Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Estranged Notions: Jesus’ Birth and when Herod the Great *Really* Died

More recycling going on, with a post from last Christmas recycled to the front page.

The whole series of Jimmy Akin's posts on dating are discussed here: Dating Jesus' Birth.

Monday, 21 December 2015

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

This article from last Christmas has been recycled to the SN front page with today's date (but still has its original comment thread.

I responded to several of its points in the original EN posting, so I'm not opening a new comment thread for it at this time; use the original one.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Estranged Notions: Does the Bible Affirm the Existence of Mythical Creatures?

Today's post:

Does the Bible Affirm the Existence of Mythical Creatures?

Translation issues aside, the obvious answer is "yes" — angels and talking snakes come to mind as examples.

Decline and Fall of SN?

This is the third week in a row without the usual number of articles on SN — the beginning of the end? Or just saving up material for Christmas?

It's not like new material is easy to come by at this point, as the prevalence of the "oh no not again" tag shows.

This is the new open thread; the old one is full.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Estranged Notions: Skeptic Bart Ehrman on Whether Jesus Really Existed

Today's post:

Skeptic Bart Ehrman on Whether Jesus Really Existed

This isn't even an article, just a posting of (part of?) the introduction to Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist?, widely regarded as his worst book and one that I personally regard as demonstrating an excellent argument for mythicism—or at least for ignoring the academic consensus for historicity.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Estranged Notions: Does the Bible Say All Atheists are Intellectually Dishonest?

Today's post:

Does the Bible Say All Atheists are Intellectually Dishonest?

This is another round in the argument with Koukl over Romans 1:18ff, and at this stage it descends into argument about whether the passages in question actually support Koukl's position. The alternative view (which I linked in the earlier post on this argument) of how to construe the Greek text (in the absence of punctuation) is of course not addressed.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Estranged Notions: Are Religious Kids Really Less Altruistic?

Today's post:

Are Religious Kids Really Less Altruistic?

Briggs snarks at the recent study that's been doing the rounds (which I hadn't bothered to look at in any detail though I'd seen mentions of it). However, of the criticisms I've now seen this is possibly the worst; Briggs waxes sarcastic about the fact that it's the parents' religiosity which is measured, which completely misses the point, while not actually bringing any serious criticism to the table. The biggest weakness of the study is probably that it's interpreting dictator-game outcomes as a measure of ‘altruism’, which seems extremely open to question.

The fact that this is a Templeton-funded study is enough for me personally not to take it very seriously, but I do notice that some religious critics of the study (looking at you Yancey) are quick to point out that the lead researcher identifies as a ‘secular Jew’ while not mentioning that the funding source has a strong pro-religion bias.

As for the statistics, if we put aside the question of whether the dictator-game outcome means anything, the results do at least suggest that religion does not have a large positive effect on this outcome (regardless of whether the negative effect is real or not). But the fact that the breakdown by country is not given—only the researcher's conclusions about various correlations or lack thereof—makes it hard to know whether or not Simpson's paradox or other ecological fallacies are in play or have been properly accounted for. So on balance I don't think the study updates any of my own beliefs to any real extent.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Estranged Notions: Do Atheists Simply Repress Their Knowledge of God?

Today's post:

Do Atheists Simply Repress Their Knowledge of God?

This is Feser's corner of a recent multi-way argument between apologist Greg Koukl, Randal Rauser, Feser, and atheist Jeff Lowder. Unsurprisingly Feser thinks that the Thomist perspective is the only right answer, but at least he has the apparent intellectual honesty to reject Koukl's nonsense.

But there's a wildcard in here that I didn't see mentioned by anyone involved. (I'd skimmed parts of this exchange on Rauser's blog and links before seeing this post). Koukl is using the usual “without excuse” clobber passage from Romans 1:18-20:

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Estranged Notions: “The Martian” and Why Each Life Matters

Barron goes to the movies again:

“The Martian” and Why Each Life Matters

(I haven't seen the movie yet, though it seems to be highly regarded.)

As usual, though, Barron's argument is an almost complete non-sequitur: yes, people set a high value on individual life (often inappropriately), but no, this isn't anything to do with our ability to handle abstractions; quite the reverse in fact.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Galileo vs. Bellarmine

This is a recent comment exchange between me and Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong on his Patheos blog. Armstrong, in a post on the Galileo affair, repeats some of the classic tropes of apologetic whitewashing of the Church's role in the incident. Since Armstrong seems to like the format of pulling up blog comment exchanges into a post, I figure he won't mind me doing it too.

I'm particularly interested in any corrections or clarifications to my side of the argument, or any major points that I missed.

I strongly recommend Annibale Fantoli's "The Case Of Galileo: A Closed Question?" (translated by George Coyne, published by University of Notre Dame) for those seeking a more reliable account of the Galileo affair without either the mythologizing or the apologetic whitewash.

The Case Of Galileo: A Closed Question? by Annibale Fantoli, trans. George V. Coyne (book sources)

Where have I whitewashed anything?

Monday, 19 October 2015

Estranged Notions: Trial by Fire: Modernity’s Response to Miracles

Today's post:

Trial by Fire: Modernity’s Response to Miracles

Heschmeyer apparently wants to believe that all those people who passed their trial-by-ordeal in the early middle ages were the beneficiaries of actual miracles, rather than that the priests were systematically fudging the trials.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Estranged Notions: Why Must the First Cause Still Be With Us Today?

Today's post:

Why Must the First Cause Still Be With Us Today?

Round two from Augros' supposed questioner. This time, though, the question being asked is fundamentally flawed.

Every single claimed example of a ‘per-se’ causal series I've ever seen has made one or both of these two errors:

Monday, 12 October 2015

Estranged Notions: The Myth of the War Between Science and Religion

Today's post:

The Myth of the War Between Science and Religion

Barron has literally nothing to say about the supposed topic of this article; all he can manage is to repeat the vacuous talking points (“look at all these (historical) scientists who were religious!”, “it's no accident that science appeared in Christian Europe!”, etc.) that we've seen before.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Estranged Notions: Should We Be Skeptical About Needing a First Cause?

Today's post:

Should We Be Skeptical About Needing a First Cause?

Michael Augros apparently wants to defend his Thomistic metaphysical b.s. against email challengers, but this post is just the challenge and not the response.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Estranged Notions: How Richard Dawkins Helps Prove Biblical Inspiration

Today's post (well, it was today's when I started, probably yesterday's by the time this is done):

How Richard Dawkins Helps Prove Biblical Inspiration

The ‘bronze-age goat-herders / desert tribes / whatever’ dismissal of the Bible is probably the atheist meme that I find most annoying. It's true that the Old Testament portrays itself—and of course not merely the Protestant fundamentalists but also a substantial Catholic traditionalist contingent concurs in this—as containing a record of bronze-age events and individuals; but this position has long since ceased to be tenable.

As usual, though, Heschmeyer fails to make any kind of credible response.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Estranged Notions: An Agnostic’s Assessment Of New Atheist Attitudes

Today's post:

An Agnostic’s Assessment Of New Atheist Attitudes

The agnostic in question is John Humphrys, veteran BBC presenter and journalist (and terror of politicians). One might possibly have hoped for a bit less of the strawman approach when dealing with the ‘New Atheists’, but I'm not sure how much of this is down to Nelson's reporting.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Friday, 18 September 2015

Estranged Notions: Is God Too Complex To Be The Creator?

Today's post:

Is God Too Complex To Be The Creator?

This is just the old canard about ‘divine simplicity’. Unfortunately, these days we have better definitions of simplicity, and handwaving by defining God as a mind with no parts is no longer a believable approach.

(Also, it's worth noting that the idea of an absolute beginning to the universe is if anything less strongly supported now than in the past; the latest results are consistent with theories of eternal inflation—which, contra some apologetic claims, are not ruled out by the BGV theorem, and indeed Guth (the G of BGV) is on record as regarding eternal inflation as the most likely result.)

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Estranged Notions: The Mystery of God (Sample + DVD Giveaway!)

Nothing here today except a plug for Barron's theological lesson stuff (with bonus nonsense from Horn). Link omitted because who cares?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Estranged Notions: St. Christopher, ET, and the Middle Ages

Yesterday's post:

St. Christopher, ET, and the Middle Ages

This is a Flynn post from 2009, which, fascinatingly, appears to be substantially copied from the Quodlibeta blog post (not actually by Hannam but one of his co-bloggers) linked in the text.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Estranged Notions: Mother Nature is One Unreliable Lady

Today's post:

Mother Nature is One Unreliable Lady

Now newly endowed with a fancier hat, Barron takes a dim view of nature-worship, rightly agreeing with the statement that nature really doesn't care about humans. But inevitably he takes this in the wrong direction, revealing the deep root of Christian anti-environmentalism: the belief that one can worship a powerful creator-god that does care about humans, that created nature for humans.

Of course not all Christian denominations develop this explicitly into an anti-environmental position; but even those that emphasize ‘stewardship’ theology still, at bottom, retain the dangerous belief that nature is for us, rather than that it simply is the environment that we happen to have evolved in. If we modify the environment beyond our own ability to survive, there will be nobody to blame but ourselves, and more importantly, there will be nobody else to appeal to to fix it.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Monday, 24 August 2015

Estranged Notions: An Outside-the-Box Argument for Jesus’ Resurrection

Today's post:

An Outside-the-Box Argument for Jesus’ Resurrection

This argument isn't really outside any boxes (and nor is it especially original), and it's also not really a “non-evidential” argument as claimed. The bottom line is that we have good grounds to accept reported experiences only when the probability that the report is false is not significantly greater than the prior probability of the experience; this rule arises from Bayes' theorem, but it's also the same principle given in informal terms by Hume:

No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle unless it is of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact that it tries to establish.

Dillon also misses another key point: we have the testimony in (probably) his own words of one very important early Christian—i.e. Paul—who reports seeing Jesus after his death, and it is clearly the description of a vision. We don't have any good reason to believe that this wasn't typical of early Christians. Even the author of Mark didn't see any need to include any physical post-resurrection experiences.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Estranged Notions: The Death of God and the Loss of Human Dignity

I will not even dignify this post with a link; it is just another turd in the ongoing baseless smear campaign against Planned Parenthood.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Estranged Notions: Can We Actually Know Anything About God?

Today's post:

Can We Actually Know Anything About God?

I need a stronger tag than “drivel”.

This one bases its argument primarily on the Aristotelian ‘principle of proportionate causation’, which Heschmeyer seems to think is “so basic that [it] ought to be uncontroversial”. But on the contrary, like many aspects of Aristotelian metaphysics, it's either vacuous or false, and arguments that make use of it rely on equivocating between the vacuous sense and the false sense.

Similarly, it's a fallacy of composition to assume that because something is present in the effect it must therefore be present in the cause, or that the cause must be ‘greater’ than the effect.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Estranged Notions: What is Classical Theism?

Today's post:

What is Classical Theism?

Nothing much of substance here, since this is Cothran's argument against a fellow theologian (Stephen H. Webb) who, at least as Cothran puts it, finds the classical-theism God—the immutable, omni*, etc. ‘ultimate ground of being’—to be inconsistent with (a) important aspects of Christian theology and (b) our current understanding of the nature of the universe.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Estranged Notions: Does the Bible Support Same-Sex Marriage?

Today's post:

Does the Bible Support Same-Sex Marriage?

As I believe I've mentioned before, I am, as an atheist, entirely in favour of the Catholic church (and other churches) harping on sexual issues as much as possible, because it's the most effective way of both undercutting their claim to moral authority and driving away many members. (The 2009 Pew survey showed that the top reasons given for leaving the Catholic church—all ranked above the abuse scandals—were the church's positions on homosexuality, abortion, contraception, and divorce, and the status of women.)

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Estranged Notions: Does “Atheology” Exist?

Yesterday's post:

Does “Atheology” Exist?

Feser correctly disagrees with Plantinga, though on a point which seems to me to be more about terminology than substance. Feser's mistake of course is in thinking that metaphysics (and hence ‘natural theology’) is somehow prior to science.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Estranged Notions: The Splendor of Thomistic Theism

Today's post:

The Splendor of Thomistic Theism

Blue Sky Nonsense: reviewing “Blue Sky God: The Evolution of Science and Christianity” pt. 1: The Quantum Sea of Light

Blue Sky God: The Evolution of Science and Christianity by Don MacGregor (book sources)

Zero Point Field

Zero point energy! We've had most of the other quantum-woo tropes, so I guess it's no surprise that we get this one too. Inexhaustible energy! Misunderstandings of what renormalization is! Invisible webs connecting everything to everything else!

A new wrinkle that I haven't seen before: the claim that the zero-point field contains a permanent record of everything that has ever happened in the universe. Huh, didn't see that one coming.

Our (or rather MacGregor's) sources for all this are once again Lynne McTaggart (who remember is just a journalist), Bernard Haisch, and Ervin László, though this time when referring to László's claimed nominations for the Nobel, MacGregor does at least mention that it's the Peace prize. (The nominations for Nobels are not made public for 50 years, and the nomination process for the Peace prize simply allows anyone from a long list of qualified positions to send in suggested names. Got a couple of friends in government or who are professors of social science or philosophy? You too could be nominated for the Peace prize!)

(An aside: several names in this chapter are misspelled, making it harder than usual to track down the actual researchers. Whether this is MacGregor's error or McTaggart's is not clear.)

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Blue Sky Nonsense: reviewing “Blue Sky God: The Evolution of Science and Christianity” pt. 1: Morphic Fields and the Works of Christ

Blue Sky God: The Evolution of Science and Christianity by Don MacGregor (book sources)

Fields and Forms

Fields are all around us, yes. MacGregor again harps on about the possibility of unknown forces—while it might be too strong a statement to say these are ruled out, a good deal of effort has been expended by experimental physicists to measure the absence of such things in highly sensitive ways. The gambit of “we don't know that there aren't other forces, so it's totally OK to propose (without evidence) that such unknown forces exist and have major macroscopic effects” is a hallmark of pseudoscience.

Blue Sky Nonsense: reviewing “Blue Sky God: The Evolution of Science and Christianity” pt. 1: Epigenetics, Healing and Prayer

Blue Sky God: The Evolution of Science and Christianity by Don MacGregor (book sources)

“Epigenetics” is the new “quantum”.
dozens of blog commenters

Biology and Energy Fields

If you ask an actual biologist about what “fascinating new insights” there have been in the field recently, you'll likely get a long and varied list; but one thing that won't be on it is “energy fields”. MacGregor, though, has swallowed the pseudoscience hook, line and sinker:

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Blue Sky Nonsense: reviewing “Blue Sky God: The Evolution of Science and Christianity” pt. 1: Quantum Reality and God as Consciousness

Blue Sky God: The Evolution of Science and Christianity by Don MacGregor (book sources)

(Headings in italics are mine, rather than referring to the book.)

Quantum Science and Consciousness, and The Primacy of Consciousness

MacGregor jumps right in the deep end by claiming—before even getting more than 2 pages in—that a “new paradigm suggests that the prime mover in the universe is not matter, but consciousness”. He identifies quantum measurements—i.e. ‘wavefunction collapse’—as necessarily involving conscious minds and presents this as if it were the established and only interpretation of QM that exists. He quotes Max Planck (“This mind is the matrix of all matter”) but via a secondary source that seems to misplace the occasion of the statement. Otherwise the only scientist referenced is Goswami.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Blue Sky Nonsense: reviewing “Blue Sky God: The Evolution of Science and Christianity” pt. 1: Introduction

Blue Sky God: The Evolution of Science and Christianity by Don MacGregor (book sources)

To say that I am not the target audience for this book would be a massive understatement; I was lent it by a family member who wanted my opinion on the ‘Science’ parts. Theologically, this is a book in the much-parodied liberal Anglican tradition (Episcopalian for those in the US); people such as Karen Armstrong, John Selby Spong, Marcus Borg and J.A.T. Robinson feature notably in the bibliography. Obviously I do not propose to criticize it from a theological perspective; but I may have something to say about the ethical consequences of some parts.

Estranged Notions: The Dogmas and Failure of Rational Atheism

Today's post:

The Dogmas and Failure of Rational Atheism

Usual drivel. Criticizes Harris' The End Of Faith as though it were the be-all and end-all of atheist criticism of religion; spouts typical nonsense about things like the Golden Rule (which predates not only Christianity but even Judaism, and was independently stated in philosophies such as Confucianism) and the consequences of atheism.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Estranged Notions: 8 More Keys to the Catholic Environmental Vision

Part 2 of the previous post:

8 More Keys to the Catholic Environmental Vision

Well, it turns out that these two posts would have been better titled “How to maximize the conflict between Catholics and atheists on environmental issues”.

Almost every point here is dangerously wrong either in its understanding of the facts or in its implications for policy (or both).

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Estranged Notions: Can Catholics and Atheists Agree on the Environment?

Today's post:

Can Catholics and Atheists Agree on the Environment?

Really only half a post, because the points covered don't actually lead anywhere substantive; the rest is supposedly coming in another post.

What is this I don't even

I haven't made a practice of posting about random Catholic news/blog posts but this one was just too WTF? to let pass:

What happens when an entire country becomes infested with demons?

Even just the headline of the piece is dripping with insanity.

(This is also the new open thread; the previous one is getting a bit big.)

Friday, 12 June 2015

Estranged Notions: Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will: A Review of Alfred Mele’s “Free”

Today's post:

Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will: A Review of Alfred Mele’s “Free”

Feser attacks a strawman here by focusing on Libet's original experiments only, and completely ignoring the subsequent investigations along similar lines; the Wikipedia article Neuroscience of free will gives a useful summary.

The other issue of course is that “free will” is not exactly a well-defined concept, and “do we have free will” appears to be a wrong question.

(I hadn't previously noticed that Feser had written for that odious organ the City Journal, which seems to exist to distill out the worst of allegedly-‘intellectual’ conservatism and concentrate it in one steaming pile.)

Friday, 5 June 2015

Estranged Notions: How to Prove that Transcendentalism is True

Today's post is Kreeft's next bash at trying to refute reductionism:

How to Prove that Transcendentalism is True

While there is more of an actual substantive argument in this post than the last, the quality of the logic has not improved.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Estranged Notions: Why Reality Includes More (Not Less) Than You May Think

Today's post:

Why Reality Includes More (Not Less) Than You May Think

Kreeft thinks he can refute reductionism by means of inane schoolboy logic ("it's a universal negative claim! there could be a counterexample anywhere in the universe!"). Needless to say this position would be laughed at by any sane philosopher.

However Kreeft doesn't stop digging there; he plunges headlong into vitalism by claiming that "souls" can "defy" gravity—a living person can jump, a dead one generally can't—which makes me wonder whether he thinks that jumping cheetah robots have souls.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Estranged Notions: The 6 Varieties of Atheism (and Which Are Most Defensible)

Today's post:

The 6 Varieties of Atheism (and Which Are Most Defensible)

Unsurprisingly, Feser fails to avoid taking his usual potshots at his bêtes noires, the "New Atheists". Other than that his categorization is quite simplistic (and fascinating in that he doesn't seem to notice that he defines 9 varieties, not 6).

Friday, 29 May 2015

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Estranged Notions: Is “Heaven” to Blame for Murder?

Today's post:

Is “Heaven” to Blame for Murder?

Horn incorrectly frames an argument (concerning the Janzen murder/suicide case) as being a fallacious appeal to consequences, by conflating the concepts of “X is true” and “belief in X is good”; the first is a fact question, the second a value question.

For bonus points, Horn then proceeds to gratuitously bring in the issue of homosexuality. I find myself very much in favour of this move and think that Catholic apologists should engage in it whenever possible; the more that they harp on it, the more it diminishes their credibility in modern society.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Estranged Notions: Do You Need God to Know That Abortion is Wrong?

Oh dear.

Do You Need God to Know That Abortion is Wrong?

I don't know whether this is deliberate dishonesty or egregious error: the article has a graph[edit: see below] supposedly showing the "latest" polling data on abortion but which is actually from 2012. This isn't because the whole article is recycled, either, because it is responding to a piece in The New Republic from last month.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Estranged Notions: Why Atheists Change Their Mind: 8 Common Factors

Today's post (or yesterday's by the time I'm done with this):

Why Atheists Change Their Mind: 8 Common Factors

There's a whole list of things wrong with this article, unsurprisingly. It's a typical religious apologist's view of conversion that prefers anecdote to facts.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Estranged Notions: Can Victims of Cannibals be Raised from the Dead?

Today's post:

Can Victims of Cannibals be Raised from the Dead?

Honestly, a question like that could well be raised in, say, a discussion of the Resurrection spell in D&D, in which everyone involved is aware that it's just a game. As with Newland's previous post on resurrection, though, trying to bring it up in what is supposed to be a serious rational discussion is little more than a joke.

Also, the article makes no attempt whatsoever to actually deal with recycling as an objection to the previous article.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Estranged Notions: Why Materialism and Dualism Both Fail to Explain Your Mind

Today's post:

Why Materialism and Dualism Both Fail to Explain Your Mind

While the previous article in this series was useful—not in the sense of having correct and applicable positions, but in the sense of putting up clear targets to demolish—this one simply descends back into drivel by not merely failing to justify its position but actually resorting to the irrational and anti-intellectual appeal to “mystery”.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Estranged Notions: Body, Soul, and the Mind/Brain Question

Today's post:

Body, Soul, and the Mind/Brain Question

More of the old Aristotelian nonsense, but this article is potentially more useful in that it makes the fundamental errors more obvious.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Estranged Notions: Is Religion Responsible for the World’s Violence?

Yesterday's post:

Is Religion Responsible for the World’s Violence?

A mixed bag. While Heschmeyer has some correct criticisms, especially of Sam Harris, he tries to make his case using the most ridiculous collection of sources—quoting for example that bastion of authoritative journalism the Daily Mail for some heavily inflated numbers for deaths attributed to Mao and Stalin, and climate-denialist novelist Michael Crichton on the inevitability of religion (taken out of context from a speech in which he repeats an entire litany of easily debunked anti-environmentalist myths).

Monday, 13 April 2015

Estranged Notions: Real Encounter: 13 Reasons Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Hallucinate

Today's post:

Real Encounter: 13 Reasons Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Hallucinate

Summary: the disciples did not hallucinate because the accounts in the NT—which are totally historically accurate right down to the last scrap of hearsay—aren't consistent with naïve ideas of how hallucinations work.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Estranged Notions: Debunking the Conspiracy Theory: 7 Arguments Why Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Lie

Today's post:

Debunking the Conspiracy Theory: 7 Arguments Why Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Lie

Another very poor showing from Kreeft. His response assumes from the start that everything in the Gospels and Acts about who the disciples were and what they did is unquestioned historical fact; it discounts the probability that the Gospel stories did not originate in the original circle of disciples (assuming for the sake of argument that this existed) but were at least a generation later; it assumes that those original disciples would have needed to make easily-controverted claims in public and in such a way that the Jewish authorities would have had to take note; and so on.

Kreeft even claims that no-one confessed under torture that it was a conspiracy—but we have absolutely no reason to suspect that anyone in the original group of disciples was ever tortured for any reason! We know nothing about the circumstances of any of their deaths; the “traditional” martyrdom accounts accreted over time and were never credible.

And who does he use as authorities? Blaise Pascal, Aquinas, and William Lane Craig...

Monday, 6 April 2015

Estranged Notions: Rejecting the Swoon Theory: 9 Reasons Why Jesus Did Not Just Faint on the Cross

Today's post:

Rejecting the Swoon Theory: 9 Reasons Why Jesus Did Not Just Faint on the Cross

The “swoon theory” is none too strong as an explanation, but Kreeft's attempts to refute it are quite pathetic. He relies heavily on the historical accuracy of GJohn—and even makes the untenable traditional claim that it was written by an eyewitness—and also makes unjustifiably strong claims about Roman practices.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Estranged Notions: 5 Possible Theories that Explain the Resurrection of Jesus

Today's post:

5 Possible Theories that Explain the Resurrection of Jesus

Kreeft starts a series attempting to prove the historicity of the Resurrection, and already he's in trouble; the idea that any of the alternative theories can be “refuted” in any strong sense is obviously foolish (nothing in history is ever entirely certain), so to justify the Resurrection theory by eliminating alternatives, he has to show that the probability of the disjunction of all alternative theories is low enough to overcome the low prior we must necessarily assign to a miracle claim.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Estranged Notions: Sacrifice and the Sacred

Today's (technically yesterday's) post:

Sacrifice and the Sacred

Girard's theories seem ... overblown, to me. The nature, frequency and circumstances of eventual abolition of human sacrifice are highly variable between cultures, and one of the more common and longest-surviving forms—the funerary sacrifice, where slaves, retainers, wives or concubines of a sufficiently prominent man were killed at his funeral—seems to me to have little to do with conflict (mimetic or otherwise). (Or if it did, why isn't it even more common?)

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Estranged Notions: 9 Things Salon.com Gets Wrong About Jesus

Today's post:

9 Things Salon.com Gets Wrong About Jesus

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist by trade, and has written some useful articles from that perspective (one of which is linked from the References page), but has written some other articles for Alternet (some recently picked up by Salon) which are fairly weak as far as factual accuracy goes. Sorenson rips into one here, and the only real surprise is that even on such an easy target his criticism is pretty poor.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Estranged Notions: Marin Mersenne: A Priest at the Heart of the Scientific Revolution

Today's post is another “Look! Catholic dude does science!” article:

Marin Mersenne: A Priest at the Heart of the Scientific Revolution

Of course one can't help noticing things like this:

Furthermore, he “established that the intensity of sound, like that of light, is inversely proportional to the distance from its source.”

This quote is cited to the Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, which does indeed have those words, but of course anyone who knows even the first thing about either sound or light knows that it is incorrect. Consulting the original source—Mersenne's Harmonicorum libri XII, book 2, proposition 39—seems to show that Mersenne did indeed have it as the inverse square, not the inverse, assuming I'm correctly construing his Latin in spite of the rather dubious assistance of Google Translate; he states that a quadrupling of the intensity of the source would double the distance at which the sound could be heard.

Score Mersenne 1, biographers and theologians 0.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Estranged Notions: How Modern Art Led Me to God

Yesterday's post:

How Modern Art Led Me to God

I'd have said that this was the usual lame attempt to argue from objective aesthetics to God, except that I've never yet seen Fulwiler produce anything resembling an argument and this post is no exception. Her style is just to handwave and emote at you vaguely rather than make any attempt at substance.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Terry Pratchett Memorial Thread

Sir Terry Pratchett OBE, world-famous author of the Discworld series and other fantasy and science-fiction works, is reported to have died today aged 66 from complications of early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Estranged Notions: Dressgate: Is Perception Reality?

Today's post:

Dressgate: Is Perception Reality?

Fascinatingly, Becklo manages to botch the issue in a whole bunch of separate ways, even though it is really quite simple: the word “colour” is being used to refer to a whole cluster of related but non-identical concepts.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Estranged Notions: Do Christians Believe in Talking Snakes?

Today's post:

Do Christians Believe in Talking Snakes?

So that whole thing with the garden and the talking snake? Turns out it could just be a metaphor! Maybe there was never a literal garden and a literal tree and an actual snake. Shock!

Except Adam and Eve. They were really real for realz.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Monday, 9 February 2015

Monday, 2 February 2015

Estranged Notions: Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science

First half of a blog post by Feser from a month or so back, in which he tries to account for radioactive decay using Aristotelian causation and doesn't notice that he destroys the argument from motion in the process. (Though that doesn't show up until the second half.)

Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Estranged Notions: Why Having a Heart of Gold is Not What Christianity is About

Today's post:

Why Having a Heart of Gold is Not What Christianity is About

So apparently Christianity isn't about ethics but rather “the explosive emergence of a new world”. 2000 years on, and the same old world is turning just as it always did. Isn't this argument starting to wear a bit thin?

Friday, 23 January 2015

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

A year of Notional Estrangement

The Great Purge was a year ago today (give or take some hours either way).

Stats since then: over 157 thousand pageviews, over 17 thousand comments.

So consider this a feedback thread (not an open thread, I'm leaving the existing one of those open). Anything I should do differently?

Estranged Notions: Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

Today's post:

Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

Starts off by answering the wrong question, then proceeds to deploy argument by assertion (“God does X” ... yes, and you know this how?).

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Estranged Notions: The Real War on Science

Bit of an oddball article this time around:

The Real War on Science

I'd sum this one up as “likes mathematical models and demarcating science from metaphysics, dislikes Big Data and string theory”. On demarcating science and metaphysics he rightly says that Aristotle made no such distinction; but apparently fails to miss that the demarcation in modern times is demanded not by scientists, but by philosophers and theologians in order to protect their metaphysical territory from the incursion of awkward scientific facts.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Estranged Notions: Monogenism or Polygenism?: The Question of Human Origins

So we get Feser's part 2, and it's just “Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice” over again:

Monogenism or Polygenism?: The Question of Human Origins

This insistence on an all-or-nothing model of rationality or sapience (a ‘rational soul’ which is either present or absent) is ridiculous.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Estranged Notions: Knowing an Ape from Adam

More from Feser:

Knowing an Ape from Adam

This part (1 of 2) is pretty vacuous; just skips over the awkward parts by asserting (via a broken link) that the immateriality of intellect is already “shown”, and then recites various dogmatic statements from popes and theologians. Nothing resembling either evidence or argument.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Estranged Notions: Three False Christs: The Myth, the Mortal, and the Guru

Enough strawmen here to fill any number of stables:

Three False Christs: The Myth, the Mortal, and the Guru

Olson's primary choice of targets are those noted scholarly experts Dan Brown, Deepak Chopra, and Christopher Hitchens; no mention of anyone with much actual credibility (such as, say, recent academic publications) on the topic. Also commits the error of treating the gospels as a consistent unit, and ignoring the inconsistencies.