Tom: Walt, No, you are wrong. The evidence [about personhood of a fetus, morality of abortion, and existence of religious experience] is the cumulative scientific knowledge that builds my world view.
Walt: The cumulative scientific knowledge about the world to date is incomplete. Thus a worldview based only on the cumulative scientific knowledge is based on insufficient information. There is no scientific basis for judging what is a person, what is morally right or wrong, nor for the validity or invalidity of religious experience. There is some data on religious experience effects on the brain, but that data says nothing about the experiences themselves.
Tom: Our understanding of the brain tells us that we are our brains.
Walt: If I understand you correctly Tom, I think you are saying that our identity, or personhood, is equivalent with our brains. That is a philosophical question that has bewildered people for thousands of years, and especially for the last 400 years or so since Descartes. I am not aware of any research that has pinpointed our human identity, or the concept of personhood, to our brain. It is merely a speculative interpretation by some of the current understanding of neuroscience. The data is inconclusive about whether there is more or not to mind and emotion than mere matter and chemicals. One must take an apriori physicalist view of mind to say we are only our brains rather than to take into account that there is no known mechanism for which matter can produce a conscious mind. There are physicalist theories, but no scientific validation. Philosophically, it is the naturalistic fallacy to say mere matter can produce self-aware matter. The same fallacy applies to saying matter is equivalent to personhood. What do you take away in order for a person to no longer be a person? If I transplant a brain from a dead body into another body with a dead brain, do I have a new person, the person who was the brain, or the person who is the body? Considering that there are memories and DNA in a body as well as in a brain, it gets complicated. But on top of that, the question about mind and consciousness really makes it difficult.
Tom: A group of molecules that haven’t got a brain are not sacred and there is no reason to claim that we should spend money and resources to create a human being from these molecules.
Walt: First, a fetus is not a mere group of molecules. It is a living thing with a DNA and if left alone, it will fully develop into a human being. Second, we aren’t the ones by our money and resources creating a human being from these molecules. The original couple that started the process are responsible for bringing a living egg and living sperm together in order to create a whole new life. It cost them nothing financially to get that started. I know you do not accept biblical statements, but the Bible does say that God created that life. You might ask why God would create a human being that is unwanted? God might ask why that couple made it possible for Him to do it if they didn’t want it?
Tom: If I claim that there is a golden teapot in orbit around the Sun you have no way of disproving it. Because you can’t disprove it does that mean the probability is 50/50?
Walt: Actually I can disprove it! If you say there is a teapot in orbit around the Sun, you have some means by which you came to know it. Otherwise, your claim is bogus since I know you have no way of knowing.
Tom: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Walt: I agree with that!
Tom: The claim of the supernatural is the most extraordinary claim and will require more evidence than it says so in a book. We also have the story of Jack and the Beanstalk in a book but we don’t believe that actually happened.
Walt: First, with regard to Jack and the Beanstalk, has anyone ever claimed it was a true story just because it was in a book? You have presented a false analogy. I’m sure that in your mind it is a great analogy, but if you really think so, you have a quite lacking understanding of the claims of the Bible (which is common among many atheists – a few who have seriously studied it do understand the contents of the Bible but they got off on a philosophical tangent). Second, the claim of the supernatural is not all that extraordinary, but the claim that a man was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, was violently murdered, and then rose physically from the dead is indeed quite extraordinary. That claim has quite a bit of evidence. Here are a list of books sitting right in front of me that discuss these evidences: The Resurrection of Jesus by Michael Licona; The Evidence for God by Paul Moser; The Coherence of Theism by Richard Swinburne; Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham; The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg; New Proofs for the Existence of God by Robert Splitzer; Reinventing Jesus by Komoszewski, Sawyer and Wallace; Cold-Case Christianity by Warner Wallace; Quantum Physics and Theology by John Polkinghorne; True Reason by Gilson and Weitnaur; The Christ Files by John Dickson; The Reason for God by Timothy Keller; Who Made God? by Edgar Andrews; Reasons for Faith by Geisler and Meister; Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig; and Apologetics for the 21st Century edited by Louis Markos. I didn’t list every relevant book I have on biblical reliability, and evidences for God and the resurrection, but these just happen to be the ones sitting on my desk. I also have a slew of books written by atheists that are bankrupt because they fail to understand the essence of the Bible and have a myopic view of things. So, it is not that I haven’t looked at what the atheists have to say on this matter.
Tom: We CAN prove if something unseen/unheard (personal evidence) on the other side of the Earth is true, i.e. Does China exist.
Walt: That WAS my point! Evidences exist. You have to go look at them, not assume from the get go that they don’t exist.
Tom: We setup a Null hypothesis experiment. We can reference pictures, artifacts, meeting Chinese tourist, people who have visited there, etc (the HO) as compared to the alternative hypothesis (H1) that China is made up. We measure the alpha type 1 errors vs the type 2 and determine the probability truth of the hypothesis. We then can determine whether the hypothesis can be rejected. We do it all the time. We then setup experiments (i.e like sending probes to the Moon before sending a man to verify our hypothesis) to verify before we risk life, money, time, making political policy, passing on ill thought out facebook pics, etc.
Walt: OK. Not a bad idea to test with probes as far as going to the moon is concerned. I am quite familiar with you hypothesis testing since my background is in radar and electro-optics sensing. As well, I’m working on a paper, although it is going slow because I don’t have much extra time right now, that uses a multidimensional Bayes Theorem analysis to investigate the probability the gospel is true. Some work has been done in the past, but I don’t think it was done correctly.
Tom: This can also be done for faith. In fact it has been done for certain of our doctrines. Examples: 1) Just Google ‘Templeton Prayer Study’. Good, sincere Christian doctors giving witness to the power of prayer & verifying the validity of the many verses covering this topic. The short of it showing that there was no statically difference to their double blind study. Do as many people believe as we think, i.e. when your kid gets an ear infection, do you take them to the doctor 1st or to your prayer group. 3) We can examine the discussion of theologians, such as in the clergyproject.org where many are questioning personal experiences. 4) Start researching all of the Bible contradictions. Ask could a perfect being, our God write this or is there a higher probability that it was written just by men. 5) Do we really believe verses like Mark 16:16-18 and drink poison and let snakes bite us. NO, Christianity would come to an end immediately like Jonestown!. We use our brains to rationalize those verses away like women having to submit, slavery is ok, the Sun revolves around the Earth.
Walt: Ok, what you have said here shows you don’t have much knowledge in this area. A biblical scholar understands the contradictions (there are books that talk about those, but most are taken out of context or just flat out misinterpreted), and what is behind Mark 16 (a note in most Bible tells you what is going on there). An experienced theologian understands what is going on when clergy question experiences. And the average Joe on the street could probably tell you why Jonestown is a very different deal. There are good reasons a person who believes in God goes to a doctor. The prayer statistics is explainable as well. It would take me a while to write up explanations for these. The best way forward for me to answer these is to first let you provide me contradictions that I can then show you are not. And, over the next couple of weeks, as I have time, I can write up explanations for the other items.
Tom: To complete Walt, it always comes down to humans. Whether being a Bronze Age author storyteller to a pulpit leader who interprets it to masses of people who add tons of ‘personal evidence’ to give impression that one side as more evidence. We are all human and can make mistakes.
Walt: That’s right. And why do you think you have not made a mistake?
Tom: But thank goodness for Man’s curiosity and courage to overcome such opinion (i.e. Galileo) and to look at the data unbiased and overcome tradition. But if you are going to push your view by bringing FAITH into the equation of politics then it needs to be able to prove itself and be open to question.
Walt: I didn’t know I was pushing my view into the equation of politics. Abortion is not a political issue, it is a moral issue. I have opened up dialogue for questioning.
Tom: And this has only just begun. Until recently, anyone who even had such questions were condemned or shunned.
Walt: That is too bad.
Tom: But with recent topics coming to ahead and the internet, we are starting to have discussions on what has been mandated from our Maker. But until then, I have to disagree with you, the Courts do have the advantage. They have their statements and the data to support it.
Walt: What data? Besides, I still say that just because a court made a decision that a women can have an abortion, doesn’t make it right. It is still murder.
Tom: I look forward to the evidence to back our faith. I think the verdict is out on that. At least to make our Christian side to hold our tongue when passing judgment. And anyways Walt, wasn’t there a lot of murdering by God in writings? (Food for thought.)
Walt: Again, taken out of context. A good book that addresses that is Is God a Moral Monster by Paul Copan.
Tom, I’ve been to other parts of the world where things happen that you don’t see in the U.S. that have no scientific explanation. It is not a matter of being fooled. Bizarre things do happen. When I write up about the prayer statistics, it will help explain why these things happen in certain cultures and not here (as much), as well as why it is wise for even a Christian to go to a doctor no matter where you live in the world.
There is a clear difference between Christian faith and Santa Clause – again a false analogy. Santa Clause is known to be a fiction. The Christian faith started with eyewitnesses. Whether those eyewitnesses were mistaken, is something to discuss. But to lump Christian beliefs with beliefs of Jack and the Beanstalk and Santa Claus is being true is being facetious.
Tom: Such ostridge head in the sand is what truly causes bias and mis-verdicts being made.
Walt: Talking about having a plank in the eye!
Tom: The first premise of science is that there is no supernatural, and it works.
Walt: That is NOT the first premise of science. It is a premise that enables science for what science does – examine natural causes Yes it works, for studying the natural world. That does not mean there is no supernatural realm. What is you argument against the Kalaam Cosmological Argument? If there is no supernatural, you have to have a counter argument that is not a logically fallacy.
Tom, you appear to subscribe to scientism. Not all scientists do. It is a religion in its own right. It is the savior of the world which its adherents bow down to. If you are opposed to cults, be careful of that one! All false gods are not as satisfying as the one that created the world. False gods are good at blinding people and giving them false hope.
On a final note: remember those pictures that looked like a bunch of random patterns that you had to look at just right to see the 3D pattern jump out? An atheist’s arguments usually are based on the random patterns that seem to indicate there is no picture. The theist has found there is an underlying picture in what seems like noise on the surface.