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Melting Ice Waiting for Delivery
September 20, 2013 J. P. Holding

Melting Ice Waiting for Delivery

Posted in Forum Post

I once had one of those radical sort of Skeptics email me stating that they saw no reason to study in depth something they already knew would turn out to be untrue. Then he declared that we need higher standards of evidence for the Gospels than we do for a historical work like that of Tacitus, because there is no fact “on which a person would base his whole mode of life and world view.” In other words, for this reason, suddenly all standard and otherwise universally accepted tests are useless, and we need to arbitrarily raise the bar of evidence.

And indeed, arbitrary it is: Epistemic rules don’t suddenly become less effective or valid because the object of their study is more earth shaking than something else. This, of course, is merely variation on Carl Sagan’s arbitrary ECREE dictum — something formulated not as an objective standard for epistemology, but as a flippant pseudo-rebuttal to what Sagan had already decided were absurd claims. In turn, ECREE is merely Hume reanimated from the dead, when in reality he should remain politely dead.

But there’s another side as well; flip this objection over, and you’ll see a lot of beetles underneath. It is rightly recognized that yes, Christianity is something on which one may “base his whole mode of life and world view.” But the key word is MAY. One wonders what this objector has specifically in mind, and then, why they fail to see that it is a non-objection.

For example, do they suppose that being a Christian means dropping some view they hold with respect to (say) abortion, or homosexuality? That’s not true. There are plenty of professing Christians who hold to pro-choice views, or who side with gay marriage arguments.

Do they think it means they must become young earth creationists? Also not true. All it would fence off for them is hardcore materialism — the Christian spectrum includes everything else in between.

Do they think it means they’ll have to give up something like booze or cigarettes? Well, yes — Christians do continue with such vices.

More than that, there are more than a few atheists who think there are coherent arguments for being pro-life, or against gay marriage, or for not being into booze and cigarettes, and there is even reportedly an agnostic (David Berlinski) in the intelligent design movement. So it cuts both ways.

Believing in the Resurrection of Jesus may make it harder to hold on to views like pro-choice ones, of course; I’d say it requires a great deal more gymnastics to stay pro-choice and be Christian than otherwise. But that’s hardly the point, because the original objection implies that the problem is that someone doesn’t want to adopt a new “mode of life and world view.” Well — obviously, in practical terms, you don’t have to. You may make an unwitting fool of yourself in the process, of course. But there’s no magic barrier forcing you to change the way you think or act in the present.

So, from both sides of the aisle, this “mode of life and world view” objection is merely another of those excuses certain critics make as a way of arbitrarily raising the bar of evidence in order to ensure that it will never be hurdled to their satisfaction.

The tropical prince is still waiting for that ice.

Comment (1)

  1. todd.moody@gmail.com
    Todd 4 years ago

    There are even Christian materialists, though perhaps not “hard-core” materialists. That is, they believe that while God is not a material being, all of creation, including us, is entirely physical: no immaterial souls or anything like that. Peter Van Inwagen is an example of a Christian who holds this view; Glenn Peoples is another. So even a materialist philosophical anthropology is not out of the question for Christians, although I think it’s definitely a minority view.

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