Monday, 21 July 2014

The Sacred Conclusion

Most theists will deny that they do it but it's usually easy to demonstrate that religious beliefs are not based an objective assessment of the evidence but on a received conclusion which is then protected and reinforced by highly selective cherry-picking of the evidence which is often heavily weighted whilst contradictory evidence is minimised, ignored or dismissed on spurious grounds.

'Evidence' can even include assumed evidence such as that 'list of eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus', 'all those fulfilled prophecies in the Bible which have been independently verified', or, in the case in point, 'all the historical names, places and events' mentioned in the Bible.

Nothing wrong with these as examples of evidence, of course, apart from just one thing - they are all false. There are no authenticated eyewitness of the life of Jesus; there are no fulfilled prophecies in the Bible which can be independently verified and there are no historical names, places or events in the Bible which give it an authenticity as a holy book.

Quite the contrary, in fact. There are a couple of potential eyewitnesses to the life and acts of Jesus yet none of them mention him. None of the claimed list of authors actually do in ways which have any relevance as a historical source; there are very many demonstrably unfulfilled prophecies in the Bible, and many specific historical events and places mentioned are demonstrably wrong or are simple facts which would have been known to anyone such as the names of major cities and countries, the names of Kings or Roman governors and emperors that anyone writing a story claiming it to be true would have used. Does the name of London and Paris and the historical fact of the French Revolution render the novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens a historical source document or the mention of Athens, Sparta, Troy and Macedonia turn Greek myths and gods into historical facts?
This is all, of course, an example of what Peter Boghossian calls 'doxastically closed'. The conclusion comes first and the 'evidence' is filled in later from wherever it can be gleaned without too much attention being paid to its authenticity. It fits the conclusion so it must be right because the conclusion is right. Above all, even the possibility of the conclusion being wrong must not be considered. The conclusion is immune to reason.

This can be easily tested and demonstrated by observing what happens when you show the claimed supporting evidence is false. Just as with a science when the previously accepted evidence for a theory is shown to be false, the intellectually honest - Peter Boghossian's 'doxastically open' - response should be to change the conclusion. In other words, when the evidence changes the honest thing to do is to change one's mind. Is this what we see in religious people?

Take a look at this exchange from Facebook. My original post to the 'Why Atheism?' group was:

Theists! If it's rational to believe the claims in your favourite holy book made by people you've never met, why is it not rational to believe the claims in other holy books made by people you've never met?

The following exchange ensued:

NM: At face value you could be addressing Hindus, asking why Hindus don't believe claims in the Bible... Actually they do. They claim Jesus as their own.

RR: I WAS addressing Hindus. Hindus are theists too. How about you give an honest answer the question instead of avoiding it?

NM: the claims in my "favorite holy book" made by people I've never met contain actual historical names, places and events. The claims in other holy books made by people I've never met do not contain actual historical names, places and events.

Okay, so the Quran does... But it's a plagiarization of my favorite holy book anyway.

RR: Where may we see the verified extra-biblical historical evidence which validates the Bible in ways no other holy book can be validated, please? Hint: the Bible is not evidence of it's own validity.

NM: Name me something historical that's also in the Bible and I'll do a search for you.

RR: Nope. YOU made the claim; YOU prove it. Did you not bother to check first? Do you remember who lied to you?

RR: So you believe the Bible because of all the verified historical facts in it - except you can't think of any and explain how they were verified, by whom and where we can see the evidence, eh?

Now you know the basis for your belief is false, will you be changing your belief or just thinking of some more arguments for it?
MN: I'll ask one last time before I give it up. Name me something historical that's also in the Bible and I'll do a search for you.

RR: Nope. If you can't prove your claim it fails by default. How about answering my question about what you do now your claimed basis for your belief in the Bible has been shown to be baseless? Do you do the intellectually honest thing and change your belief or do you try to think of another reason for it like someone too afraid to change their mind would?

RR: Aaaaand.... no answer.

A confident claim, made on the assumption that it must be true, presumably because he's been told it's true, as evidence that the Bible is unique amongst holy books and the only one to have such roof of authenticity, and yet he can't think of an example nor how it was authenticated. He doesn't actually know what he believes proves his faith; he only thought he knew it. His 'proof' had never even been tested!

And all he has is the desperate demand that I help him with his search or even go look for the evidence for him. The usual excuse to break off the debate quickly follows.

So, does our Christian fundamentalist change his mind, having been forced to confront the fact that his declared 'proof' is false? Of course not. He makes an excuse, assigns blame, guilt and responsibility to me and flounces off. He'll be on another Facebook group soon, offering the same proof and using the same tactic when called on it. It's no different to the insistent claims that there is no evidence for evolution; there is masses of evidence for the existence of God/Allah or that Atheists are rapists and murderers. There is no connection between the belief and reality and given the choice, between belief and reality, reality will be dismissed. It's all a test of faith!

The conclusion is sacred so facts must be ignored.

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  1. For comments see also: . Those comments are about true believers and the information processing system (IPS) they use in their brains.

  2. I just read another article on the web showing how creationists misunderstand and misinterpret what science and scientific research is all about. See .

    The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) in Dallas, USA; has decided to prove scientifically the biblical version of creation.

    Not TRY TO PROVE. They are so confident that they already know they can prove the biblical version as reported in Genesis (two versions). No doubts all.

    The big problem is: That's NOT how real scientist are testing their hypotheses. So your comic strip at the top of your blog article, Rosa, hits the mark exactly. If you want the truth and nothing but the truth, you don't start by saying, "Look, here's the conclusion. What facts can we find to support it? Which is the creationist method of doing scentific research, also known as the cherry-picking method.

    A real scientist would reason like what is said in quote #2 below.

    The following three quotes from that WEIT article summarize IMO very well the differences between the pseudoscientific creationist and genuine scientific research methods.

    QUOTE #1: Well, of course it you set out to prove something, rather than test it, and especially if your motivations are not understanding but buttressing religious beliefs that you won’t abandon, you’re about as far from being a scientist as you can get. You’re a theologian in a lab coat.

    QUOTE #2: Real science, he said, works the opposite way. Researchers don’t line up facts to support a hypothesis. Natural laws and theories like evolution are constantly pressure-tested by the scientific community, checking for flaws and leaks in the logic.

    QUOTE #3: Scientists at ICR believe the Bible is the authoritative word of God, and are unapologetic about reviewing data with a Christian worldview.

    A term like Scientific Creationism is just paradoxical and self-contradictory, that is an oxymoron.


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