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September 09, 2010

Comments

Does he desire to share the outcome of his investigations and thinking with others?

That can't be the reason for him writing the book since his desires cannot possibly have any causal influence over his behavior. His desires are merely the product of his physical brain states. It's the physical brain states that cause behavior, not the properties that emerge from those brain states.

STR's fear of Hawking and his new book seems to have reached levels previously reserved for Bart Ehrman. It is natural to protects one's weakest points, and I think STR is telegraphing where they think some of their weakest points are.

We have had three comically misinformed posts in one week devoted to a book that Melinda has not even read. This leaves little doubt that when Melinda does read the book, she will not be seeking to understand it. She has already decided that Hawking is wrong, and she shows no desire to learn from this man.

You have to understand something before you can develop an informed opinion regarding its truth. From evolution, to developmental biology, to neuroscience, to cosmology, what I see repeatedly here is a resistance to first acquiring the understanding of the subject. The conclusions are presumed at the outset, and any further investigation is an exercise in gathering rhetorical ammunition.

Hi Eric,
Your comment looks to me like self analysis.

STR's fear of Hawking and his new book seems to have reached levels previously reserved for Bart Ehrman.

Of course. Whenever somebody responds to an argument against their point of view, it's always motivated by fear. And since it's motivated by fear, it's illegitimate. Nevermind what their actual arguments are or whether the arguments are sound. We know the real motive is fear, and since it's fear, their position must be false.

There's no need to address somebody's argument when we can just psychoanalyze them. Eric has given us a fine demonstration of that by psychoanalyzing Melinda instead of addressing any of her arguments.

Well done, Eric.

Daron,

No, I seek to understand first. The fact that I disagree with you on some things doesn't mean I haven't made a good faith effort to understand them. I seek to understand reality as it is. An apologist seeks to defend some view they already hold, reality notwithstanding. These are very different approaches.

I can read Hawking or Ehrman and either agree or disagree with them, once I have understood their positions and explanations. Melinda must disagree. It's part of her job description.

I can read a passage in the Bible and either agree or disagree, once I have understood it's meaning and it's message. Melinda must agree. It's part of her job description.

Eric,

If Hawking is right, you're not free to do anything. You react. Clearly, your posts are just programmed responses, so I'll just respond to you as if you're emoting, not reasoning.

By the way, you didn't even begin to scratch the points Melinda put forward. You dismissed them through motive mongering.

Let's assume that you're entire post is correct and Melinda is "required" to disagree, which you're not and she isn't—she can still be correct. She's at least put forward something to actually challenge. You have not.

Sam,

Of course, I never said she was wrong because of her motives.

I attempted to discuss the substance in her first post on Hawking's book. I asked a very simple, non-confrontational, questions aimed at clarifying the situation (you can go look at it - pretty basic stuff). Melinda would have none of it. Instead of responding, or dealing in any way with my concerns or those of others in the thread, she posted a follow up repeating the same questionable claims. Now she has written a third post, without bothering to address the concerns that have been raised in any way.

There's no reason for me to post the same questions to her in three threads when she has given no indication that she will even read, much less respond, to them.

Of course, I never said she was wrong because of her motives.

I know you didn't. That's the problem with ad hominems. They suffer from irrelevance. Nothing you said about Melinda was at all relevant to whether her point of view was correct or not.

There's no reason for me to post the same questions to her in three threads when she has given no indication that she will even read, much less respond, to them.

Since you could not advance the discussion by getting her to answer your questions, did you think you could advance the discussion by psychoanalyzing her instead?

Or, if you had no intention of advancing the discussion, what was the point?

RobertK,

You are making the same mistake as Sam. You seem to think that I intended my comment to be an argument against Melinda's position on Hawking's book. It wasn't. I, like Melinda, have not read the book. I haven't said whether I think he is right or wrong, or whether I think she is right or wrong. I have said that she apparently thinks his ideas are dangerous to her position.

"Let's assume that you're entire post is correct and Melinda is "required" to disagree, which you're not and she isn't—she can still be correct.,"
Yes, of course she can still be correct, and I never said she couldn't. However, she can only be correct by accident if her position is not based on an accurate understanding. She will be correct in the same way that someone who always chooses "B" will get some questions correct on the SAT.

You are pointing out that I haven't offered any argument's against Melinda's position, and that is correct. I made no pretense of offering an argument against her position.

I offer the same suggestion to all of you: read for understanding first.

Sam,

"Or, if you had no intention of advancing the discussion, what was the point?"

There are flawed conclusions. There are flawed arguments. And there are flawed methods of approaching issues. My comment relates to the latter. Melinda is approaching the Hawking book in a flawed manner. She has assumed that he is wrong and began attacking him before having access to the book. In the first post on the book, I questioned the fundamental premise of the post, "Stephen Hawking's latest claim that God did not create the universe". I saw quotes that said something that might be misinterpreted as this, but I did not see any quotes that said this. I don't know if Hawking says this in the book or not. Someone engaged in a legitimate search for the truth of the matter would be able to either provide the source for the statement attributed to Hawking, or would adjust their position upon learning that he had not said this thing. Melinda failed to respond or acknowledge this in any way.

The thing is, apologists tell you up front that they are approaching questions with the answer already in hand. They tell you this by calling themselves "apologists". It implies they already have the answer and they are now trying to defend it or present reasons for it. There are times when it is appropriate, but it's a flawed way of approaching questions in general. What often happens is that even when the conclusions of the apologist happen to be correct (by accident), the reasons they give are weak and their arguments are flawed. They are aimed more at rhetorical impact than at sound reasoning (e.g. "A Big Bang requires a Big Banger"). This is because the apologist doesn't personally need a solid argument or sound reasoning to become convinced of the truth of the position. They started with the truth of the position. So they are not very good at analyzing the arguments and seeing the flaws in them.

This string of anti-Hawking posts has provided a convenient example of this problem. Melinda has been chugging ahead criticizing, with no attention given to the details that might cause her to actually stop and seriously consider what Hawking is saying; details such as reading the book, or at least finding accurate quotes. This also indicates this as an area where the apologists feel a significant threat. They are not confident that their standard arguments are going to withstand a new challenge in this area, so they go with "the best defense is a good offense".

The amount of attention given by STR to Ehrman, and now to Hawking, serves to alert the curious and the inquisitive that these are areas where further investigation may prove fruitful.

This is because the apologist doesn't personally need a solid argument or sound reasoning to become convinced of the truth of the position. They started with the truth of the position. So they are not very good at analyzing the arguments and seeing the flaws in them.

That is true, as a generalization, of people on all sides of religious debates, whether theists, atheists, or whatever. But the mistake I think you are making is in saying that apologists start with their conclusions. Most people come to their conclusion for some reason. Then, having come to their conclusion, they begin to defend it. And when other attack it, and the attacks do not change their minds, they continue to defend their point of view. We all do that. In fact, when you get a PhD, you're REQUIRED to do that. You have to defend your dissertation--a dissertation you arrived at through research and careful thought. Apologists aren't doing anything illegitimate. They're defending a point of view they have reason to think is true.

Granted, sometimes they defend it with weak reasons--reasons they know themselves to be weak, and reasons that were not the basis for their own initial belief. But that isn't illegitimate either. After all, in some cases, it's much easier to know something is true than to show it's true. I'll give two examples.

First, I know with absolute certainty that the law of non-contradiction is a universal and necessary truth. I cannot be mistaken about it. But I run into people all the time who think it's a human convention, and that it is a product of the human mind. Don't believe me? Take a look at these comments. My position is much easier to know than to defend. So I've spent a lot of time trying to come up with ways of getting people to see the truth of my position on logic.

Second, let's say I'm accused of a crime that I didn't commit. Now, I know that I didn't commit the crime because it's me we're talking about. And maybe I have full memory of where I was when the crime took place, and I know I was a hundred miles away. So know full well that I didn't commit the crime. But maybe somebody else planted evidence at the scene of the crime to make it look like I did it, so I've got to prove my innocence. Well, I can do that in a number of ways. One way I can do it is to use an alibi. An alibi might be able to prove that I was not at the scene of the crime when the crime happened, but obviously the alibi has nothing to do with why *I* know I wasn't at the scene of the crime. I can't show people my real reason--I can't give them access to my memory. But that doesn't mean I'm doing something illegitimate by offering them an alibi.

The amount of attention given by STR to Ehrman, and now to Hawking, serves to alert the curious and the inquisitive that these are areas where further investigation may prove fruitful.

STR and other apologists and apologetics organizations give attention to these people because these people are having an impact on the culture. Think about it, Eric. Earlier, you accused STR of fear because they were addressing these people, saying that it revealed a weakness in STR's position. But what would you say to Christians who ignored all these people? Couldn't you say exactly the same thing? Couldn't you say the reason they refuse to engage these people is because their own position is weak, and they can't defend their position against these people, so they're cowering away from them out of fear? You've put us in a no-win situation. If we engage, then we're afraid and have weak positions. But if we don't engage, then we're afraid and have weak positions. So, what should we do, Eric? Should we ignore Dawkins, Ehrman, Hawking, etc., or should we engage them?

>> "Because the brain is subject to physical laws when stimulated doesn't exclude the possibility of agency working with the brain"

It is necessarily impossible to prove that there is not a ghost manipulating your neuronal activations -- because of the heisenberg uncertainty principle.

Sam,

"That is true, as a generalization, of people on all sides of religious debates, whether theists, atheists, or whatever. But the mistake I think you are making is in saying that apologists start with their conclusions"

You certainly have a point that people of all positions fall into this kind of starting with the conclusion and arguing backwards. However, when a scientist, or and advocate of rational inquiry does this, they are doing something contrary to their ultimate goal. Inasmuch as the rationalist engages in this, he has ceased functioning as a rationalist. He is working against his ultimate purpose. For the apologist, qua apologist, this is the standard method. If the apologist is not doing this, then he has ceased being an apologist. He is not working against his ultimate purpose, because his ultimate purpose as an apologist is defending a position, not identifying the truth. Are there well-known apologist who every once-in-a-while publicly change their position on something that has been a subject of their apologetics? There are plenty examples of scientists and rationalists who do this.

"We all do that. In fact, when you get a PhD, you're REQUIRED to do that. You have to defend your dissertation--a dissertation you arrived at through research and careful thought."
Not quite. You are required to defend, but not blindly against legitimate and valid criticisms. If, at your dissertation defense, a member of the examining committee presents a challenge to your thesis you should not simply reject it. You do not cut off the questioner mid-sentence and proclaim the challenge to be of no effect. You have to first listen, and think, and be sure you understand what the criticism is. Then you have to evaluate it to determine if it is a valid criticism. If it is valid, then you gain no points for stubbornness. Refusing to acknowledge will generally be worse than acknowledging it. You don't have to defend every sentence in your dissertation to the death. "Yeah, that's a good point. I guess I was wrong about that part." will generally suffice.
"But what would you say to Christians who ignored all these people? "
There is a range between ignoring and obsession. Three posts in the same week about a book the poster has not read - a book that wasn't even available when the first two posts were written - is near the obsession end of this spectrum. Melinda can't have known if Hawking's positions are valid or not when she wrote these posts, because she has not spent the time and energy to understand his positions and his reasons. It's not ignoring someone to take the time to digest their position before responding.
"Should we ignore Dawkins, Ehrman, Hawking, etc., or should we engage them?"
First, you should understand them. Unless you are an expert in their fields (and probably even if you are), you probably have something to learn from each of them. I have learned from each. There is no requirement that you either completely agree or completely disagree with someone. The fact that you may disagree with Hawking on something he has said in the past doesn't mean you can't give something new he is saying a chance before pronouncing him wrong.

He is not working against his ultimate purpose, because his ultimate purpose as an apologist is defending a position, not identifying the truth.

I just think you're making a false dichotomy here. We all try to identify truth, and once we do, we defend it. Richard Dawkins defends evolution in The Greatest Show on Earth, and he defends atheism in The God Delusion because he has studied these issues and come to conclusions about them. In the same way, I and many others have come to the conclusion that Christianity is true, and consequently, we defend our positions. I am not so hard-nosed that I haven't changed my mind about things in the past. I've changed my mind about several things as a direct result of engaging in apologetics. I've changed my mind about the existence of the soul, the trinity, and Calvinism just to name a few. Since then, I have defended these views. So you're just mistaken about what apologists do. Apologists do what Richard Dawkins, Steven Hawkings, and just about everybody else does who write books--we defend what we have come to believe is true.

You should check out the Ambassador'd Creed on this web page. Especially these two:

An ambassador is...

Patient. An Ambassador won’t quarrel, but will listen in order to understand, then with gentleness seek to respectfully engage those who disagree.

Fair. An Ambassador is sympathetic and understanding towards others and will acknowledge the merits of contrary views.

It's totally contrary to what you seem to think is the job description of an apologist, but this is what STR advocates. None of us are perfect, though. Many of us stick to our guns in some situations just to protect our ego because it's easier than admitting we're wrong or don't know how to answer a challenge. But that is not the job description of an apologist.

"The fact that you may disagree with Hawking on something he has said in the past doesn't mean you can't give something new he is saying a chance before pronouncing him wrong."

You can when you know his ultimate propositions are held by logical leaps and blind faith. A simple reluctance to *really* wrestle with ultimate truths give every materialist/naturalist a free pass to build a whole system on sand.

Nearly every one of [or maybe all of] the prominent naturalist thinkers through the ages who've developed reputations as giants in their field dash the hopes of men looking to find ultimate truth. What they do leave is skepticism in their wake as they at least stay true to their love affair with sensation. The modern supposed giants who want to pretend to be searching for ultimate truth, but do not stay obedient to the slavemaster we call logic really are the pretenders. When philosophical argumentation comes between them an the one truth claim that exposes the sandy foundations they've built on, they'll cheat on their lover in some kind of attempt to not be noticed, hopefully just long enough to cover up and then go back to her and pretend to have fidelity to the watching world.

Immanuel Kant as an example supposedly built the insurmountable wall but couldn't bear to have a world without some foundation for moral truth, incorporated a kind of side or back door entrance for diety/moral authority. Todays version of "thinkers" mostly aren't worried about moral authority or objective standards, even if they have some strong thoughts, they are happy to display a blind faith leap, or make up some subjective authority and call it something it really isn't hoping to fool the populace--which they do often.

Anyway, I'm struck by how the naturalists are so demanding of others to make defense of their claims all the while the elephant in the room is the naturalist worldview that cannot account for moral authority, logic, or even justify that ultimate knowledge is even possible--they just claim it.

Melida says these things would be futile goals for a determinist:

• hoping to reason and persuade those who disagree
• hoping to clarify the thinking of those that agree

She thinks that determinism makes the desire to offer arguments and convince people illusory.

Determinism is compatible with desires, persuasion, clarification of thinking, rationality, and reason. Why think it is not? There must be some confusion.

RonH

The guys at the reasonable doubts podcast (always a good place to clarify thinking) have done a few episodes on free willy vs the determinator.

http://tinyurl.com/2ws8kmu

RonH

>> "Determinism is compatible with desires, persuasion, clarification of thinking, rationality, and reason. Why think it is not?"

ron

yep she's right. it should be pretty obvious.

we don't have any epistemic grounding.

===================================

Consider a system tasked with judging the veracity of its own judgment.

A deterministic system could have a flaw that is self-hiding.
A random system produces correct answers only accidentally.

Thus, neither a deterministic system nor a random system can, with absolute certainty, be sure of its own judgments -- indeed, we can see this is true with absolute certainty.

But if we must either be deterministic or random, then we know with absolute certainty that we can know nothing with absolute certainty - a fatal self-contradiction.

===================================

Hi Eric,

No, I seek to understand first
Then why does your comment show no understanding of the "comical" post to which you've affixed it?
I can read Hawking or Ehrman and either agree or disagree with them, once I have understood their positions and explanations. Melinda must disagree. It's part of her job description.
As you, gadfly to this blog, simply must disagree with Melinda and Amy.

You appear to be merely an exercise in seeking rhetorical ammunition. As I said, you seem to have analyzed yourself.

I offer the same suggestion to all of you: read for understanding first.
Try offering that to the guy in the mirror and then read the post again.

ToNy

Not so fast.

Suppose a deterministic system does have a flaw that is self-hiding.

Suppose it has many such self-hiding flaws.

How does that stop it (us) from having desires? How does that stop us from reasoning, or persuading or hoping to persuade?

Acting on a deterministic system, would evolution tend to accumulate these self-hiding flaws or diminish them?

And what's all this about perfect knowledge anyway?

And finally, was the offer of money for me?

RonH

Determinism is compatible with desires, persuasion, clarification of thinking, rationality, and reason.

Why do you think reason and rationality is compatible with determinism?

It doesn't seem like Melinda (in this post at least) is intending to comment on Hawking's book as a whole. She is using one particular part of it as a jumping-off point to comment on determinism. So then if she is not intending it as a commentary on the book as a whole, but rather as only one part of Hawking's worldview, then reading the book in its entirety would not be necessary, so comments of "you shouldn't talk about it cuz you haven't read it all" are inappropriate here. If this was a book review, I would agree with your concerns, but she stated at the outset that she hasn't read it all yet.

Chris,

Thanks. Good question.

Computer programs are deterministic, right?

Computer programs also take input (premises and/or assumptions) and produce output (conclusions).

Computer programs reason deterministically.

I am guessing you will say computer programs don't reason. So I ask: What more there is to reason than producing conclusions from premises and/or assumptions?

I'm also trying to see what there is to say about rationality that is not covered by what we say about reason. Are reasonable and rational pretty much synonyms? Do we need to cover them separately?

I take it you have no problem with desires being deterministic?

RonH

I'm agreeing with RonH on this determinism being compaitble with rationality/reason/persuasion etc...thing. But it leaves life experience meaningless and void of any objective "oughts" or values.

If by deteminism we're talking about a purely physical mechanism, the chemical response to other stimuli like the input of infomation would be mechanical, but not ineffective.

I dont believe this to be the case, but it might be close to what RonH is saying.

If reactions and thoughts are determined by law and physical interaction then information is not only ineffective but irrelevant. Propositions become incidental to the mechanisms that actually cause our choices.

Eric's fear of STR and its analysis of Hawkings new book seems to have reached levels previously reserved for Christian exclusivism. It is natural to protects one's weakest points, and I think Eric is telegraphing where he thinks some of his weakest points are.

Yay francis is back,

Speaking of "protecting one's weakest points" and "bulls**t artists", you never responded to my retort in the debate we had in 2006.

can you do that now?

Brad,

I've lived with determinism for a long time now. Life is good.

Daron,

Explain a bit?

RonH

Ronh

>> "Suppose it has many such self-hiding flaws. How does that stop it (us) from having desires? How does that stop us from reasoning"

we can reason all day.

but by nature of our reasoning apparatus, we will necessarily never know if we're right or wrong.

Hey Tony,

I read the 2006 "debate" between you and Francis. I also have read quite a few blogs on this website. You write and respond quite frequently. Indeed, I have engaged conversation with you.

But what I want to know is, Who are you? What do you do for a living? How do you have so much time to reply to every response made? And why?

You never really get anywhere with anyone, and I am not trying to be offensive. Your 2006 exchange with Francis is a perfect example. You guys would just spin around in circles forever not making any progress. You both just become more and more entrenched in your position. It would just go back and forth and back and forth. Doesn't that bother you? You must engage in these online "debates" for a reason. Why? If we can't know anything with any level of authority then why argue? Why not just piss into the wind?

These are serious questions, I am not trying to be offensive or in your face. If I have come across that way then I apologize. I may as well have asked Francis the same questions but since you so frequently comment I narrowed in on you.

david,

i'm a wannabe philosopher on the internet who likes to win arguments for fun.

i have a computer job so I have 30 seconds or so to comment between programming compilation times.

>> "You must engage in these online "debates" for a reason. Why?"

For fun silly.

Same reason the Christians do it:

http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2006/03/fetus_fetish.html

Hey Tony,

Thanks for the response. I can accept that. But how do you know you're winning? Is there some sort of standard you use? i.e., people admit defeat and accept your philosophy on life and reality (if you believe in such a thing)?

Did you go to college or a university? If so, did you study philosophy there?

Ya UCSD

>> But how do you know you're winning?

I win every time

Cool. Whose your favorite philosopher? Which one's would you recommend for a novice?

Seriously though, how do you know you win every time?


hee hee

i'm kiddin around

William lane Craig is my favorite philosopher.

I really can't think of a single mainstream atheist worth reading.

Their books are pretty god awful in my opinion.

And i'm basically an atheist.

GEB is a rather entertaining book if you want a sketch about the many many MANY problems us materialists have with minds, freewill, determinism, consciousness, AI, etc...

plus it won the Pulitzer so...

Cool, well I like Craig also. I'll check GEB out.

Thanks, have a good one.

Francis,

"The mirror is not the friend of the bulls**t artist."
Very classy.

But in some sense you are actually correct (perhaps by accident, as I discussed above). It's not your gutter ad hominem that's correct, but the part before that. One of my weak points is people who have a knee-jerk reaction to things they have not made an effort to understand. I think it's harmful, and has the potential to cause trouble i my life. It bothers me when I see it, and I sometimes will make an effort to call it out, as I did early in this thread.

(Francis Beckwith... aren't you some kind of associate of STR? Do you think they are fond of your lowering the level of discussion? I bet you wish there was an edit function here so you could go back and erase that.)

Eric,

Read Hawking's Op Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. What does he actually say? Then tell us he was misrepresented.....

Hi Eric,
Your reaction to this post is knee jerk and your defence of your reaction only highlights the fact that you made no effort to understand it.
What is it that you think Melinda misunderstood?

ric:

I think you missed the point of my exercise. It was in fact to make the point, by analogy, that your attempt to divine motives from Melinda--ulterior motives, if you will--is in fact to indulge in an ad hominem attack, which in the economy of logic is counterfeit currency.

One of the most insidious and sophomoric tendencies on the part of the secular left is to employ insult disguised as analysis, offering it as if it were some sophisticated engagement with your opposition. It's not. It is pseudo-sophisticated BS. Nothing more, nothing less. Whether it's uttered by a federal judge, a college professor, or a one-named commentator with thin-skin, it is what it is.

I am not affiliated with STR, other than my friends work there. And those friends include Melinda. Disagree with her if you must. And that is certainly welcomed, and encouraged. But disagreement is not communicated when motives are challenged. That's called the "low road."

"I've lived with determinism for a long time now. Life is good"

Funny RonH, especially the meaningless appraisal "good".

Sam,

"I and many others have come to the conclusion that Christianity is true, and consequently, we defend our positions. "
That's completely legitimate, and I don't mean to imply that it isn't. THere is a distinction between studying apologetics and being an apologist (especially in a professional capacity). I think it's good for people to study apologetic arguments and to carefully examine them. I do that, which is one reason I have ended up here. Someone acting as an apologist is doing something different. That doesn't mean they can never openly evaluate positions, just that they can't do so when acting in the role of apologist.

A lawyer may study the law and develop opinions. These opinions may change from time to time. However, when arguing a case before the court, the lawyer no longer has this freedom. He must advocate for his client's position. When hearing the arguments of the opposing side, he must focus on how to defeat, or otherwise get around, these arguments. He only needs to understand the other side enough to try to persuade the judge or the jury that the other side is mistaken. If this means misrepresenting the other side, then so be it.

The apologist is in a very similar situation. They may carefully and thoughtfully consider other positions as individuals, but as apologists they must advocate their position. They must seek to persuade their audience that the opposing view is incorrect, even if this involves misrepresenting the opposing position and/or reasoning.

Many religiously-based organizations, such as STR, have a Statement of Faith. In many cases, employees are required to affirm the organizations Statement of Faith as a condition of employment. I don't know if this is the case for STR, but it is common enough that I think it is likely the case (someone who knows better can clarify this). Have a look at STR's Statement of Faith. An STR apologist is bound to defend these positions. They may not, in their official capacity, entertain contrary arguments.

The STR Statement of Faith includes such things as:

"The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are without error or misstatement in their moral and spiritual teaching and record of historical facts. They are without error or defect of any kind in the autographs."
So STR staff are not able to engage in open discussions on the infallibility of scripture. They may not acknowledge that a challenger has a legitimate point in questioning this belief. They may not acknowledge that any part of the scripture advocates an immoral position. No matter how strong the case may be, this conclusion is not available to them. They must find a way to excuse, and even condone, everything that is advocated in the Bible. Things that would be uniformly condemned if described anywhere else must be justified by any means available, whether legitimate or not.
"The whole human race fell in the fall of the first Adam."
From things Greg has said on his show, and as a guest on other shows, this rules out evolution as a possibility. By this line of reasoning, if evolution is true, there was no Adam, so there was no Fall, so there was no need for the redeeming work of Jesus. (This is not my argument, but my understanding of the argument of others, including Greg.) This means that STR staff may not agree in any way to the truth of evolution. They are not permitted, by virtue of being STR staff, entertain the possibility that evolution is true. No matter how much evidence is presented, no matter how clear the case, they may not accept the plain conclusion. It is ruled out at the outset of the discussion.

There are other things in there, but these are just a couple of the big ones. When these topics come up in discussion, the apologist does not have the liberty to engage in honest and open discussion. They may actually be correct on their position, but if they are not, then they are not in a position to acknowledge that they are not. If they were to become convinced that an opposing view was correct they would need to either continue to advocate the party line (dishonestly), attempt to change the organization's Statement oaf Faith, or resign from their position (i.e. cease being the apologist).

When you encounter a professional apologist advocating some position, you should approach it in the same way you would approach the argument of an attorney before the court. They may be right, and they may be presenting a legitimate and valid case. However, their goal is not discovering or illuminating the truth. Their goal is advocating for their position, and they are restricted in how they can respond to contrary arguments and evidence.

Eric, you need to learn to read for understanding and get beyond your biases.

However, their goal is not discovering or illuminating the truth.
Illuminating truth is his only goal. It's funny that you've spent this kind of time dogging Christians and still are this ignorant.

Daron,

I presented a case for my position. You can naysay it all you want, but unless you provide a counter case or explain where my case is incorrect, your naysaying has no weight.

Would you care to enlighten me on my area(s) of ignorance to which you refer?

I already did, Eric. Don't knee jerk, read for understanding.

Francis,

I think I got the point of your exercise. I don't think you're saying anything that isn't already being said by Daron and/or Sam. It's just that they manage to do it without the profanity and name-calling. (Well, Daron mostly manages, but I think he's losing patience with me lately.)

"I am not affiliated with STR, other than my friends work there. "
I said associate. I think being friends with them might count. I also think co-authoring a book with Koukl would count. Are you that Francis Beckwith, or this just a coincidence?

Either way, there's generally a fairly collegial atmosphere here, with a lot of disagreement but without much name calling and profanity. I think it would be good if you took care to hold yourself to that standard. Of course, it's not my blog, so all I can do is suggest and request. There are plenty of other places the lower level of discussion.

"I already did, Eric. Don't knee jerk, read for understanding."

Can you please point me to the thread where you did that? I've re-read all your comments to me in this thread, and they've pretty much been "I'm rubber, you're glue".

If they were to become convinced that an opposing view was correct they would need to either continue to advocate the party line (dishonestly), attempt to change the organization's Statement oaf Faith, or resign from their position (i.e. cease being the apologist).

Eric, this seems to undermine everything that went before it. It just isn't true that an apologist must defend a particular point of view. If, in their debates or study, they discover that they have been wrong, they are free to change their minds. Many resist doing this because of the practical implications--they have a lot invested in their previous position--but you can't assume every apologist thinks and behaves that way.

Frank Beckwith is a good example of what I'm talking about. As president of the Evangelical Theological Society, he had a lot invested in protestantism. But after careful reflection, he became a Catholic. It cost him in some ways, but obviously he wasn't in a position of having to defend something he no longer agreed with. And there was no straight jacket around him preventing him from entertaining contrary views. (That may not be the best example since he was never really an apologist for protestantism, but it's the first one to jump to mind.)

The same is true of every apologist. I mean look at the number of atheists who claim they were once apologists for Christianity. Obviously those people felt free to entertain contrary views. The difference between them and the folks at STR is that the folks at STR still think Christianity is true. The difference is not that the folks at STR are in a theological straight-jacket while everybody else was free.

There are some people who will stick to their guns and defend things for at time that they didn't actually believe. I've met ex-Jehovah's Witnesses who said they did this for a while when they were in the middle of deconverting. But they didn't remain Jehovah's Witnesses long after they changed their minds. Although they were apologists for Jehovah's Witnesses, they entertained contrary views and used their freedom to change their minds.

I had a debate on morality a long time ago with a person who said after the debate was over: "Another thing is that, for the record, I don't even believe everything I said." So yeah, people do sometimes defend things they don't believe. But you can't assume they necessarily will just because they've taken a job.

The analogy with lawyers does not fit with apologists. A lawyer cannot, in the middle of a trial, change his mind and say, "By golly, my client is guilty after all. You've convinced me." An apologist can do that. There is no reason to assume that if an apologist changed his mind that he would continue defending something he no longer thought was true.

You can't assume that because somebody takes a job as an apologist that they become close-minded automatically. People commit to organizations like STR because they already subscribe to their statement of belief and what that organization stands for. Those people may remain open to changing their minds about things, and when they do, they may have to resign if their beliefs changed drastically enough. So you can't just assume they can't or won't entertain contrary views. You are engaging in psychoanalysis when you try to pigeon-hole apologists this way. You're probably right in many cases, but you can't paint apologists with such a broad brush.

But who cares about all this psychoanalysis anyway? Some people are close-minded and others aren't. Some people are willing to defend what they no longer believe and some aren't. But what difference does it make for the rest of us? We each have to decide if we're going to approach the subject of truth with honesty. And all that matters about everybody else is whether their arguments are sound. We don't need to psychoanalyze them before we can assess the validity of their arguments and beliefs.

Sam,

I think you're missing a key distinction I am making. The apologist qua apologist is defending a position, and not seeking better understanding of the truth. This is why I used the lawyer analogy. A criminal defense attorney may decline to take a case if she thinks the accused is guilty. She may not take the case, then acknowledge the accused's guilt in open court. An individual may choose not to be an apologist, or not to belong to a particular organization, but as a member of that organization she may not concede the very thing being discussed.

In Beckwith's case, did he, in official capacity as President of the Evangelical Theological Society, advocate Papal infallibility? I doubt it. Surely he stepped down first, because such advocacy would be contrary to his role as the President of that organization.

The former apologists you reference are just that: former apologists. That's my point.

In the present situation, Stephen Hawking has produced a book in which he apparently argues that there is no need for a creator to explain the origin of the universe (which is not the same as claiming that no such creator exists). Melinda, in her capacity as a member of STR, must be opposed to this. It doesn't matter to her what his reasons are, and we know it doesn't matter because she was denouncing him before even having the opportunity to learn his reasons. This is just like a defense attorney learning that the prosecution has new evidence to submit. The attorney is immediately thinking of ways to discredit or explain away this new evidence. She is not concerned with carefully evaluating the new evidence to learn if it really does imply the guilt of her client.

None of this means the defense attorney or the apologist are necessarily wrong. None of it means their arguments don't need to be addressed on the merits. It does go to the issue of credibility, which is often important because we can't fact check everything, so we need to some way of judging how much trust to place in someone's statements. Back to the legal analogy, this is why credibility of witnesses is important to establish. I think Melinda's reaction to the Hawking book tells us something about her credibility on the issue. It's a particularly egregious example because it not only shows her lack of interest in considering the arguments, it's so blatant that she should know it will be obvious that she is speaking without knowledge. It's like when someone tells a blatant lie and you don't know which thing is worse, the fact that they told the lie, or the fact that they told one that was so obviously a lie that they were sure to be discovered. It shows a lack of respect for the intelligence of the audience to presume that they will not notice.

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