News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on June 13, 2010 in News

Remember my apology? Here is one more from another ex-Christian. Hallelujah!

Upcoming guests include Zachary Moore (on building atheist communities), Lydia McGrew, John Doris, and Daniel Jacobson. Post your questions for them below.

Chimpanzee rapes a frog. Not exaggerating.

The new episode of Point of Inquiry with Tim Farley of What’s the Harm is full of great advice on how to make a difference in the world as a skeptical thinker.

TED is doing debates now? Awesome.

Locke on atheism.

Big update to the Internet Atheism Search Engine.

This video will make you really pissed about cheerleading not being considered a sport.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark June 13, 2010 at 6:46 pm

1. Please ask Lydia McGrew what her current thinking is on the role of countable additivity in regards to the fine-tuning argument.

2. Please ask Lydia McGrew what her Bayesian analysis of the credibility of the Resurrection would say about alien abductions, witchcraft in Salem, etc.

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Justfinethanks June 13, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Chimpanzee rapes a frog. Not exaggerating.

Awesome!

*crosses item off of “Things To See Before I Die” list*

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Bill Maher June 13, 2010 at 7:47 pm

ask Lydia McGrew what she thinks about chimps raping frogs.

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Beelzebub June 14, 2010 at 12:01 am

Kermit is not at all amused. That is serious frog abuse, ribbit.

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Zeb June 14, 2010 at 3:29 am

“Chimpanzee rapes a frog.”
How is that supposed to prove evolution? Just because we have smooth skin and slightly webbed hands and feet does not mean we came from monkeys and frogs doing it! Stupid atheists.

kidding of course

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Robert Gressis June 14, 2010 at 8:59 am

Very excited about your upcoming interview with Lydia. She’s feisty, and I bet Luke and she disagrees about literally as much as possible for two people to disagree about while still being able to communicate their thoughts to each other.

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lukeprog June 14, 2010 at 11:23 am

Robert,

Yup. But I plan not to push the disagreements much. For example, I shall resist asking her about her post “Stop Muslim Immigration for the Sake of Parental Rights“. You’re right that I probably disagree with Lydia about more than anyone else I’ve interviewed. The possible exception is James Spiegel, but Lydia’s work touches more often on topics that interest me. I guess Sean McDowell might be another, but I don’t know.

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Rob June 14, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Ask Dr. McGrew why she thinks that if the resurrection occurred, then the probability of Yahweh existing approaches one. It seems to me there are numerous other possible explanations, none of which require positing anything supernatural. For example, a trans-dimensional powerful super-being from an orthogonal universe could have been in the neighborhood and thought Jesus was was worthy of re-animating. Or perhaps an alien with advanced technology did it. Or maybe a time travelling human physician from the future did it.

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al friedlander June 14, 2010 at 1:24 pm

I had no idea that Locke believed in such things…

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ayer June 14, 2010 at 2:25 pm

“a trans-dimensional powerful super-being from an orthogonal universe could have been in the neighborhood and thought Jesus was was worthy of re-animating. Or perhaps an alien with advanced technology did it. Or maybe a time travelling human physician from the future did it.”

Yes, and perhaps one of those beings, and not the 9/11 terrorists, were responsible for bringing down the World Trade Center, but in the politico-historical context of 2001, the odds of that are tiny. Similarly, the odds of any of them being responsible for the resurrection in the religio-historical context of 1st century Judaism in Palestine are tiny.

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Rob June 14, 2010 at 2:42 pm

ayer,

You seem to miss the point. If a violation of natural law as we understand it occurs, there can be many explanations other than “a god did it”. Your analogy is ridiculous.

If you agree with Dr McGrew, then answer my question. Why, if the resurrection in fact occurred, would the probability of Yahweh existing approach 1?

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Jacopo June 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm

It would be interesting if John Doris thinks if the question ‘what is the self?’ has any clear answer, or whether the numerous ways in which the word is used and applied makes untangling the concept impossible (as some philosophers, I believe, have supposed).

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o_O June 14, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Luke,

Can you ask Lydia more about her criticisms of fine-tuning arguments?

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ayer June 14, 2010 at 4:44 pm

“You seem to miss the point. If a violation of natural law as we understand it occurs, there can be many explanations other than “a god did it”. Your analogy is ridiculous.

If you agree with Dr McGrew, then answer my question. Why, if the resurrection in fact occurred, would the probability of Yahweh existing approach 1?”

I don’t know about “approaching 1″–I haven’t read her work in detail. However, taking into account the religio-historical context of 1st century palestinian judaism, how would you go about assigning probabilities to various supernatural scenarios (since we are assuming that the resurrection occurred and that it resulted from a supernatural cause)?

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Robert Gressis June 14, 2010 at 5:28 pm

I’ve actually asked Tim McGrew about this. His answer was illuminating and persuasive, if I remember it correctly. I think it would be worth asking Lydia the same question, because this question often comes up, or at least often occurs to people.

And yes, I would recommend not talking about politics, just because the comments section will get unpleasant.

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Bill Maher June 14, 2010 at 7:14 pm

ayer is making my brain hurt. assigning probabilities to magic and calling it history it just ridiculous.

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Rob June 14, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Here is the relevant passage:

“That the resurrection is positively relevant to theism on ordinary background evidence should be obvious. To state the matter modestly and slightly loosely, the probability that God exists is higher if there is significant independent evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than if there is no such evidence, and this is true because the probability that the resurrection took place is virtually nil if there is no God and higher if there is. On any plausible background assumptions, if Jesus of Nazareth died and then rose again bodily three days later, the probability of T is approximately equal to 1.”

T = Theism being true.

It is not obvious to me that if a dead person comes back to life that that makes theism significantly more likely to be true, much less approximatively 100% likely. It does not even require a supernatural explanation, as my examples above show.

Also, why theism? Why would McGrew not argue that the resurrection makes the existence of resurrection fairies near certain? I’m sure that sounds absurd to her, since she is an outsider to fairy belief. As I am an outsider to god(s) belief. So, to me her claim seems arbitrary.

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ayer June 15, 2010 at 4:56 am

“Also, why theism? Why would McGrew not argue that the resurrection makes the existence of resurrection fairies near certain?”

If Jesus had lived in a non-Jewish culture defined by fairy-belief, and had made radical claims to be fairy-savior and Son of the Fairies instead of living in a culture defined by monotheistic Yahweh-belief in which he made radical claims to be the Jewish Messiah and Son of God (which were vindicated by his resurrection after death on the cross), you might have a point. However, given the religio-historical context, your point is (needless to say) weak.

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Rob June 15, 2010 at 4:39 pm

ayer,

OK, I think I see what you are getting at. Your claim seems to be this: If a violation of natural law occurs, then that is evidence that the peculiar religious beliefs of the folks reporting this incident are more likely true.

So, we have reports of a violation of natural law following the death of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism. So, according to your premise, if these reports are accurate, then that is evidence that Sikhism is true.

Similarly, even to this day, Mormons give reports of violations of natural laws. So, according to your premise, if these reports are accurate, then that is evidence that Mormonism is true.

And so on, for every religion on earth.

Are you sure that is a premise you want to hold to?

It seems to me, that if a violation of natural law occurs, then the idiosyncratic beliefs of those reporting the event are not in any way supported.

(Of course, we don’t have sufficient evidence to believe that a violation of natural laws has ever occurred.)

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ayer June 15, 2010 at 5:07 pm

“It seems to me, that if a violation of natural law occurs, then the idiosyncratic beliefs of those reporting the event are not in any way supported.”

And what exactly is your argument for that? I’m still not clear on it.

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Rob June 16, 2010 at 3:41 am

ayer,

Because a miracle is a one off event, and from a one off event, I don’t see how we can determine the cause.

Suppose my neighbor believes fairies are responsible for missing socks. She conducts a one off controlled demonstration for James Randi where a sock disappears into thin air. Randi rightly pays her one million dollars. But does that mean fairies exist, and are responsible for the vanishing sock? No.

Nice attempt to shift the burden. But that’s fine. I would do it too if I was being crushed by the burden your trying to support here.

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ayer June 16, 2010 at 4:59 am

@Rob,

All historical events are “one-off” events in that sense, and “controlled demonstrations” are not possible in historical research. Of course, in the sense that multiple miracles are recorded in the NT in connection Jesus, the resurrection is not a “one-off.” But even if it was singular–so is the Big Bang, the origin of life on earth, etc. That doesn’t stop researchers from attempting to “determine a cause” for those “one-off” events.

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Rob June 16, 2010 at 5:22 am

ayer,

You are moving the goalpost. Try to stay on point. We are assuming that Jesus did actually rise from the dead. You claim that this is somehow strong evidence that Yahweh exists. You have yet to even present a kernel of an argument for that claim. All you have done is some hand waving at the “religio-historical context”.

Let’s look at my fairy believer/vanishing sock example. According to you, since the sock miraculously vanished in the context of a fairy believer, that this somehow provides strong evidence for fairies.

Can you elaborate that for me? I just don’t get it.

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ayer June 16, 2010 at 7:03 am

“All you have done is some hand waving at the “religio-historical context”.”

If you think that constitutes mere “hand-waving” then I guess we are at a communicative impasse. It will be interesting to see what McGrew says about it.

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Rob June 16, 2010 at 7:16 am

OK. No shame in punting.

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other eric June 16, 2010 at 10:05 am

uh-oh,
this pretty much proves that god exists and he DOES NOT like graven images. didn’t he tell us this already? when will we ever learn?

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127853137&ps=cprs

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lukeprog June 16, 2010 at 10:56 am

But we do so love graven images. We can’t help ourselves!

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Newman June 19, 2010 at 12:58 am

You should ask Lydia about her thoughts on the historicity of Matt. 27:51-53.

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