# 171. Anthony McCarthy Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
July 23rd, 2009 at 10:27 pm
—- Hiding behind history doesn’t change the probability of something approaching zero because every second that goes by and a virgin doesn’t give birth gillt, of course
Well, that’s just fine and ducky, but that’s not what people who believe in The Virgin Birth of Jesus happen to believe. They believe it happened exactly once in the entire history of the human species. They believe it is a unique event, they believe it happened through other than natural means.
Of course, you don’t want to deal with what those people actually believe, you want to modify it into something you can discount and mock pretending to do so on the basis of science and, or mathematics. Only none of you can actually say how science or mathematics can address what is believed, so the people who believe it are correct when they point out that your “refutation” has nothing to do with what they believe.
If you think your mockery is going to be more effective than Voltaire-Russell, you’ve got quite the ego on you.
“Find a verbatim quote by Dawkins stating that science solves the virgin birth problem.” J.C. Samuelson
I never said that’s what he said. I said that he proposed applying science to something which clearly can’t be studied by science due to there being no physical evidence, etc (see above) available.
You said at 155 ” You’ve complained rather bitterly toward non-accommodationists who do not give allowances for religion at the table of empirical truth, yet now seem to be substantially agreeing with them. ”
Produce quotes from what I’ve said here or elsewhere that constitutes “bitter” complaints that “non-accommodationists” “do not give allowances for religion at the table of empirical truth”.
I assume you can back up your assertion, since I’ve never said anything like that. It should be easy enough to find them, if they’re there. I’ve only been posting comments here since the beginning of June.
—- to him, science is only science when it explains something. Science is not science when it looks for or asks for evidence.
How ridiculous. Science frequently has null results and those are important. I thought everyone knew that. However, you have to actually do more than make assertions based on your opinions for it to count as science. You, gillt, Sorbet, don’t seem to understand that. Which isn’t surprising to me anymore.
So, how do you propose to debunk The Virgin Birth with science, without methodolgy or evidence or any means of coming up with a probability of it happening?
More generally, I can see other than continuing to attribute things to me I’ve never said, you seem to be constructing more elaborate fallacies to attribute to me.
In your response at my blog, you make a large error. ” But notice also that your challenge requires a putative belief in the virgin birth as a miraculous event in history to presuppose that a miracle occurred; for there can be no scientific explanation of something that never happened. ”
First, I don’t require anything except that you deal with the three criteria contained in the belief. In order to confirm or refute a proposition, you have to deal with the proposition. I didn’t set those criteria and if you or anyone doesn’t like them, that’s just tough.
—– From my perspective, evidence-seeking itself is also a scientific activity. And, of course, I interpret the statement that miracles are “scientific questions” in that light. To me, this interpretation is at least as reasonable and in keeping with the principles of science as yours. JCS
But the evidence has to actually be evidence and not just an assertion of opinion, which is what you are doing. It’s a contest between your opinion that the miracle is impossible and the belief of other people that it is possible. You don’t have any more evidence for your position than they do. If you think they couldn’t fail to be impressed with your opinion, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.
—- To be sure (and as I conceded earlier), the ultimate goal of science is to render the universe comprehensible by finding explanations. JCS
I don’t think that is a realistic goal of science because we can never know how complete our knowledge of the universe will be. I doubt we’ve got all that long to “render the universe comprehensible” because we’re hurtling towards making our planet uninhabitable. And even if we had a long time yet, as a species, that goal is absurdly grandiose. I think science, as it actually exists, had better just try to come up with reliable but incomplete knowledge about the subjects it can study with the tools it actually has at hand and not in some epistemological wonderland of unavailable, proposed possibilities.
I’ll go through the rest of it a few times, but it looks like tire spinning to me. As you have not come up with a methodology, I’m going to have to continue to maintain that The Virgin Birth of Jesus can’t be addressed by science and that Dawkins is full of flannel.
# 172. gillt Says:
July 23rd, 2009 at 10:36 pm
As I’ve said since the get go, McCarthy has a Mickey Mouse understanding of science.
I don’t agree with everything Huxley says, but this quote is pertinent to a scientific way of knowing: “In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.”
# 173. Anthony McCarthy Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
July 23rd, 2009 at 10:42 pm
At any rate, it’s not about the First Amendment
I’d never held that blog owners editing their blogs is about The First Amendment. Here’s a little of what I posted last October 18th, which I’d proposed as “Don’t talk like a sexist prat day”.
Whenever you propose something like this you can count on two things happening. The first is the invocation of “freedom of speech” or “The First Amendment”. I’m happy to report to you that we are not bound in our personal lives to uphold the “speech rights” of bigots. As I never tire of pointing out, we are not the government. You’d think the left has been out of power long enough to not suffer from that mistaken idea.
People who choose to post comments on blogs should realize they don’t do so on the basis of rights but on the contingent permission of the owners, who has the right to remove them if they choose to.
That PZ doesn’t have the class to just delete things without ridiculing the people he deletes, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a right to do it. It just means that people should know he’ll use them that way if they risk disagreeing with him or his fan club.
# 174. Anthony McCarthy Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
July 23rd, 2009 at 10:49 pm
gillt, I’m not very concerned with your opinion of me.
“In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.”
Which Huxley would that be, Thomas, Julian or Aldous? I think it’s massively ironic for you to resort to it since you insist on imposing ideological blinders on reason and you can’t stand it when people point out that your chosen ideological position isn’t founded in absolute evidence.
# 175. PhysicistDave Says:
July 23rd, 2009 at 10:51 pm
J. C. Samuelson wrote:
>McCarthy finds this unpersuasive, because to him, science is only science when it explains something. Science is not science when it looks for or asks for evidence.
It’s worse than that, J.C. Everyone, including McCarthy, accepts that science proves certain things are impossible because extraordinarily well-established scientific laws say they are impossible.
Even OJ’s lawyers did not claim that he was innocent because the DNA match was not real but simply a “miracle.” They accepted the reality of DNA matching but claimed mundane human error or foul play, not a suspension of scientific law.
What we are dealing with in the case of Christians in the US is a social norm that they managed to impose on most people for a very long time that said that if the True Believers pronounced the magic words “miracle,” “faith,” and “religion,” then the rest of us would be committing a social faux pas if we continued to mention that their religion was proven false beyond a reasonable doubt by science.
Of course, the True Believers are not too consistent about this: they are willing to ridicule the unscientific aspects of others’ faiths (the Voodoo belief in zombies, New Agers belief in “pyramid power,” etc.) along with everyone else.
There is no issue of logic or philosophy here: it is just a matter of the social pressure that Christians were able to exert successfully for such a long time to prevent non-Christians from mentioning certain quite obvious truths about Christianity.
The claims that “New Atheists” are “militant,” “shrill,” etc. boils down to noting that we New Atheists are no longer willing to abide by that code of silence that Christians managed to erect as a rule for polite conduct to protect Christian nonsense from the ridicule it so richly deserves.
(I wrote a longer post to this effect responding to Anthony – too long, it seems, as it is still “awaiting moderation.”)
# 176. Anthony McCarthy Says:
July 23rd, 2009 at 10:57 pm
—- If you dislike it so much, edit the article yourself. As you said, Wikipedia needs people of higher objectivity. Sorbet at 161
Well, that’s the problem. When I read a reference book I don’t want it to represent what the authors and editors like or dislike, I want something closer to objective reality. I don’t trust Wikipedia to give that because too many of its articles are slanted by people with an agenda. I’ve seen hardly a single topic of interest to “skepics” or new atheists which don’t betray a political agenda.
Though there are some articles that I know are reliable, I only know that about subjects I’m fairly familiar with already.
# 177. Anthony McCarthy Says:
July 23rd, 2009 at 11:01 pm
PhysicistDave, I’ve said here and at my own blog numerous times I don’t believe in The Virgin Birth as an historical event, I think it was a literary allegory. I don’t happen to be a Christian either. Both JCS and gillt know that, though both like to pretend they don’t know it.
I was only arguing with the absurd idea that you can apply science or math to that and the Resurrection of Jesus as those are actually stated in the respective gospels and believed in by Christians. As defined and believed, neither can be subjected to science or probability.
# 178. PhysicistDave Says:
July 23rd, 2009 at 11:05 pm
For what it’s worth, when I read his books, I was horrified by some of Sam Harris’s comments about Moslems that you have alluded to.
I think Sam is basically a good guy, but I also think he used the understandable anxiety about Islam in the wake of 9/11 to engage in some horribly unjustified Moslem-bashing to prop up his own position.
He was wrong to do that.
Sam and I both count as “New Atheists”: i.e., we are both unwilling to abide by the old rule that religion is off-limits to public criticism from scientists when its beliefs have been proven false by science.
But that doesn’t mean I approve of everything Sam says or thinks (or vice versa, of course). And when I think he or other New Atheists are wrong, I am happy to publicly criticize them, just as I am happy to publicly criticize Christianity.
All the best,
# 179. PhysicistDave Says:
July 23rd, 2009 at 11:22 pm
Anthony wrote to me:
> I’ve said here and at my own blog numerous times I don’t believe in The Virgin Birth as an historical event, I think it was a literary allegory. I don’t happen to be a Christian either.
I think if you read through carefully everything I have posted to you, I did not actually say you were a Christian (at least that is my recollection).
However, it is certainly true that the point you tried to make is often made by Christians, and I did allude to that well-known fact.
I have tried to address the point you were trying to make rather than your particular religious affiliation or lack thereof.
And, I think I have shown that your point just does not hold up.
You also wrote:
> I was only arguing with the absurd idea that you can apply science or math to that and the Resurrection of Jesus as those are actually stated in the respective gospels and believed in by Christians.
It is your statement that is absurd.
You *can* apply science to the Virgin Birth and Resurrection, taken as actual physical events, for precisely the same reasons you can apply science to (supposed) physical phenomena such as astrology, pyramid power, OJ’s DNA match, carbon 14 data, Voodoo zombies, Neanderthal DNA, etc.
The traditional Christian claim is that the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection actually *physically* happened.
The only reason not to judge those supposed physical events by the same criteria we apply to other physical events is that their “miraculous,” faith-based,” “religious” nature somehow puts them in a different category.
But “miraculous,” faith-based,” “religious” are just words: they cannot alter physical reality.
Science says that human males cannot be born by parthenogenesis (the Y chromosome problem). Everyone accepts that in normal life.
You have given no reason to exempt Christian beliefs from that normal pattern of judging – except, as everyone knows, we have a social norm that says that Christians can cry “miraculous,” faith-based,” “religious,” and then science must back off.
That is simply a social game, verbal voodoo.
If you want anyone to take seriously your claim that the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection are exempt form the normal judgments of science, please give some actual *reason* for that special exemption.
# 180. PhysicistDave Says:
July 24th, 2009 at 1:24 am
Perhaps I can make my question to you a bit clearer and more specific.
As you know, there were various claims floating around the ancient world that various guys (Alexander the Great is one well-known example) were the product of a divinely-orchestrated conception without benefit of a human male.
Not everyone believed the claim about Alexander, of course, but then we also know that some early Christians (Ebionites) did not believe the Virgin Birth claim about Jesus either. Indeed, only two of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament even mention the Virgin Birth, and the earliest books, the authentic letters of Paul, do not mention it at all.
Few people suspend judgment about Alexander: science shows that Olympias could not have conceived a male via parthenogenesis (Y chromosome problem). Ergo, she did not: science proves that Alexander was conceived the old-fashioned way.
Do you agree that science shows that the claim that Alexander had no biological, human father is false?
If you do, why do you treat the Christian Virgin Birth as any different from the supposed divine conception of Alexander?
Please note: I am *not* claiming that the Virgin Birth story about Christ was derived form the Alexander myth. I am merely asking whether you think science applies to one case but not the other.
Similarly, if a contemporary human woman claimed that she was pregnant with a male child but that this was due to divine intervention without any contribution from a human male, would you agree that science shows that this could not actually happen and that that woman would be mistaken or lying?
If you do agree, why not apply the same criterion to the supposed Virgin Birth of Jesus?
I am truly bemused by your position on this. As far as I can tell, the only possible explanation for your position is simply that our social norms say that we are being nasty (“militant,” “shrill” etc.) if we point out that science proves that the Virgin Birth did not happen.
I think my four questions above are straightforward and not loaded. If you can answer them, and explain your reasons for your answers if your answers differ from the obvious answers that defer to modern science, perhaps the rest of us can understand your point.
# 181. Anthony McCarthy Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
July 24th, 2009 at 6:31 am
— But “miraculous,” faith-based,” “religious” are just words: they cannot alter physical reality.
Which isn’t a scientific belief, it’s a philosophical belief. Just as the belief that miracles can be performed through supernatural intervention is a religious belief and not a scientific one.
The actual belief in The Virgin Birth doesn’t claim it to have happened through parthenogenesis, it specifically claims it didn’t. To bring that into the attempt to “debunk” the belief is illogical, and by that I mean it violates the most basic rules of logic and rhetoric. You can debunk all kinds of “virgin birth” scenarios but anyone who is inclined to believe in the Christian belief in the Virgin Birth of Jesus would be entirely within the rules of both logic and rhetorical discourse to point out that you’ve not yet damaged WHAT THEY BELIEVE.
You do actually have to have some material evidence in order to arrive at a scientific assertion about what happens in the physical universe. As I understand things, string theory is discounted as reality by quite a few physicists on that ground. I’m finding what Lawrence Krauss has been saying about black holes to be rather fascinating too. And not just for what it means for physics. If the evidence turns out to be that he is right or if it remains inconclusive, I think unless scientists are very careful in explaining how they might have gotten that wrong it could be far more damaging to the reputation of science than anything religion can do to it. I think the popular misunderstanding of science as the key to knowing everything could end up damaging it quite badly.
And there’s absolutely no need to be condescending. I’m not impressed by that. I think you, as gillt and JCS and a number of others are making a basic mistake between your opinion and logical coherence.