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: