Saturday, 20 December 2014

Scheduling note

I have no idea what schedule, if any, SN will be keeping over the holiday, but I have my own family commitments; so posts may be delayed. (Personally, I mark the winter holiday season as starting on the solstice and ending at perihelion...)

Friday, 5 December 2014

Estranged Notions: Do the “Infancy Narratives” of Matthew and Luke Contradict Each Other?

Oh dear, looks like today is “frantically try and paper over the awkward bits in the Bible” day:

Do the “Infancy Narratives” of Matthew and Luke Contradict Each Other?

This one is so bad it could have come from AIG; Staples' tries to reconcile the question of where Joseph and Mary lived (Luke says Nazareth, with a visit to Bethlehem for the census; Matthew implies they lived at Bethlehem until forced to flee) by arguing that Matthew doesn't actually say that the house where the Magi visited Jesus was in Bethlehem rather than Nazareth. He chooses to ignore:

  • that had Jesus already been living in Nazareth at that time, there would have been no cause to flee to Egypt
  • that on returning from Egypt, Joseph and Mary's first reported intent was to return to Judea, not Galilee, and they have to be warned off that idea
  • when Nazareth is finally mentioned, the context is “he made his home in a town called Nazareth”, using the Greek word κατῴκησεν, ‘settle in’, ‘colonize’

All in all it's absolutely clear that the author of GMatthew did not believe that Jesus and his family had been anywhere but Bethlehem before their flight. (It's also absolutely clear that he cares nothing about facts, since every single step in this story is explicitly stated to “fulfill what had been spoken” in various scraps of Jewish scripture.)

To claim as Staples does that the author of Matthew simply chose not to mention Nazareth earlier is to do violence to the text as written; a classic example of reading into a text something which is not there, with no justification.

Also, of course, this one point barely scratches the surface of the contradictions between Matthew and Luke, the contradictions between both and actual history, and the contradictions between Matthew and Luke's infancy stories and Mark's portrayal of Jesus' family.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Estranged Notions: Debunking One of the Worst Argument Against Atheism

Today's post:

Debunking One of the Worst Argument Against Atheism

While I encourage the idea of theists (or indeed atheists) criticizing the poor arguments of their own side, this particular effort is quite weak. Not because the argument is in fact strong, but because the criticism fails to expose its true weakness.

The argument in question is: in order to know that there is no God, you would have to know everything, i.e. be omniscient yourself.

The true flaw in this argument is this: it mistakes a universal claim for an existential claim. To know with certainty that no black swan exists, you would have to examine every swan in the universe; the negation of the existential claim "there exists a black swan" is the universal claim "all swans are not black". But no statement concerning an omni-attributed god can be simply existential; the claim "there exists an omni-present God" also means "for all places, God is present there" – a universal claim nested inside the existential one.

Accordingly, one does not need to survey the whole of spacetime to disprove an omni-present God; it suffices to show one single place which lacks a God (according to the theist's definition of God). Similarly, an omni-benevolent God is refuted by a single unnecessary evil.

Beaumont's argument is that we can refute the existential claim with logic, which is fine as far as it goes, but notice that this results in devaluing the significance of the evidence against God. Beaumont is obviously a Rationalist in the sense I attack in Against Rationalism; he apparently hasn't considered that we can have strong inductive evidence against the nested universal claim, even if we have no deductive proof of impossibility.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Estranged Notions: What Racism Reveals About God and Man

Belated link to yesterday's post:

What Racism Reveals About God and Man

As usual, there is no actual attempt to engage with secular concepts of ethics, just a brute denial that they exist. (Really need an even more disparaging tag than "drivel" for these kinds of posts.)