Science and Other Drugs

….maybe a little less wrong….

Faith and falsifiability

“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

Mark Twain.

We see this and similar quotes thrown around quite often, usually in attempts to vilify religious belief. As such, it’s rather laughable; pretending that Christians secretly disbelieve in God is as ridiculous as pretending that atheists secretly know God exists. It’s not an argument or assertion that has any place in rational discourse.

But blind faith does exist; we see it all the time. When confronted with difficult evidence, certain small-minded people like to handwave it by declaring “Well, I have faith!” This sort of idiocy deserves all the ridicule it can get.

Even so, it would be a mistake to assume this blind faith is “belief without evidence”; such a person most certainly thinks they have evidence, they simply aren’t open to accepting any evidence that doesn’t confirm what they already believe. Not only is this a more clear problem, but it’s also more fair. Belief despite insufficient evidence is highly subjective (who’s to say what is sufficient?), but simply refusing to consider contrary evidence is much more easily identifiable.

Blind faith isn’t about a lack of evidence per se; it’s about unfalsifiability. Blind faith says, “No evidence could exist which would be able to convince me to change my mind.” Blind faith is the purvey of conspiracy theorists and KJV-onlyers and birthers and truthers. Blind faith should be mocked at any opportunity.

(Side note: to a Christian, “faith” is trust in a being you already believe in, not a reason to believe in the first place. So people who say “Doesn’t matter; I have faith” are really being disingenuous; their “faith” is just an excuse to be belligerent.)

This does, however, place a responsibility on those of us who recognize the idiocy of blind faith. We have to make sure that our beliefs are thoroughly falsifiable, or we may be harboring blind faith that we haven’t yet questioned.

Fundamental literalists would seem to have a leg up on falsifiability, because any error or falsehood or inaccuracy anywhere in the Bible would ostensibly prove them wholly wrong. Then again, they tend to have a presupposition that any error can be explained away with sufficient time or energy. Try asking them “What error would prove you wrong” and use their answer to determine whether they’re depending on blind faith or not.

So what about other positions? As geneticfractals in this comment thread pointed out:

“…there is an entire spectrum of levels of belief – or disbelief – in God. Depending on where one finds oneself in that spectrum determines the degree to which one might defend God or no-God and whether one can ‘switch sides’. I put that in quotes because the side you take is entirely arbitrary. Someone can belief in parts of God and not others. One can genuinely belief in the love of God and Christ but take an atheist view on the origin of the universe and life.

Lots of different positions, all which face a challenge of falsifiability in different ways.

What of my own Christianity? Is it properly falsifiable? I would say so. My basic position—that a divine, resurrected Jesus is the most probable explanation for the emergence and history of Christianity—can be falsified in any number of ways. Here are a few possible discoveries that could overturn my belief:

  • Finding first-century Roman or Greek writings describing a cult of Christians existing earlier than 30 AD.
  • Unearthing authenticated letters from Paul or Luke that reveal a massive hoax or advance an ahistorical Jesus.
  • Discovering verified Jewish court records stating that “the preacher Jesus of Nazareth” was executed for petty crimes.
  • Bones, determined to have belonged to a crucified male in the first century between the ages of 25-35, in a hidden, sealed tomb with an inscription stating they belong to “our rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, son of man” or some other unambiguously Christian sentiment.

I could come up with a few more. There’s definitely no lack of options here.

And that naturally brings me to the other side of things: atheism. Atheism itself—the belief that the existence of any religious deity is highly improbable—is of course quite falsifiable. Violetwisp makes this painfuly clear in this post:

“If a god appeared sparkling in the sky explaining why she’d been hiding from humanity and why no-one appeared to understand the messages she’d tried to send, I’d be shocked, but would really have to rethink my belief system. If Zeus rode into my patio on a thunderbolt, booming how furious he is that everyone is treating him like a myth, I would stand dumbstruck in his godly presence and retract my atheism on the spot.”

But, not unlike fundamentalist literalism, this runs into a problem. Sure, this extreme example would falsify atheism simpliciter….but it wouldn’t necessarily address the specific beliefs of atheism that make up most of day-to-day atheism. For example, it wouldn’t say anything about the universal atheist dogma that Jesus definitely didn’t rise from the dead.

That leads us to a serious question, one I’m really quite curious about. So far, I haven’t gotten anything close to an answer for it. Atheists believe the New Testament’s claim of a resurrected Jesus is false. Is this belief falsifiable? Could any newly discovered evidence convince an atheist that the New Testament’s claim of a resurrected Jesus is true?

I’m interested to see what responses I get.

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55 responses to “Faith and falsifiability

  1. violetwisp 2013/05/01 at 15:28

    1. I can’t in isolation say one religion is false because … . Do you understand that? My atheism is firmly rooted in the evolutionary pathways of all the superstitious beliefs that are practiced in the world today. Just the existence of all these unrelated religions, based on the development of stories to explain what life is (overthinking monkeys that we are), makes all of them wrong.
    2. Therefore, if there was only one religion in the world and I chose not to follow it, I would take your point.
    3. Apart from all this, any additional evidence for your beliefs that could be discovered at this point in time would have huge questionmarks having over it, which would pretty much invalidate it.
    4. Your pretense at falsifying your own beliefs is laughable. When I was a Christian, none of that would have bothered me. My god God was clearly better, stronger and more believable than your god God. 😉
    5. To sum up, if my atheism was rooted in a belief that insufficient evidence existed for the divinity of Jesus, you might have a point. It isn’t. You don’t.

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/01 at 15:38

      “Just the existence of all these unrelated religions, based on the development of stories to explain what life is, makes all of them wrong.”

      What would falsify your belief in that interpretation? 🙂

      “any additional evidence for your beliefs that could be discovered at this point in time would have huge questionmarks having over it”

      Why? Sure, we’d want to validate it, but new discoveries are made all the time. Did you have something in mind?

      “When I was a Christian, none of that would have bothered me.”

      Apparently you had blind faith and I don’t. 😉

      “if my atheism was rooted in a belief that insufficient evidence existed for the divinity of Jesus, you might have a point. It isn’t.”

      Certainly not. But you DO have a belief that insufficient evidence exists for the divinity of Jesus. That’s the belief I’d like to see proven falsifiable.

      • violetwisp 2013/05/01 at 20:50

        “What would falsify your belief in that interpretation?”
        I think Buddhism could because it seems to be on a logical, rational model that involves thinking, and doesn’t have a god, does it? But I’m just not interested in overthinking life and coming to the same non-conclusions that every overthinker before has come to.

        “But you DO have a belief that insufficient evidence exists for the divinity of Jesus. ” No. I have a belief that supernatural events don’t occur.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/02 at 10:37

        I ask about falsifying your belief in that interpretation because I see it as a rather questionable argument. If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying something like this:

        If any religion was true, there could only be one religion. Therefore, no religions are true.

        Is that about right? If so, what makes you certain of that starting assumption?

        “I have a belief that supernatural events don’t occur.”

        I take this to mean that you have a philosophical commitment to procedural naturalism. As I pointed out to Raut on your blog, this approach only invalidates supernatural claims which entail a rejection of procedural naturalism; it doesn’t say anything one way or another about claims like the resurrection.

    • myatheistlife 2013/05/02 at 02:40

      violletwisp said enough. I’ll add this, when you pose the question you ignore the other side of the coin. That there is not just one religion is very telling. That there has been no new evidence is very telling. That there are no miracles et al, is very telling. It is not simply the lack of evidence but the ‘ignorance’ of the available evidence that tells the real story. All that there is of religion and existence looks exactly as one might expect it to look if there were no gods and humans made up the entire thing. We cannot consider a thing ‘right’ or ‘normal’ if it in fact looks exactly like we would expect delusional people ignoring the facts to look like. The made-up look and feel of it is an indictment of any good that might be claimed of religion. The only thing that might make me doubt my convictions is if human beings were actually benefactors of the suspension of the physical laws. If there is a creator god, it doesn’t give a damn about us.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/02 at 11:05

        “when you pose the question you ignore the other side of the coin.”

        Well, I’m not trying to ignore any coins. 🙂 I’m just wanting to see how atheists would approach the problem of specific falsifiability. Objections to Christianity itself are another topic. My cited points of falsifiability don’t require me to attack atheism, that’s for sure.

        Violet and you and a few other seem to assume that one particular disbelief….disbelief in anything supernatural….covers a rejection of all theism. But I don’t see how that’s the case. Your rejection of the supernatural on observational grounds is limited to the things you can observe….the day-to-day world around you. It allows you to reject any brands of theism that denies procedural naturalism. But it doesn’t really say anything at all about claims of discrete events at particular points in history, because those don’t require a rejection of naturalism.

        “That there is not just one religion is very telling.”

        This is something I heard from Violet as well, but I’m not sure I buy it. The argument seems to be that if any religion was true, only one religion would exist; therefore, no religion is true. What’s the basis of that premise? What makes you sure that if any religion was true, only one religion would exist?

        “That there has been no new evidence is very telling.”

        What do you mean by this? New discoveries are made quite often. The Pilate Stone was discovered as recently as 1961.

        “All that there is of religion and existence looks exactly as one might expect it to look if there were no gods and humans made up the entire thing. We cannot consider a thing ‘right’ or ‘normal’ if it in fact looks exactly like we would expect delusional people ignoring the facts to look like.

        I agree with you 100%, on the latter statement. That’s absolutely right. Formally, we might say “If a religion looks no different than if it had been made up by humans, then it was probably made up by humans.”

        But there’s a corollary to that: if a religion DOES look different than what humans would make up, then it is LESS likely to be made up by humans. And that’s where my approach begins.

      • myatheistlife 2013/05/02 at 18:33

        physicsandwhiskey,

        ==Violet and you and a few other seem to assume that one particular disbelief….disbelief in anything supernatural….covers a rejection of all theism. But I don’t see how that’s the case. Your rejection of the supernatural on observational grounds is limited to the things you can observe….the day-to-day world around you. It allows you to reject any brands of theism that denies procedural naturalism. But it doesn’t really say anything at all about claims of discrete events at particular points in history, because those don’t require a rejection of naturalism.==

        What? Did you lose the plot? My observation is not limited to what I can observe directly. If what I’m told to expect or think I should observe does not occur I can draw conclusions from this as well. Add also that when predictions are made which contradict other predictions and they fail also, it is more information. That we’ve NOT seen miracles, suspension of natural laws, evidence of objective morality, is evidence against religion/theism that predict these things.

        ==The argument seems to be that if any religion was true, only one religion would exist; therefore, no religion is true. What’s the basis of that premise? What makes you sure that if any religion was true, only one religion would exist?==
        If there was a present god that could suspend natural law, perform miracles etc. for all to witness, they (most of humanity) would see the truth of this and change religious belief. It’s not atheists that the theist has to convince in my view, it is other theists. When all the theists get done arguing over whose god’s dick is bigger we can all settle back and get on with life. Until then there are tens of thousands of sects claiming to have the one true god and one true way. They can’t all be right and the evidence (seen and not) strongly indicates they are all wrong. There is in fact no credible reason to believe in any god. If one theisic belief believes in what is not true and another claims to believe in the same or similar, there is little reason to think one might be right where the other is wrong. The probability that all are wrong is much higher than that one of the many is right.

        ==The Pilate Stone was discovered as recently as 1961.==
        Yes, finding out that Dan Brown didn’t make up the country of Scotland makes his tales true. Even if Pilate existed it does not mean he tried a miracle working Jesus. You’d believe me about the boy living wild in Chernobyl but would doubt that such a child invented cold fusion. See the similarity?

        ==But there’s a corollary to that: if a religion DOES look different than what humans would make up, then it is LESS likely to be made up by humans. And that’s where my approach begins.==
        I’ve heard this before. It’s wrong. It’s sad and it’s wrong.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/03 at 10:30

        That we’ve NOT seen miracles, suspension of natural laws, evidence of objective morality, is evidence against religion/theism that predict these things.

        I agree 100%. As long as you promise to stick to your final subordinate clause: “that predict these things”. Christianity does not necessarily predict miracles, denies the suspension of natural laws, and does not predict any special evidence of objective morality. So it’s not one of the religions that is disevidenced by your approach here.

        If there was a present god that could suspend natural law, perform miracles etc. for all to witness, they (most of humanity) would see the truth of this and change religious belief.

        This seems like special pleading. “If any religion was true, everyone would know it, because that religion would have a constantly present deity regularly demonstrating supernatural power for the entirety of humanity.” Uhm….says who? It’s one thing to fantasize about the kind of evidence you’d like to see, but it’s another thing to announce that all claims not meeting your standard must necessarily be false. That’s no different from a YEC complaining that evolution must be false because we haven’t yet found the transitional fossil between butterflies and moths.

        “there are tens of thousands of sects claiming to have the one true god and one true way.”

        Citation needed. Sure, there are probably hundreds of thousands of individual churches in the world. But they don’t all claim to have the “one true god” and “one true way” — that’s a gross falsehood; the vast majority of them maintain full or substantive communion with each other.

        ==The Pilate Stone was discovered as recently as 1961.==
        Yes, finding out that Dan Brown didn’t make up the country of Scotland makes his tales true.

        You said there has not been any new evidence. I gave an example of new evidence. Or is this another fictional objection?

        ==But there’s a corollary to that: if a religion DOES look different than what humans would make up, then it is LESS likely to be made up by humans. And that’s where my approach begins.==
        I’ve heard this before. It’s wrong. It’s sad and it’s wrong.

        How so? Really, I’m interested. If appearing MORE man-made makes a religion LESS likely to be divine in origin, wouldn’t appearing LESS man-made make a religion MORE likely to be divine in origin? Seems pretty straightforward to me.

  2. john zande 2013/05/01 at 15:45

    Firstly, atheism couldn’t care less about Christianity. Atheism is the non-belief in the gods. You can quibble all you like about your chosen soothsayers and the gibberish they spoke and claims they made all you like… it doesn’t change the fact that there has not been a single recorded supernatural event in human history.

    Now, “Could any newly discovered evidence convince an atheist that the New Testament’s claim of a resurrected Jesus is true?”

    Of course. Jesus himself. Anything less would be flatly unacceptable as evidence for such an unbelievable story. Seems the character Jesus recognised this fact, too…. Acts 1:3, “To them He presented Himself alive after His passion by many proofs.” Luke describes Jesus appearing to the disciples and eating with them, “demonstrating” that he is flesh and bones. Appears your god-man character understood the nature of necessary “evidence.”

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/01 at 15:58

      For a group that couldn’t care less about Christianity, y’all sure do seem to spend a helluvalot of time arguing about why Christianity is false.

      I made it clear: I’m not talking about atheism simpliciter. I’m talking about the belief that the resurrection didn’t happen. How would this particular belief be falsified?

      You glibly respond that Jesus himself would be the only possible proof of the resurrection….but how would that even work? Just because some Middle Eastern guy shows up and starts doing magic tricks doesn’t mean he also happened to rise from the dead 1,980 years and 2 weeks ago.

      Are you saying that general naturalism would have to be falsified before you could conceive the falsification of your disbelief in the resurrection? I could at least understand that.

      • john zande 2013/05/01 at 16:28

        Yeah, that’s be an appropriate way of wording it.

        Christianity only comes up a lot because its Christians we usually deal with.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/01 at 16:47

        Gee, then why didn’t you say so? =P

      • violetwisp 2013/05/01 at 17:00

        Are we a group? You’re part of the group PeW. Isn’t that nice? 🙂

        On a side note, you still haven’t explained why the resurrection bit has to be true for your belief. I seriously don’t get that at all. When I had my blind faith Christianity, I was more interested in the nice words of Jesus and the funny feeling the god God gave me (all protective and loving, like the imaginary dragon that soothes me now! (only joking, but it might be true))

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/01 at 17:30

        The resurrection is the centerpiece of Christianity. Without it, the whole “this is supernatural stuff” business falls apart.

        Not that some forms of Christianity wouldn’t still have appeal if I was an atheist, mind you….

      • violetwisp 2013/05/01 at 17:02

        Oh, and I love the idea that a Middle Easter guy showing up and doing magic tricks is completely unrelated to – da-dah! – dying and coming back to life! I bet I can get you to believe David Copperfield is a deity …

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/01 at 17:37

        We can apparently get John to believe David Copperfield is a deity.

      • violetwisp 2013/05/01 at 20:41

        “The resurrection is the centerpiece of Christianity. Without it, the whole “this is supernatural stuff” business falls apart.”
        I’m really concerned about your understanding of faith and religion. I want to help you be a better Christian. If the god God exists, the whole supernatural thing is his call – he can do anything, but anything, he likes and it doesn’t need to fit in anywhere with your understanding of science or history. Most of the Jesus stories could be utterly fictitious and it wouldn’t matter at all. The important thing would be the message – don’t you get that? There’s one god, he loves the Jews first and foremost, but he’s extended his offer to the rest of humanity and come to earth to say hello. While on earth he took the time to tell people they need to love and look after other people and stop being so judgmental and narrow-minded. That’s the message. If you have been personally touched by your god and you believe he is the one doing the touching, then this is all you need. You don’t need to worry about any of it making sense in your puny human mind. You don’t need to try and get the logical upper hand with atheists because we’re shut out from the truth and don’t understand the glory of your god that you’re feeling – that should be your evidence.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/01 at 20:43

        Was that the Christianity you knew or were fond of?

        I’m not entirely sure whether you’re Poeing or whether you’re merely describing your own memories. Care to clarify?

      • violetwisp 2013/05/01 at 20:48

        I’m basing it on what I hear Christians say. The general description of the religion I guess is the one I always understood, and the one my mum likes to present to me to entice me back. The feeling of a god on a personal level is easily replicated with the dragon I mentioned, and the emotion of groups gathered for united cause is obvious – those explain the ‘glory’ people imagine.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/01 at 20:49

        I see. Well, you’ve had a very different experience of Christianity. Mind if I ask what denomination you were in?

      • violetwisp 2013/05/01 at 20:53

        I have? Or you have?

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/01 at 20:53

        Different from mine. 🙂

      • violetwisp 2013/05/01 at 20:57

        That goes without saying! Fundamentalists are pretty much in the minority. Like everyone else, I grew up thinking our interpretation was ‘correct’ and everyone else was wrong. I was Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) and I had a Baptist friend who laughed at a baptism scene in an RE video because it wasn’t immersion – and that was clearly wrong. I thought she was nuts. We were both nuts. She still is.

      • violetwisp 2013/05/01 at 20:49

        I think you might have ulterior motives for whatever you’re doing, but if you don’t, I feel sorry for you trying to logically prove something like this. It’s an interesting angle though … I guess …

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/01 at 20:55

        It’s not an issue of proof. Just a question of history.

        I like history. 🙂

  3. Ben Nasmith 2013/05/01 at 17:02

    I agree that falsifiability is a virtue of a belief or belief system. But I don’t see why it is a necessary virtue. I believe the earth is older than five-minutes (indeed, older than 6000 years). But there is no way to falsify that belief. It is logically possible that the world came in to being five minutes ago with all traces of age included.

    I need some criterion other than falsifiability to make my common-sense (yet unfalsifiable) beliefs rise to the top of the pool of logically possible options.

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/01 at 18:04

      Technically, no belief is TRULY unfalsifiable. Even Violet’s visitation-by-Zeus could be a hallucination or a dream or the work of some malevolent alien technology. But that’s what we would call a “trivial solution”.

      In differential equations, you look for a function that will satisfy a set of mathematical conditions. Typically, f(x) = 0 + C will satisfy the majority of conditions….but it doesn’t actually tell us anything, so it’s referred to as the trivial solution. When people ask for a solution they assume that it’s not going to be a trivial one.

      The same thing is true for this instance. Trivially, nothing is truly falsifiable….but we can introduce a family of related conditions and propositions which make a limited falsifiability possible. That’s what’s necessary.

      • Ben Nasmith 2013/05/01 at 18:15

        I just think its helpful to recognize that some things are truly basic beliefs and may be rationally maintained, even when they don’t appear to be falsifiable. If Violet was visited by Zeus, Ark would likely disown her and appeal to a trivial solution. Violet, however, would remain justified in believing in Zeus.

        I agree that the resurrection is open to historical investigation. But it is a slippery fish deciding how much evidence constitutes a historical fact. You have a tough crowd. I think they will go for conspiracy theory at all cost. I think it’s possible to build a case, but most people will quibble over whether there’s enough here to constitute a fact. Perhaps it’s the underlying methodological naturalism that is the real issue here.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/01 at 18:41

        It’s not important to me whether I come up with enough evidence to “constitute a historical fact”. There are no such things as “facts” in the absolute sense; we have propositions and they can be more or less probable depending on the evidence. A proposition that is 99.9999% probable is most likely a fact, yes….but it’s still not one.

        I’m just interested in what is more or less probable.

  4. violetwisp 2013/05/01 at 17:05

    (Yikes! Even Ben doesn’t agree with you – and you’re his thinking idol!!)

  5. geneticfractals 2013/05/02 at 05:04

    Good post, I like the way you have framed this. I think you got the answer you were looking for: a debate.

    It would be interesting the change the question to: What would it take for an open minded Muslim to accept the resurrection and become a Christian? Given that they readily accept Jesus was a holy prophet with a divine message and they even accept that he ascended to heaven and that he will return, they are much closer to it than atheists. The only thing they don’t accept is his crucifiction and resurrection.

    What would sway them?

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/02 at 11:21

      What examples might you give for the falsifiability of your belief that the resurrection didn’t happen?

      Honestly, I think it would be more difficult for a Muslim to accept the resurrection than for an atheist….at least, through the path I’m talking about. Muslims have a commitment to the plenary inspiration of the Koran that would make fundamentalist KJV-onlyers blush, and they have a preexisting belief that Allah tricked everyone into thinking Jesus died.

      In order for a Muslim to accept the resurrection, you’d have to unpack and dismantle the belief in the plenary inspiration of the Koran, and throw out the actions of Allah in the situation….essentially, convert to atheism. Then you’d have to use the same approach as you’d use on an atheist — getting him to accept the possibility of historical evidence falsifying atheism.

      • geneticfractals 2013/05/02 at 12:28

        Yes, you are probably right. My muslim friends would be highly amused by such a question. They would pour me another tea and offer me dades as an answer,

        Did I deny the resurrection of Jesus? I don’t think so. So I can’t present falsifiability of without some nuances first.

        I was raised a Christian and have since taken my distance. I don’t embrace it anymore.

        I am quite convinced by the evidence that science has produced that reality is as science says it is and there is no space for miracles other than miss-interpretation through of sleight of hand or new phenomena yet to be explained.

        However, I also know that the human body is not equipped to experience reality directly and has to interpret it through limited senses and a thick layer of mind. I have done enough experimentation with my own mind to know that I can get it to believe just about anything.

        People like Jesus and Buddha were probably highly perceptive and may well have had 20/20 vision w.r.t. the world around them. Evidenced by their following they had a very strong influence on other people, deep into the consciousness of those people.

        Although I don’t believe that the physical body of a dead man can resurrect (or did), I have no good reason to doubt that he was seen by others afterwards, including many centuries later. Humans tend to see what they desire deeply. I guess that would make me a partial gnostic.

        So that just leaves the physical resurrection of a dead man which I don’t believe. The falsify my believe, I would need to see a dead man resurrect before my eyes, having personally assured myself that he was properly dead.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/02 at 14:11

        “I am quite convinced that reality is as science says it is and there is no space for miracles other than misinterpretation through sleight-of-hand or new phenomena yet to be explained.”

        I agree wholeheartedly. The laws of our physical reality cannot be broken by physical entities. Moreover, nonphysical entities have not been observed despite numerous attempts and opportunities, so we can conclude with a high degree of certainty that nonphysical entities do not interact with the physical reality as a matter of course.

        But translating this into the presupposition that no nonphysical entities could have interacted with reality throughout history is a leap of faith.

        “Although I don’t believe that the physical body of a dead man can resurrect (or did), I have no good reason to doubt that he was seen by others afterwards, including many centuries later.”

        I do find it very interesting that you, like me, believe a historical Jesus seen by many people after his death is the most probable explanation of the evidence.

        “The falsify my believe, I would need to see a dead man resurrect before my eyes, having personally assured myself that he was properly dead.”

        What if the only evidence that a nonphysical entity can cause a dead man to resurrect is in history?

      • geneticfractals 2013/05/02 at 14:33

        The mind writing this phrase is a non physical entity interacting with reality. The information on your screen is non physical and read by another non-physical mind that inhabits your brain. But without the synapses of the brains of living species, non physical entities have a hard time interacting with the brain and the real world. I know that some people believe that non physical entities can interact with matter through quantum mechanisms. I know that it is tempting to be believe in supernatural mind could interact through such mechanisms but for now I am not convinced. But who knows, perhaps we’ll get there within outlet generation 🙂

        Regarding history: historical facts that defy reality can’t convince me. I’m happy to accept a sunken Atlantis if there is a convincing historical record (as for Jesus), but reality defying acts need to be seen to be believed. For me at least.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/02 at 14:58

        Well, accepting the distinction between physical and nonphysical is a good start!

        “I know that some people believe that non physical entities can interact with matter through quantum mechanisms. I know that it is tempting to be believe in supernatural mind could interact through such mechanisms but for now I am not convinced.”

        It wouldn’t even have to be through quantum mechanisms. One pop science theory is that the universe itself is a simulated hologram; any entity outside the hologram would be be able to control events within the simulation at will. We would obviously see this as a nonphysical entity altering reality….but this suggestion in no way defies reality itself.

        Reality defying acts need to be seen to be believed. For me at least.

        So you’re saying that even if a “reality-defying act” actually happened and had ample evidence, you wouldn’t be able to evaluate it unless you physically witnessed it?

      • geneticfractals 2013/05/02 at 16:22

        A holographic reality controlled by an intelligent entity from the outside doesn’t square with anything I know about the universe, so it isn’t the first version I would hold likely. I don’t need it either because I have a perfectible acceptable model if the universe, reality, life and even a non-super natural God that doesn’t require such a solution.

        On the whole I accept 3rd party evidence backed up by a consistent theory as being true. Reality defying acts are by definition unreal and I suspect I would need a lot more than 3rd party evidence. Seeing for myself would probably be enough.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/02 at 16:47

        A holographic reality is posed as an explanation for loop quantum gravity and so forth. It’s quite consistent with everything we know about reality.

        What do you mean by “backed up by a consistent theory”? And could you clarify what you mean by “reality defying acts”?

      • geneticfractals 2013/05/03 at 01:52

        I’ve read about that holographic universe but I don’t recall there being mention of a intelligent entity behind it.

        On your question, I think those phrases speak for themselves but I have no issue with you having your own definitions. I have no issue with you believing Jesus resurrection as described in the gospel. I have long ago accepted that everybody has their own belief system on the spectrum of beliefs. That everybody has their own way of interpreting the world they live in and the things they have heard or read. I have never been zealous and or tried to convince people to change their perceptions or beliefs and pay no attention to such effort on their behalf. If they get stuck, I’m happy to get them unstuck but not otherwise.

        Yet, I am highly interested in understanding what other belief systems have evolved over time and what connects them or not. When I am in church I respect God. When I am in a mosque I respect Allah. When I am in a Buddhist temple I contemplate awakening. When in a Hindu temple, I pay my respects all the colourful deities with a profound happiness. When I’m with atheists I share their skepticism. And when on my own, I meditate and have humanistic and mostly buddhist philosophy. When my mind engaged, it is highly scientific.

        But you see, it will do you no good to know what I truly believe or not or what it takes to changes such beliefs. Because the only thing that matters is what you believe yourself.

        I understand the purpose of this dialogue but I’m not sure I understand the intention. Do you?

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/03 at 10:42

        I’m talking about the simulation argument, which asserts that if it’s theoretically possible to for a universe to be simulated, then it’s much more likely that we’re one of the simulations than the Prime Thing. As such, any being outside of the simulation could interact with it in a nonphysical fashion.

        I’m not advancing this view or anything like that. I’m just pointing out the essential pathway of nonphysical interaction: that a being outside the physical reality interacting with the physical reality need not entail the cessation of procedural naturalism within that reality.

        If we were inside a simulation (Stephen King’s Under the Dome, anyone?), science would still work. Procedural naturalism would still be valid. The possibility of nonphysical interactions does not invalidate procedural naturalism, and even the realization of nonphysical interactions does not suspend procedural naturalism except with reference to those events.

        It will do you no good to know what I truly believe or not or what it takes to changes such beliefs. Because the only thing that matters is what you believe yourself. I understand the purpose of this dialogue but I’m not sure I understand the intention. Do you?

        I’m interested in seeing whether my atheist friends can demonstrate the falsifiability of their beliefs, or if falsifiability is restricted to a narrow set that ends up inadvertently excluding Christianity.

      • geneticfractals 2013/05/03 at 11:20

        Interesting research. Certainly a good idea to see reality could be simulated (or created) to understand its parameters. Thanks!

        Do you mean to say that Christianity might be the only (of a few) beliefs that is not falsifiable and therefore the truth?

        Does that mean you believe in absolute truth?

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/03 at 11:24

        I’m not sure what you’re asking. Christianity is falsifiable; falsifiability is one of the most important elements of any serious belief.

        I believe in the relative perception of absolute truth.

      • geneticfractals 2013/05/03 at 11:44

        I was referring to your last line – which I didn’t ‘get’.

        I believe in absolute perception of relative truths 😉 But seriously, I haven’t come across any truth that is absolute. All truth is contextual: it is true within its context but not outside it.

        I have therefore no issue with multiple religion claiming to represent the only truth: that is entirely acceptable with that system. However, from the outside, where the dogma of that system doesn’t apply, that same core belief may be entirely false and objectionable.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/03 at 12:00

        I meant atheism’s falsifiability with respect to Christianity.

        If a given brand of atheism cannot be falsified in a manner consistent with Christianity, then that atheist’s rejection of Christianity is a non-evidential belief based on faith and emotional commitment.

      • geneticfractals 2013/05/03 at 12:21

        Isn’t that the whole problem? If you apply atheist ‘logic’ to Christianity that is not compatible with Christian ‘logic’ then the Christian can it accept that argument for falsifiability.

        Same thing vice versa: an Atheist can not accept Christian logic that there is a god, even if that logic is perfectly sound from the Christian perspective.

        I can’t use maths to solve a relationship problem and I can’t use my expertise In conflict resolution to solve a differential equation even though the two approaches may be mutually informative.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/03 at 12:42

        There is no atheist logic or Christian logic; there is only good logic and bad logic. 🙂

        The issue is what I’d call strawman falsifiability.

        For example, let’s take two hypothetical physicists. The first believes in Newtonian gravity; the second believes in general relativity.

        The relativist asks the Newtonian, “Would any evidence falsify your belief in Newtonian gravity?”

        The Newtonian responds, “Yes, of course. If you drop an apple and it simply floats in midair, Newtonian gravity would be falsified. You can test it. Until I see something like that, I’m not going to consider your fancy ‘general relativity’.”

        The Newtonian is committing a strawman fallacy in his purported claim of falsifiability. General relativity doesn’t say apples won’t fall, so that point of falsifiability provides nothing with reference to general relativity.

        In the same way, an atheist who claims falsifiability by demanding that a deity appear to him in person and perform miracles is missing the point. Christianity doesn’t claim that deities will spontaneously appear to skeptics and start working miracles, so it’s a spurious standard of falsifiability.

      • geneticfractals 2013/05/04 at 12:12

        I think that could pursue this thread a long time but I’m going to move on. I’ve got new ideas and enjoyed talking with you. Thanks!

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/05 at 13:24

        Thanks for contributing!

  6. violetwisp 2013/05/02 at 12:30

    I found geneticfractals line kind of interesting. It made me wonder: could any newly discovered evidence convince you that the Koran is true?

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/02 at 13:40

      Sure. My positive belief that the Koran is fallacious is quite falsifiable. I would need to see evidence that the Koran is more probably the result of divine intelligence than of human musings….unambiguous statements about science, archeology, or history that Muhammad could not have known or guessed would do it. Muslims claim the Koran contains mathematically unique textual patterns that could not have been produced by a human being; if that could be rigorously and independently verified, that would be a start.

      In the alternative, evidence concerning the emergence of Islam that is wildly and uniquely inconsistent with what we would expect from a man-made religion could also positively affect my view of Islam.

      Of course, this evidence would need to be strong enough to overturn my belief in the high probability of Christianity.

      • violetwisp 2013/05/02 at 17:33

        You’re funny. I don’t think many people can have your approach to religion. It’s sort of clever but sort of more stupid than the average (I don’t mean that in rude way). Any possibility you have Aspergers? My dad thinks belief in the god God is logical as well. Do you like collecting stamps or trainspotting?

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/02 at 18:01

        No Aspergers; I’m just a physicist, that’s all.

        I do have Tourette’s, though. If it’s any consolation.

      • violetwisp 2013/05/02 at 19:35

        Are they not on the same spectrum? There might be an overlap. It would account for logical approach to life. I remember when my brother told me he wasn’t a Christian anymore and I asked why, he responded ‘I just don’t think it’s logical’, which at the time I thought was utterly bizarre. I expect I have a bit too.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/05/02 at 19:46

        Yeah, they sometimes go together, but I don’t think I have it. I’m generally too trusting of people I don’t know, and my social skills were a bit stunted at first, but that was just a side effect of homeschooling. 🙂

        My approach here is really just history and physics. Nothing more.

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