The Head Fake

So what if Jesus was to reappear on Earth and, in a well documented manner, did things like heal amputees?  In other words, what if God did as the atheists demand and they get their sensational, miraculous, unexplainable gaps?  What next?

Atheists like Michael Shermer would not acknowledge this as evidence for God.  Instead, they would insist that this “Jesus” could be some ETI trying to deceive us.

But atheists like Jerry Coyne would count this as evidence for God.  Provisionally, that is.  According to Coyne:

 At some point I would just say, “Okay, I’ll tentatively say there’s a God,”

He also adds:

If only Christian prayers were answered, and Jesus appeared doing miracles left and right, documented by all kinds of evidence, I would say, “It looks as if some entity that comports with the Christian God is working ‘miracles,’ though I don’t know how she does it.”

So if God were to satisfy atheist demands for “evidence,” many atheists would still not believe and others would offer up some mealy-mouthed concession about the mere existence of God and want to know how she does her miracles.

Once we, as Christians, can recognize how this would play out, it becomes rather obvious that all those demands for evidence are a sham.  For I do not think God is all that interested in whether or not someone believes He exists.  He is interested in whether or not someone believes they are a sinner.  And note the reaction of the atheists.  Would they repent of their sins?  Would they beg for forgiveness?  Would they choose to worship and follow Christ?  No.  Not at all.  They would simply reassert their sins of pride and arrogance.   They would maintain their self-centered perception as judge of all reality.

The biggest head fake of all is this notion that atheists are atheists because of “the evidence.”  We’ve seen that the non-existence of such “evidence” is a matter of subjective opinion, but what is far more important is whether or not the self-centered views of the atheists can acknowledge the need to repent of their sins.  For it’s not whether or not there is some gap out there that would force some atheists to say “Okay, I’ll tentatively say there’s a God.”  What matters is whether or not atheists can admit their need for salvation.

The core issue here is not, and had never been, “the evidence.”  The issue is rebellion and the manner in which we love our sin.  So the question that gets us closer to the heart of the matter is not “what type of data would count as evidence for God.”  It is, “if you were convinced God exists, what would it take to get you to repent of your sins and stop rebelling against God?”

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8 Responses to The Head Fake

  1. Doug says:

    Spot on, Michael — good work as always, thanks!

  2. Random says:

    I’m curious. How do you know Coyne’s claims about the conditions under which he would give up his atheism are motivated primarily by a desire to protect the movement? Have you read his mind? 

    Second,  it should be obvious to rational observers that Shermer is being dogmatic. His point that there are a multitude of hypothesis that could explain a given piece of data applies to anything not just to miracles. Using his logic we could never believe in evolution. For example, to the data point that the universe is billions of years old a young earth creationist could reply God created the world in 6 days but that the devil gave it appearance of age to lead us all into sin. Fossils were also planted by Satan and DNA evidence doesn’t exist-it is product of a mass hallucination caused by Satan’s minions. Most people would regard this as insane but this is reasoning is completely analogous to what Shermer is doing here. The fact that Shermer complains that theism is unfalsifiable while using arguments like this to ensure that atheism is unfalsifiable, the fact that he seems unaware of this and the fact that he is unaware of how selective he is in the application of this argument is absolutely hilarious. But of course, his argument is a natural extension of the question begging ‘God of the gaps’ ‘objection’ which you apparently endorse so it’s simply unclear to me what your problem with Shermer is.

    So this brings me to my other question. Do you think Coyne is wrong? If Jesus appeared in front of you and performed miracles do you think it would be reasonable to believe the claims of Christianity? 

    I ask because whenever somebody explains the conditions under which they would believe in miracles you are very eager to offer (plainly ridiculous) criticisms. Why don’t you help us by telling us all what sort of evidence would convince you of a miracle occurrence? What is evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and why does it meet your criteria? I asked you these questions a few posts ago and you completely ignored them so I hope you will be honest enough to answer them now. 

  3. Crude says:

    I believe Mike’s consistent point has been that these sort of things are subjective evaluations, complete with subjective biases, that cannot really be overcome or circumvented – and that people who pretend otherwise are doing exactly that. Pretending.

  4. Michael says:

    I’m curious. How do you know Coyne’s claims about the conditions under which he would give up his atheism are motivated primarily by a desire to protect the movement? Have you read his mind?

    I don’t claim to “know” nor do I read his mind. I simply read his words in the context of his activism. When it comes to this topic, he is not a scholar. He comes to the table as an activist with an agenda.

    The fact that Shermer complains that theism is unfalsifiable while using arguments like this to ensure that atheism is unfalsifiable, the fact that he seems unaware of this and the fact that he is unaware of how selective he is in the application of this argument is absolutely hilarious.

    Yes, this is correct. It would be strategically bad for the Gnu movement to follow Shermer’s lead.

    But of course, his argument is a natural extension of the question begging ‘God of the gaps’ ‘objection’ which you apparently endorse so it’s simply unclear to me what your problem with Shermer is.

    Huh? You never did answer my question as to whether you embrace and advocate the God of the gaps approach. I hope you will be honest enough to answer it now.
    So this brings me to my other question. Do you think Coyne is wrong? If Jesus appeared in front of you and performed miracles do you think it would be reasonable to believe the claims of Christianity?

    From the atheistic perspective, Shermer’s position is the one that is intellectually honest and consistent. Neither you, nor Coyne, have shown that invoking a supernatural being is more parsimonious than a more advanced, natural intelligence.

    I ask because whenever somebody explains the conditions under which they would believe in miracles you are very eager to offer (plainly ridiculous) criticisms.

    You refer to my criticism as “plainly ridiculous” because you cannot rebut them.

    Why don’t you help us by telling us all what sort of evidence would convince you of a miracle occurrence? What is evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and why does it meet your criteria? I asked you these questions a few posts ago and you completely ignored them so I hope you will be honest enough to answer them now.

    I wish you would be honest enough to admit that I did reply to your questions and you were the one who broke off discussion. I realize you want to sit on your Gnu throne and pass judgment given that apart from all the nitpicking and naysaying, Gnu atheism is just a personal opinion. But instead of trying to change the topic, why not deal with the points I have been raising?

  5. Random says:

    Mike posted:”Yes, this is correct. It would be strategically bad for the Gnu movement to follow Shermer’s lead.”

    They already have. P Z Myers says so, A C Grayling says so, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris basically say the same. Shermer is simply following an established tradition and Coyne claims that he honestly disagrees with this position. You attribute other motives to Coyne but how you discovered them I have no idea. You claim that the real issue for atheists is not evidence but rebellion against God. This is a claim about the motivations of millions of people. I ask again, how do you know this? Are you a mind reader? Or do you just enjoy speculating about the psychology of people you don’t know?

    “Huh? You never did answer my question as to whether you embrace and advocate the God of the gaps approach.”

    No I’ve answered it a million times. The God of the gaps objection is a completely retarded argument. 

    “From the atheistic perspective, Shermer’s position is the one that is intellectually honest and consistent. Neither you, nor Coyne, have shown that invoking a supernatural being is more parsimonious than a more advanced, natural intelligence.”

    Shermer’s position leads to absurdities and I’ve already pointed  to some. But since you’re essentially saying that atheists have to become dogmatists and ensure that their position is completely beyond disproof it’s really unclear what your problem new atheism is. The type reasoning deployed by Shermer can (and frequently is) used by Christians to protect their position from attack. But if all positions are as good as each other than there is no standard for judging who is right and who is wrong. If this is the case then the way to influence society is not merely through rational argument (which on your view is pointless) but through any means necessary. Dawkins et al are only doing what they have to to advance their cause and you are simply being a sophist when you accuse them of doing something wrong.

    “I wish you would be honest enough to admit that I did reply to your questions and you were the one who broke off discussion.”

    No you didn’t. I asked a) what would it take to convince you that a miracle occurred and b) what is the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? You did not answer these questions. If you did answer them please post your answers again because no matter times I look through our previous I can’t find the answer to these questions. I’m very open to the possibility that I missed them but it seems that you are being evasive because you know that no such evidence exists. I hope you will prove me wrong by answering these questions instead of responding with more evasion.

  6. Michael says:

    You attribute other motives to Coyne but how you discovered them I have no idea. You claim that the real issue for atheists is not evidence but rebellion against God. This is a claim about the motivations of millions of people. I ask again, how do you know this? Are you a mind reader? Or do you just enjoy speculating about the psychology of people you don’t know?

    Did I claim to “know” this? No. If you’ll read my blog entry, you’ll find that I noticed how Coyne said he would respond to a miracle:

    At some point I would just say, “Okay, I’ll tentatively say there’s a God,”

    He also adds:

    If only Christian prayers were answered, and Jesus appeared doing miracles left and right, documented by all kinds of evidence, I would say, “It looks as if some entity that comports with the Christian God is working ‘miracles,’ though I don’t know how she does it.”

    After observing these responses, I noted:

    So if God were to satisfy atheist demands for “evidence,” many atheists would still not believe and others would offer up some mealy-mouthed concession about the mere existence of God and want to know how she does her miracles.

    Once we, as Christians, can recognize how this would play out, it becomes rather obvious that all those demands for evidence are a sham. For I do not think God is all that interested in whether or not someone believes He exists. He is interested in whether or not someone believes they are a sinner. And note the reaction of the atheists. Would they repent of their sins? Would they beg for forgiveness? Would they choose to worship and follow Christ? No. Not at all. They would simply reassert their sins of pride and arrogance. They would maintain their self-centered perception as judge of all reality.

    So where am I wrong on this?

    No I’ve answered it a million times. The God of the gaps objection is a completely retarded argument.

    Do you hold that position consistently? Or does the objection suddenly become valid when someone argues the inability to explain the origin of life is evidence of God’s existence?

    Shermer’s position leads to absurdities and I’ve already pointed to some. But since you’re essentially saying that atheists have to become dogmatists and ensure that their position is completely beyond disproof it’s really unclear what your problem new atheism is.

    My “problem with new atheism” is that it is a movement built around hate and bigotry. As for your point, it remains true that neither you, nor Coyne, have shown that invoking a supernatural being is more parsimonious than a more advanced, natural intelligence.

    Dawkins et al are only doing what they have to to advance their cause and you are simply being a sophist when you accuse them of doing something wrong.

    I never said it was wrong for the activists to have a cause. My problem is when they are dishonest and pretend they are behaving as scholars and scientists when they are really behaving as activists.

    No you didn’t. I asked a) what would it take to convince you that a miracle occurred and b) what is the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? You did not answer these questions. If you did answer them please post your answers again because no matter times I look through our previous I can’t find the answer to these questions.

    No you didn’t. Here is the post where we last discussed:
    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/so-why-are-atheists-reluctant-to-define-evidence/

    I’m very open to the possibility that I missed them but it seems that you are being evasive because you know that no such evidence exists. I hope you will prove me wrong by answering these questions instead of responding with more evasion.

    Are you still clinging to some ham-handed notion of “evidence?” You need to address my points about the subjective element of evidence.

    Sorry, Random, it’s not evasion. It’s wisdom and experience. Talking about “evidence” with simple-minded and/or closed-minded gnus is boring and a waste of time. On the other hand, do you have any evidence that would show you can discuss such issues in an open- and fair-minded manner?

  7. Random says:

    I’m busy so I’ll make this quick. I have looked at the discussion you linked. I still cannot find the part where you a) state what would convince of that a miracle had occured and b) what the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is. Perhaps I did not read carefully enough. Would you like to post the relevant sections where you answer these questions?

    “Do you hold that position consistently? Or does the objection suddenly become valid when someone argues the inability to explain the origin of life is evidence of God’s existence?”

    The inability to explain the origin of life is not by itself evidence for God. It would only be evidence if theists had a positive theory explaining how God created life.

  8. Michael says:

    Perhaps I did not read carefully enough. Would you like to post the relevant sections where you answer these questions?

    You are playing Gnu games, random. If you look at that thread, you complained about my initial response to you because I thought you were talking about the resurrection and you insisted you were talking about the generic topic of miracles. So when I switch to address your discussion of the generic topic of miracles, you now want to return to the resurrection.

    So far, you have ignored the subjective aspect of “evidence,” won’t provide any evidence you can discuss such issues in an open- and fair-minded manner, and won’t tell us what data you would count as evidence for the resurrection.

    The inability to explain the origin of life is not by itself evidence for God. It would only be evidence if theists had a positive theory explaining how God created life.

    And the goalposts get shifted. Before, all you needed was to see the miracle or have it detected in the lab. Now you have added the need for a “positive theory” explaining who God carries out the miracle. Like I said, you are playing Gnu games.

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