Upon reading Mr. Vacula's first rebuttal, my thoughts on it are as follows... (His rebuttal can be seen at his website JustinVacula.com
he (JD) states “However, all I've done so far is raise two arguments in favor of a generic god.” I disagree. All that JD has done is mention some statistics about the supposed 'finetuning' of the universe and the 'improbability' of abiogenesis...and it simply doesn't follow from 'the universe is fine-tuned' that 'a creator god exists.' This argument appears to boil down to what is called 'an argument from ignorance' : I can't explain phenomena x, therefore god. Why should we be justified in positing a creator god as an explanation just because we can't explain a phenomena?
I would state that it's reasonable to believe in God's existance and the arguments in favor of it are better than the arguments against.
That's it. Reasonable to believe. William Lane Craig has credentials from "Wheaton College (B.A. 1971), graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984)" and yet with all of his training and education, Dr. Craig's arguments basically boil down to that there are better arguments in support of God's existance than against it, and audiences tend to overwhelmingly agree if exit polls from debates are to be believed. I'm not a theologian with my little Bachelors degree in Political Science and I cannot have Mr. Vacula prove the non-existance of God any more than I can snap my fingers and summon Him up for analysis and observation. I contend that the arguments favor the existance of God. A skeptic can always find something to be skeptical about. Justin then goes on to criticize my argument by positing....
Regardless, the fine-tuning argument fundamentally rests on a misunderstanding of probability. Instead of looking at the 'fine tuning' situation as 'the chances of this particular variable are so low,' consider auniverse that we can't even quantify the size/vastness of. Shall we say, that out of an entire universe, that life arising somewhere is improbable? I think not. Somewhere, someplace, life seems to be inevitable – consider all of the stars that 'die' that can 'create' situations conducive to life and all of the moons, suns, planets, etc. When we think of life, we think of carbon, but imagine all of the other possibilities that are not based on carbon!
And yet Justin offers up exactly zero evidence that any of these things are true and actually exist and thus he relies on mere hypotheses and theoretical scenarios. Is Justin, through the lack of any solid scientific evidences here, accepting the alleged existences/possibilities of these things by (dare I say it?) Faith?
This, again, is an argument from ignorance: 'I can't explain a phenomena, therefore God.' While abiogenesis is a difficult topic to think about, it simply does not follow that abiogenesis never occurred
I simply stated that there is no evidence that abiogenesis ever occurred. Justin says that it "simply does not follow that abiogenesis never occurred" and offers up no support of this statement.
This is similar to the universe in a way. The big bang model is an adequate model to explain the origin of the universe, but other questions remain surrounding the big bang and 'what [if anything] caused the big bang.' Although, perhaps, there is not a particular consensus about these questions (if there even is an answer), we don't doubt that the big bang happened (or that the universe exists)
I do not doubt that the Big Bang model is adequate to explain the origin of the universe and I find it can be completely compatible with a Biblical worldview.
When scientists operate, they operate under the banner of methodological naturalism: they assume that all that exists is the natural world and make claims about the natural world in order to do research and advance our understanding of the natural world. Instead of accepting supernatural explanations, as I outlined in my opening statement, we should look for naturalistic explanations instead because such explanations have great explanatory power in addition to naturalism being inductively justified
But Justin does not offer up any reasons as to why methodological naturalism is a far superior arbiter of truth by comparing it to other types of evidence that seem to be excluded here. Science is a wonderful tool for determining some truths and not nearly as effective for others and is fraught with all of the pitfalls conceivable when it is utilized by frail, politicized, agenda-driven human beings. For example..
Can scientific evidence be planted somewhere?
Can scientific evidence be manipulated to achieve a desired end?
Why are court systems always ready to admit eyewitness testimony but scientific evidence only if the judge allows? Probably because of the ever changing nature of science and models that are accepted today are frequently discarded tomorrow.
I recall one recent debate in which one party brought up the existance of opakis. They are notoriously wary of humans and science doubted their existance for many years until finally their existance was confirmed, despite multiple, reported sightings over thise years. Wouldn't science have been better served by accepting testimonial evidence from eyewitnesses in this case?
Now on to Justin's objection's concerning the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
A lack of explanation for, say, the experience of the apostles, the rise of the early church(which seems to be an argument here although it doesn't have a heading), the empty tomb, the womenr eporting, and lack of explanation (!) of the body of Jesus does not lead us to the conclusion that the Christian god exists
Is Justin fully aware that Christ Himself repeatedly stated he was divine? If it could be shown that he did rise from the dead, wouldn't that be an argument in favor of the Christian God who, by definition, is Jesus Christ actually existing?
Can we honestly and reasonably say that because a miracle happened, we can know the source of it or even distinguish what we think is a miracle from advanced technology we are unaware of?
If the gospels are taken as a whole, Jesus predicted in advance, at least on five separate occaisions, that he would rise from the dead. Wouldn't that help narrow down what the 'source' was?
Further, why even assume a source or say a miracle happened instead of saying “I don't know how to explain this.” How can we ever be justified in bridging the epistemic gap from “I don't know” or “A specific [or any] supernatural source is responsible for this phenomena?
I am perfectly willing to consider any naturalistic explanations for Christ instananeously healing the sick, raising the dead and Himself rising from the dead. With 2000 years of hindsight, I hope Mr. Vacula can offer up at least one, possible naturalistic theory.
a major problem here with the resurrection arguments, is that JD is using historical information to arrive at a theological conclusion
Why can't JD use historical evidence to reinforce his faith and discuss it with others?
Is a miracle a probable event? I think not...and I am sure JD and my audience would agree; we simply don't see other examples of resurrections throughout history and are very, very, very, very inductively justified in assuming that persons don't come back from the dead
Thus a miracle would help explain such an event if it actually took place, right?
..how can we say a miracle is the best explanation for any given phenomena when miracles raise more questions than they answer (what was the source, how can the laws of nature be violated/suspended, how can something non-physical interact with something physical, why would this happen here and not elsewhere, etc) and go against what we know about the world (we understand that people don't come back from the dead and have no other examples of resurrection). An explanation of “god did it” doesn't add to our understanding – and thus should be rejected as an explanation
I disagree. The Septuagint Old Testament was written three centuries before Christ was born and we can chronicle that Jesus of Nazereth fulfilled the prophecies contained therein. In reference to the coming Messiah we're talking on the order of, at minimum, 300+ of them. This belief need not be dogmatic and all are invited to search if it is true and to vigorously compare such predictions and fulfillments to other religions.
If JD accepts this information for proof of Jesus' resurrection, I wonder why he does not accept similar claims made by Muslims
Because the prophet Mohammed received any 'revelation' that he had alone, in a cave, and with no other eyewitnesses.
Because a couple of alleged 'eyewitnesses' changed their faith later in life and also changed their testimonies. Check the link I provided on this in my opening statement for more.
Heaven's Gate members
Because I view suicide as being stupid and counterproductive and scripture is against it. Do not be a fool--why die before your time?" (Ecclesiastes 7:17b)
Unless you would like to try and convince me otherwise, of course.
Because their methods have been debunked by science numerous times.
Sathya Sai Baba followers
I had to look that one up. Apparently he claims to be reincarnated and I personally don't accept the concept. There might be other points of disagreement as well but I haven't looked into their practices really.
The fact is, Justin is making the common atheist error here of lumping all religions in together as if the were of equal weight when nothing could be further from the truth.
If atheists who gather at the 2012 Reason Rally arrive at a consensus that they believe so strongly that the natural world is all that exists that they all commit suicide at the National Mall following a speech from, say, James Randi, would this be evidence that naturalism is true? Of course not
I am unaware of any of the apostles or early church fathers calling for mass suicide to demonstrate that Christianity is true. So I do not agree that the comparison is accurate. Again, we are talking about eyewitnesses or people personally aquainted with them.
Willingness to die for a belief, or actually dying for a belief, doesn't show that the belief is true
The apostles that I mentioned actaully knew whether Christ rose from the dead or not. In this way it was more than a belief. They didn't read it from a book or come to this knowledge second hand and had to be brainwashed by it.
the women being at the empty tomb fit well into Gospel themes. For example, the marginalization of Jesus, Jesus' life being a mystery, Jesus identifying with the marginalized, and more temes seem to fit well with the women, so perhaps this is why the Gospel writers used the women in a nrrative
And I would contend that it would have been flying in the face of reason to do so being that their testimony was unacceptable at the time and would have counted agaisnt the credibility of the veracity of the event.
Also interesting is the fact that several of the Gospels have different messages regarding theempty tomb: was Mary Magdeline a witness (John 20:1)?, was it a group of women (Mark 16:1 andMatthew 28:1 have different women)?
If all four gospels lined up on every single fact, there would undoubtedly be accusations of copying from one another. In reference to the alleged discrepencies, historian Michael Grant concluded that the narratives do have differences, however.."if we apply the same sort of criteria that we would apply to any other ancient literary sources, then the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was indeed found empty."
I believe that and if you would like to examine this topic from a reliability standpoint, I think it would be interesting.
JD also mentions the growth of the early church and seemingly argues that the growth of the church points to the fact that Jesus' resurrection is true. It simply does not follow. As I previously mentioned,there are all sorts of 'believers' around the world especially in the light of claims that we don't believeare true. Consider Islam and Hinduism, for example. JD and I don't believe Allah or several Hindu godsexist...and we also realize that many followers of these religions exist. Why, then, should the case bedifferent with Christianity?
The reason I mentioned this is because in the very early church, people in Jerusalem would have known if there was an obvious competeing claim as to what happened to the body of Jesus and they chose to join the church.
Anyway, let's assume that the empty tomb is a historical fact for sake of argument. “Jesus raised fromthe dead” simply does not follow from “Jesus' body was put in a tomb and then later the body was no longer there”
This doesn't mention multiple post-mortem appearances. It's not like they 'lost' the body or something.
Just because persons were saying things does not mean that such things were true (even if many persons believed such a claim). Once again, simply look to Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, etc. Persons believe the story of Joseph Smith and there are somany followers! Mormons will tell you that there's no explanation for the golden plates and that persons have verified the accuracy of Smith's claims just like Christians will say
And Christians overwhelmingly reject Mormonism and Islam as competeing claims. We've already gone over this. Their evidence sucks. I would like to compare the evidence for the Resurrection against the evidences for any of these other religions. We would need a whole new debate to do that though.