion to come to, given the contradiction you raised. and that was really the only point that I had.

[rant]

I’d like to add that this particular piece of salvation theory is extremely maddening. When rattling around the brain of a believer, it seems to act like a sort of “cognitive dissonance amplifier”. It insulates one from having to truly confront the reality that there are Christians as sincere as themselves, that found good reasons to reject faith. And so the non-believer inevitably sees the same patterns of rationalizations over and over again, without end: “you just wanted sexual freedom”, “you are rebellious youth”, “you were never truly saved”, “my experience is better than your experience”, etc etc. What makes this theological absurdity so truly lamentable, is how it leads so many believers to be supremely confident in their ability to peer right inside the psyche of a complete stranger, and to know what makes them tick – often times after just meeting a person (and appallingly, sometimes without even meeting the person at all).

[/rant]

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svenjamin January 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Christopher,

You appear to define ‘faith’ as something other than “mere intellectual assent.” Matt McCormick over at Proving the Negative just posted a nice essay which neatly summarizes the every day meaning: “we use the term faith to describe a case where a person’s epistemic situation doesn’t fully warrant believing on the basis of evidence.” Luke and other ex-Christians such as myself most certainly did have this kind of faith.

I am of the opinion that you are making a special distinction, and your version of faith ought to be given an additional qualifier or capitalized to differentiate. You maintain that this Faith+(assent plus voodoo) has some additional effect of transforming the person who has it. I am unsure about the coherency of this claim. I see two main possibilities: that the transformative effects of Faith+ are the direct result of the F+ itself, and so contained within the holder of F+, or they are the result of God-given Grace(in the puritan sense) as God’s response to a person having F+. If the first case, then the transformation is possible merely by virtue of belief alone, not the truth of the belief. If the second, then how are Luke or myself responsible for disbelief in apparently false propositions if we simply do not believe despite our best intellectual and emotional efforts? What further fact beyond “mere” intellectual assent and emotional commitment to Christian doctrines is necessary before God grants both personal transformation and the ability to believe against all evidence to the contrary?

Finally, I don’t see any possible way an individual’s disbelief in a proposition by virtue of honest intellectual inquiry can in fact confirm that proposition. That is just plain ridiculous.

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svenjamin January 24, 2010 at 6:36 pm

lukeprog,

Are you going to answer the question about “What would a universe created by an all-good, omniscient, omnipotent God actually look like?” Have you just not made it that far in the queue, or are you still mulling it over? It’s a pretty intriguing question.

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lukeprog January 24, 2010 at 6:59 pm

I believe that one is in the queue. I’ve already written like 7 rounds of answers to all these questions, they’re just waiting to be posted.

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Lorkas January 24, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Prayer doesn’t seem to do any good.

This needs a modifier before “prayer”, because the study only demonstrates that intercessory prayer does no good for people who don’t know they’re being prayed for.

Prayer works perfectly well as a placebo when people who believe in its power know they are being prayed for, and it also has some personal health benefits for the person who prays regularly–the same health benefits, in fact, that contemplative meditation can give a person (things like improved mental health, lower blood pressure, and a greater ability to cope with stress). Neither of these benefits implies that there’s someone on the other end listening, of course.

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ildi January 24, 2010 at 7:42 pm

If the second, then how are Luke or myself responsible for disbelief in apparently false propositions if we simply do not believe despite our best intellectual and emotional efforts? What further fact beyond “mere” intellectual assent and emotional commitment to Christian doctrines is necessary before God grants both personal transformation and the ability to believe against all evidence to the contrary?

That’s where the doctrine of predestination comes in handy. You and Luke are just hosed. God didn’t pick you, nananabooboo!

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Hermes January 24, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Lorkas: This needs a modifier before “prayer”, because the study only demonstrates that intercessory prayer does no good for people who don’t know they’re being prayed for.

CONCLUSIONS: Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.”

Meaning: The study found that if the patient knew they were being prayed for, they did _worse_. Everyone who did not know they were being prayed for did not have any positive or negative effects.

The obvious recommendation is; Don’t tell someone you are praying for them if they are going in the hospital for cardiac bypass surgery. Unless you hate them and you are a real bastard.

Lorkas: Neither of these benefits implies that there’s someone on the other end listening, of course.

Of course. Either that, or it’s one petty and grumpy SOB. ;-}

——

“What? Another prayer? Pests, all of them!

Do the people getting the prayer know they’re being prayed for? Some of them? I’ll give em a miracle! Something special. Real special.

[taps surgeons hands during surgery]

Howdaya like ‘dem miracles, pal? Don’t call me, I’ll call you when I’ve got nothing better to do. Oh, wait! I’m a god! I always have something better to do!”

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jesusfreak574 January 24, 2010 at 8:07 pm

lukeprog: I’m telling you, my faith was as authentic and complete as that of millions of other Christians who are still believers.

I’m curious: doesn’t that claim assume perfect knowledge about people who claim to be Christians? As far as I can tell, the comparison can’t be honestly made.

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Hermes January 24, 2010 at 8:09 pm

jesusfreak574:
I’m curious: doesn’t that claim assume perfect knowledge about people who claim to be Christians?As far as I can tell, the comparison can’t be honestly made.  

It goes the other way too. Right?

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Lorkas January 24, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Hermes: Meaning: The study found that if the patient knew they were being prayed for, they did _worse_. Everyone who did not know they were being prayed for did not have any positive or negative effects.

Well that is quite strange, since other studies I have read showed a positive effect when the patient knew they were being prayed for but no effect when the patient didn’t know they were being prayed for. This study obviously proves that God exists, and he’s a real asshole.

Meta-analysis of studies on intercessory prayer shows no statistically significant effect, either positive or negative.

In any case, my original point stands that the study is only addressing intercessory prayer, not meditative prayer, which does have some (perfectly natural) health benefits.

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Hermes January 24, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Lorkas, I linked to the largest direct study on intercessory prayer; STEP – Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer. It was funded in part by the Templeton Foundation and preformed by a variety of established institutions. Here’s another link for reference;

http://web.med.harvard.edu/sites/RELEASES/html/3_31STEP.html

Investigators include;

Baptist Memorial Health Care
INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Harvard Medical School
Mayo Clinic
Mind/Body Medical Institute
Washington Hospital Center

Note that the John Templeton Foundation has attempted to fund research that would favor a spiritualist outcome and many scientists are suspect of the motives of the people who run the foundation. While I do not fully trust them, I think it speaks well that they did not attempt to force a specific outcome in that study.

If you think you have more reliable *research*, then let me know. So far, I haven’t seen any. Thank you for the meta-analysis link.

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EvanT January 25, 2010 at 3:12 am

Given a supernatural world view that accepts evil beings adept at trickery, and given the fact that many Christians regard Satan as a brilliantly deceptive being, how can one ever know that they themselves are not the ones being tricked?

Nice question. I’ve recently read a book on Orthodox monasticism, where it describes cases of young monks who actually did get attacked by the Devil and presented with a fake “divine light” during their meditations as an effort to make them prideful. Apparently, their only solution to this is other older monks who claim to have witnessed the true light of the divine and can help these younger monks realize that they were being influenced by the Devil.

Of course, the question arises HOW do the older monks know they weren’t being tricked themselves. But, as Luke puts it, they know that they know what they know etc… Anyway, I thought the above story makes for some interesting trivia.

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Sly January 25, 2010 at 3:58 am

Christopher knows what it means to be a true Scotsmen!

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Alec January 25, 2010 at 7:57 am

Luke, my question is, you’re analyzing the kalam, and I know you’re eventually going to get around to refuting it, but in the meantime, could you give us a hint as to where you think that it fails? Sorry If this was already addressed somewhere else.

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Lorkas January 25, 2010 at 8:17 am

Hermes: If you think you have more reliable *research*, then let me know. So far, I haven’t seen any.

Well, the link I posted above is a comparison of all the major intercessory prayer studies up to 2005 (that is, all of the important studies aside from the one that you posted). If you’re really interested, you can check out the bibliography in that paper.

It seems like you’re suggesting that meta-analysis isn’t a valid approach to answering this question. On the contrary, using meta-analysis usually gives you a better idea of what’s happening than any single study does, since a meta-analysis has a much larger sample size and lessens the impact of any single researcher’s bias, assumptions, or error (though it won’t help if all researchers are biased in the same direction, of course). All of those things combine to make meta-analysis a generally better tool for determining some variable’s effect size than any single study.

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Eneasz January 25, 2010 at 10:00 am

Cost of cryonic suspension (freezing your head) is surprisingly cheap ($200-400 a year probably, given your age). Likelihood of being revived is unknown. Given the cost, and the potential benefit, I highly encourage signing up. Many links to helpful FAQs & such can be found here.

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lukeprog January 25, 2010 at 10:24 am

Alec,

Well, for one, I think a B-Theory of time is more plausible than an A-Theory, which would alone refute the KCA.

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Hermes January 25, 2010 at 10:45 am

Lorkas, no, I’m not rejecting a meta-analysis out of hand at all. What concerns me is that this specific meta-analysis was not widely commented on. This differs substantially from the STEP study; Google: ~300 hits for the meta-analysis, ~34,000 for STEP. I think I know why that is the case (keep an eye out for a quote of the meta-analysis in a few paragraphs), and I am not saying that ‘bigger numbers = more true’ either. Seeing such as wide difference, though, does raise some concerns about taking the meta-analysis over STEP.

That said, maybe I’m not looking in the right places? But, if that’s the case, maybe I’m not seeing commentary on it because I don’t know how it would be referenced by others giving commentary on it? If you can lend a hand on this, I would appreciate it.

Till then, I prudently and conservatively prefer the STEP study for multiple reasons beyond just that it is well reviewed. It is newer, for one, so other intercessory prayer studies going back to the 1960s mentioned in the meta-analysis should have been taken into account. (I could be wrong, but I think it’s a reasonable assumption.) It narrowly focuses on a single category; coronary artery bypass graft surgery. For that one group of ailments, it included over 1,800 patients split into 3 groups, two of them blind to if they were in the prayer group and one that knew they were being prayed for. There were 6 hospitals involved, not just one.

In addition, the meta-analysis recommended; “Nevertheless, given that the IP literature lacks a theoretical or theological base and has failed to produce significant findings in controlled trials, we recommend that further resources not be allocated to this line of research.”(p.13-14) That seems to be in line with the STEP results, minus the possible negative effects for people that know they are being prayed for.

As for the STEP research itself, would I like to have seen over 700 patients in each group to increase accuracy, let alone more groups such as one that is unaware they are part of a prayer study as well as others? Absolutely. Do I think that it would be acceptable to spend money on another similar study? Yes, but not enthusiastically, and for the same reason the meta-analysis authors cite. Additionally, the STEP study was well done and if anything could be said to take seriously any ‘spiritual’ issues into account.

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Paul January 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Alec: Luke, my question is, you’re analyzing the kalam, and I know you’re eventually going to get around to refuting it, but in the meantime, could you give us a hint as to where you think that it fails? Sorry If this was already addressed somewhere else.

This is not an attempt to refute the KCA one issue I have with it, is that even if the premises are all true and valid the conclusions that that those who use it reach are always incredible.

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Roman January 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Hi Luke,

“Well, for one, I think a B-Theory of time is more plausible than an A-Theory, which would alone refute the KCA.”

Are you sure about this? I’m pretty sure that the A-theory of time is only necessary for one of the supporting arguments for the premise that the universe began to exist.

There are other arguments for this premise which do not require the A-theory of time.

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Roman January 25, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Actually, now that I’m reading more about it, maybe you’re right, it looks like both his philosophical arguments for ‘the universe began to exist’ require the A-theory of time.

That does still leave the scientific arguments for the premise though, so I’m not sure about calling the argument ‘refuted’.

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jesusfreak574 January 25, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Hermes:
It goes the other way too.Right?

I honestly wasn’t thinking about much more than what I literally said when I first commented, but Hermes’ reply prompted some more consideration on my part. Of course, I find it very difficult to know much of anything about anybody’s faith, Luke’s included.

On the other hand, we do know exactly one difference between Luke’s faith and the faith of other Christians who are still believers. Luke’s faith did not persevere, while the faith of those who are still believers has persevered, at least to the current time.

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Hermes January 25, 2010 at 6:35 pm

jesusfreak574: On the other hand, we do know exactly one difference between Luke’s faith and the faith of other Christians who are still believers. Luke’s faith did not persevere, while the faith of those who are still believers has persevered, at least to the current time.

Yet, we don’t know that either. As has been said before;

* Everyone supposedly knows Christ in their hearts. (It is asserted that only people who ‘want to sin’ reject Christ.)

So, Luke (or any former Christian or even anyone who says they aren’t a Christian) may kindle that one spark in their hearts, far below their day to day overt thoughts or as some kind of stubborn refusal to admit they ‘know Christ’.

(I don’t think the ‘everyone knows Christ in their hearts’ is anything but a form of snobbery if not outright bigotry. After all, was Christ inserted into hearts before the year zero? It doesn’t make much sense to me except as a cheap apologetics tactic.)

* Deathbed conversions, deconversions, or reversions. These types of stories are as common as they are apocryphal;

A person who is a long-time Christian comes to the realization at the last moment that there is no Yahweh and that Jesus was not who he was said to be.

Conversely, if a long time non-Christian decides in their last few moments that there was a deity and that Christian teachings are the path towards it.

Luke or any other former Christian could be in the later category — and if that’s the case, nobody including Luke would know it up till that last moment. So, if that is the case in someone who died last month, were they always ‘saved’?

(Personally, I don’t think that these last moment team switches are as common as they are promoted to be.)

* Basic problem of knowing what someone is really thinking.

For example, there are psychopaths that are charming and nearly impossible to tell that they are not normal people but are psychopaths.

Who’s to say that a much larger set of people who are likewise skilled like the natural psychopaths in hiding what they think? Instead of hiding as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, they hide for more rational and/or socially sensitive reasons? They may decide to ‘act like’ some other type of person — to live the role. There are many examples of this type of deception. Someone good at it — or simply not in touch with their own thoughts — may even convince themselves that they are that role. (Ted Haggard comes to mind, though more common examples should be easy to identify yourself.)

* … and on and on and on …

The main issue comes down to what you know (or what you think you know) and how you arrived at the conclusion that you know what you know.

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lukeprog January 25, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Craig himself has said the KCA presupposes the A-theory.

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Briang January 26, 2010 at 12:46 am

Luke,

I know that Craig says that KCA requires A-theory of time, but I’m not sure if Craig is right about this. I recently read his chapter in Blackwell Companion to natural Theology. He seems to interpret B-theory in a way I find implausible.

“But if one presupposes such a view of time, then Gott and Li’s hypothesis become superfluous. For, as we have seen, on B-theory of time the universe never truly comes into being at all. The whole four-dimensional space-time manifold just exists tenselessly, and the universe has a beginning only in the sense that a meter stick has a beginning prior to the first centimeter.” p. 193

But B-theory doesn’t just claim that the first moment exists tenselessly, but that every moment exists tenselessly. This doesn’t negate causal relations between events within time. There is some time when the first dinosaur was born. That moment is always in existence, and if we had a time machine we could go there and watch it happen. This doesn’t mean that dinosaurs don’t have a cause. How does B-theory get around the universe having a cause? If Craig’s view is right then all B-theorists should abandon searching for the cause of the universe.

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Revyloution January 27, 2010 at 8:46 pm

I have a question for you, if you do another round.

Do you find Bacon delicious? (yes, Bacon is capitalized, it is that wonderful)

That is a rhetorical question. Of course Bacon is delicious.

Because Bacon is delicious, do you see this as proof that God is real, and wants Jews and Muslims to suffer?

mmm. Bacon.

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lukeprog January 27, 2010 at 9:05 pm

I do love bacon.

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Briang January 27, 2010 at 10:25 pm

This is a sound argument:

1)If Bacon is delicious, then God exists.
2)Bacon is delicious.
3)Therefore, God exists.

1 is true since God exists regardless of whether bacon is delicious. 2 is true because it’s properly basic.

There are a lot of sound arguments for the existence of God, the trick is finding one where the atheist will accept the premises. Here’s another sound argument:

1) If my wife knows that God exists, then God exists.
2) My wife knows that God exists.
therefore
2) God exists.

1 is necessary true, since you can’t know something that is false. For 2, just ask my wife, she’ll tell you.

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lukeprog January 28, 2010 at 11:18 am

I’m somewhat persuaded by the bacon argument.

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exapologist January 28, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Actually, I see a particularly forceful argument for atheism in the deliciousness of bacon.

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Jeff H January 28, 2010 at 3:20 pm

You know, while you guys were over there discussing ridiculous arguments about God and bacon, I myself enjoyed a large, delicious plate of bacon.

So, I win.

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lukeprog January 28, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck…

:)

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