CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

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You longing for me to come back and dispense the lo down on the universe? (I wish someone was). I have a couple of interviews I did on various pod casts. The first one has much better sound, it's easier to understand what I'm saying. I can't believe I sound like a southern friend chicken. If you want to hear how silly my voice sounds and get more on my book, tune into one or both of these.

they are both preceded by long talking by the interviewers about other matters, if you sit through that I think you will enjoy the interviews themselves.I think I'm more witty in the second one, but the first one is easier to listen to and might have more weight. No offense to either interviewer. I enjoyed talking to both of them. first is Chris Date, second is Nick Peters. These are both friends of J.P. Holding.

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Buy MY BOOK! photo frontcover-v3a_zps9ebf811c.jpg

Order from Amazon
Ground breaking research that boosts religious arguemnts for God to a much stronger level. It makes experience arguments some of the most formidable.Empirical scientific studies demonstrate belief in God is rational, good for you, not the result of emotional instability. Ready answer for anyone who claims that belief in God is psychologically bad for you. Order from Amazon

two interviews of me on pod cast

Postby Metacrock on Wed Jul 30, 2014 7:36 pm
talking about my book of course.

I can't believe I sound like that.

Peters movedv here:
these are interviews aobut my book the Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief, by Joseph Hinman avaible on Amazon.

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  This article is a followup to Cline's argument against religious experience as a God argument. He attacks the concept of mystical experience: "Argument from Mysticism: Can Mystics and Mystical Experiences Prove God's Existence?"By

Cline Begins by establishing the idea of a professional mystic.

An important form of the Argument from Religious Experience focuses on the issue of mysticism - it might be called the Argument from Professional Religious Experience. What is claimed is that, throughout time, in various cultures and places, there have existed particular individuals who have somehow had direct, personal experiences with God.
Like the general Argument from Religious Experiences, it is claimed that these experiences should be given the same credence as other experiential claims and should not be rejected out of hand. But unlike the general argument, it is observed that mystics spend a lot of time working on understanding and reaching God - they are professionals, in a sense, and their observations and conclusions should be treated like those of other professionals.[1]

 This is one of the reasons why I think he's been reading my arguments. I don't know of any other argument where it could be said that mystical experience should be given the same credence as ordinary perception, except in a misquote of my Thomas Reid argument. That would be a misunderstanding I don't know of any other arguments that makes such a misunderstanding possible. No one says mystics are professionals. The argument is made that all people have a level of mystical experience, but in various degrees and some very slight. I discuss this in the Trace of God. I carefully distinguish between the kind of navigation enabled and point out that I'm not talking about the kind of five senses perception we have of the world walking down the street, but our emotional ability to cope with the vicissitudes of life. [2]

Cline begins his attack with the false assertion that religoius experiences are all different and incompatible: "How should we respond to this argument? The first thing to note is that, as with general religious experiences reported by others, there is a tremendous amount of variety in the reports by religious mystics over the millennia. Not only are the reports from different religions mutually incompatible, but not even all the reports in a single religious tradition are compatible." That is repeated endlessly but no proof is ever given. In my book the Trace of God I show that Ralph Hood's work with the M scale dispells this myth. The differences are in the names of deity and in the explainations of meaning assigned the experiences. The experiences themselves, when these differences are adjusted for, are remarkably the same.[3] The point is made much better by the man who did the original research, Ralph Hood Jr.[4]

Cline makes the standard assumption that most atheists make, "If they can't all be true, how do we differentiate the incorrect reports from the correct reports?" There are numerous ways with which this has been dealt in modern theology. One of them is Paul Knitter's approach,, which is to say we don't need to differentiate, we know up front that religious experience is relative to truth. It's not false, it's not all true, but it's relative.[5] My own approach is similar. we have an aversion to relativism so I would just say one reality stands behind all the traditions. The differences are the result of cultural constructs, which must be used to filter the experiences since all we have to community through is culture. It's the cultural aspects that make religions different, not the thing behind belief.

Cline then presumes to uncover the origin of religious experiences. He is willing to take the mystic's word for it far enough to use that against them, and he draws conclusions form their own words, assuming their methods are similar even though he argues that their experiences are not. What is the explanation? "The usual recipe for these experiences is some sort of deprivation - going without food, water, and often sleep, sitting in the heat of a desert or sweat lodge, isolation from human contact, the repetition of chants or prayer, and even the use of drugs." Several studies contradict this view, the Council of Spiritual Practices states, in speaking of Greely's study, "Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being."[6]

Mystics in the old days tended to belong to ascetic movements and lived in monastic settings in which deprivation was a way of life. That is argument from sign, just becuase some people in these settings have mystical experience does not mean that is the standard cause of mystical experience. Modern studies show this tends not to be the case. Gackenback summarizing several studies shows that  mystical experience can't be compared to mental illness or pathology.

Scientific interest in the mystical experience was broadened with the research on psychoactive drugs. The popular belief was that such drugs mimicked either mystical states and/or schizophrenic ones (reviewed in Lukoff, Zanger & Lu, 1990). Although there is likely some physiological similarity as well as phenomenological recent work has shown clear differences. For instance, Oxman, Rosenberg, Schnurr, Tucker and Gala (1988) analyzed 66 autobiographical accounts of schizophrenia, hallucinogenic drug experiences, and mystical ecstasy as well as 28 control accounts of important personal experiences. They concluded that the: "subjective experiences of schizophrenia, hallucinogenic drug-induced states, and mystical ecstasy are more different from one another than alike" (p. 401).

(Ibid) "Relatedly, Caird (1987) found no relationship between reported mystical experience and neuroticism, psychoticism and lying while Spanos and Moretti (1988) found no relationship between a measure of mystical experience and psychopathology.[7]
Cline asserts the validity of claims such as those made by Michael Presinger who claims to have produced genuine mystical experience by stimulating brain cells.

Dr. Michael Persinger in Canada can produce mystical visions in people with a mechanical device and what people see is heavily influenced even just by the sort of things he has in his office. When he plays music with an Eastern theme, people tend to have Buddhist-type visions. When he hangs crucifixes in the room and plays Christian chants, people have Christian-type visions.
Such claims are exploded by Philosopher John Hick who points out that such researchers use no control to establish the basis of a mystical experience. Thus they are just assuming that anything to do with God is a  real mystical experience. I draw upon the research of Hick and discuss this more fully in chapter six (6) of the Trace of God. [8] Cline asserts that "because there are possible physical and natural explanations for these mystical experiences, and because they can actually be produced at will in very natural ways, it becomes incumbent upon the supporter of mysticism to help us differentiate between the naturally induced experiences and those which allegedly have a supernatural origin." It is possible that the chain of causation stops with the brain chemistry, but it's not likely. That's what the tie breakers are for in chapter seven (7). They show why it's not reasonable to just assume that brain chemistry is the final cause of the experience. It could just as easily be part of God's delivery system that  created into humanity so we can find the Trace of his presence. The tie bakers show why it's more reasonable to think that this is the case. One hint, why is teh experience always positive? How did nature arrange to have a life transforming accident that has no long term debilitating draw backs?

Part 2 of Cline's argument

One curious issue with the claim that mystics' experiences of God provide good reasons to believe that God really exists is the question of just how a person can claim to recognize God. What arguments or evidence, without resorting to question begging, can a person use to claim that whatever they experienced is necessarily that of the god they believe in?
Perceptual recognition is something which can merit skepticism even in mundane matters we encounter in everyday life. Consider how easy it can be to make an error in recognition when it comes to the voices or faces or writing styles of people we know very well - but how would we "know" the voice or face or speaking style of "god"?
Michael Martin offers the example of someone claiming to have spoken on the phone with a person who seemed to be the strongest man of County Cork. How on earth could such an identification be made merely on the basis of a voice? Perhaps if the person was an expert on Irish accents at least a small part of the claim could be justified - but only a very small part.
These same problems occur with the claims made that someone has spoken with God or even just "experienced" God. This claim cannot be taken at face value: we need to know what part of this experience justifies the conclusion that it involved "God" - with all of the qualities and attributes alleged for this god, like omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, etc. - and not an experience of something else, even if it is another supernatural being.
 This could be a good argued if used by someone who understands the concept of mystical experience. In making the argument Cline demonstrates his ignorance. Again he's thinking of it like metting a person, he's reducing God to the level of a thing in creation.  First of as said before, mystical experience is a step up to a higher level of consciousness, it is not like meeting a stranger at a bus stop. It's the big light bulb where you suddenly understand what it's all about. It is beyound words, thoughts or images. It's not "someone has spoken with God;" it's not like speaking with another person. It's like suddenly understanding the meaning of everything.

Here is an example of a mystical experience described by a blogger (Wordgazer) in her review of my book. It's much like an experince described in the book:

I was standing in our tiny back yard behind the kitchen door, under a sky filled with stars. I think it was about 10 or 11 pm.  I was alone. For some reason more stars were showing than usual; maybe some of the street lights were out.  It was very quiet.
I looked up into the stars and thought of God.
And then. . .  
Something indescribable fell away from my ordinary sense of things.  Perhaps it was the careful, reasoned categories I was accustomed to use to frame my thoughts.  I had a sensation of being lifted up and up, though I also knew I was still standing solidly in the night-sweet grass.  Over the horizon the moon swept up; it was a gibbous moon, about two-thirds full.  And I saw. 
Saw that all things were part of a serene and purposeful whole.  Saw that I myself was a valued and necessary part of that whole, as were the trees, the grass, the stars, the moon, and the minuscule flying creatures that brushed my face.  Felt a tender, loving purpose guiding it all towards some unknowable but beautiful end.    
"All is well. All is one.  I am here."
It wasn't a message spoken in words, but an indescribable knowing that was frankly impossible to doubt or question.  I didn't question it.  I breathed quickly, flutteringly-- completely astonished yet completely at ease, completely accepted and accepting. 
Slowly, slowly the feeling faded, drained away.  I was left there in the dark grass again, myself again, and I turned and drifted back through the door and into bed and sleep.
But I have never forgotten, and I have never been the same.  The memory of joy-- joy present in part now and expectant of fullness in time to come, has ever since held in peace the foundations of my soul. [9]

The answer to the overall issue is "we know it's an experience of God because it does what belief in God claims to do., it's like transforming."  Why is that of God? Because that's what religion promises to do in the first place. The reason we have religion at all is because there is a sense of the numinous that gives us a notion of the holy. The historical association between these two ideas, the sense of the holy (which is part of the real experience is the thing experienced) and God, this is the relationship of co-determinant. I discuss this in length for most of chapter two (2) in the book.

A traditional question based upon this dilemma is, "Are you so sure that you can't be fooled and it wasn't Satan who spoke to you?" You don't have to be a believer in God or Satan to recognize the importance of such a question. The point is, no one has offered a sound basis for differentiating between an experience of "god" and of something else entirely.

 I find this argument totally disingenuous. An athiest talking head activley seeking to destoryt he faith of others, totally unfarid to align himself with not only unbleif but mocking and riducule of belief itself, yet he expects someone to seriously disregard life transfomration when it's proved by peer reviewed studies, just becuase he can ask a fearling question that we know he doesn't take seriously himself. There is no way to go back in time and prove that prehistoric man had mystical experience, but we do have reasons to assume they did. Anthropologists dont' just wander about the world thunderstruck and refusing to speculate for fear of getting it wrong. Many anthropological theories that give a reasonable probability to the association bewteen the sense of he numinous and religious bleief and the creation of religion. It's possible these associations go back to the stone age, the at least go back to the early days of human writing. I discuss all of this at length and make the argument fully in chapter two (2). I show there are native rituals that indicate the ancient hunter gatherer people did have such experiences.[10]

The Trace of God provides the chruch with a valuable resource that puts real teeth in argument form experience.

[1] Austin Cline. "Argument from Mysticism:Can Mystics and Mystical Experiences Prove God's Existence?" Online material, no date indicated.
Accessed 7/3/14.

 [2] Joseph Hinman, the Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief. Colorado Springs: Grand Viaduct Publishing, 99.

 [3] Ralph Hood Jr. “The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism.” In Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion.  Patrick Mcnamara ed. West Port CT: Prager Publications, 2006, 119-235.

[5]Paul Knitter, No Other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes Towards the World Religions. London: SCM Press, 1985.see introduction.

[6] Council on Spiritual Practices, "States of Unitive Consciousness." website,
accessed 7/3/14.
CSP statement about their own nature and mission:
The Council on Spiritual Practices is a collaboration among spiritual guides, experts in the behavioral and biomedical sciences, and scholars of religion, dedicated to making direct experience of the sacred more available to more people. There is evidence that such encounters can have profound benefits for those who experience them, for their neighbors, and for the world.
CSP has a twofold mission: to identify and develop approaches to primary religious experience that can be used safely and effectively, and to help individuals and spiritual communities bring the insights, grace, and joy that arise from direct perception of the divine into their daily lives.
[7] Jayne Gackenback. Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration (this paper was published on her own website, spirit watch, 1992)
accessed 7/2/14

[8] John Hick quoted by Hinman in The Trace of God...op cit, 363-264.

[9] Wordgazer, "Book Recomendation: The Trace of God by Joseph Hinman," Wordgazer's Words blog,May 31, 2014.
accessed 8/7/14

[10] Hinman, The Trace...op cit., 67-81.

In answer to Matthew Hutson, author of The Seven Laws of Magical Thinking. The article is called "All Paths Lead to Magical Thinking." (Posted: 09/19/2013 8:32 pm).

In recent years, psychologists have come to understand religion and paranormal belief as resulting, in most people, from simple errors in reasoning. You believe in God or astrology or a purpose in life because you apply ideas about people -- that they have thoughts and intentions -- to the natural world. Some display this tendency more than others, but it's there in everyone, even atheistic heathens like me. What has not been clarified is exactly how the various cognitive biases interact to produce specific ideas about the supernatural -- until now.

He presents a tour de force in the form of a bunch of studies that supposedly prove that religious belief is magical thinking. "In the November 2013 issue of Cognition, Aiyana Willard and Ara Norenzayan of the University of British Columbia report on the relative influence of three cognitive tendencies on three types of supernatural belief, as well as the role of cultural influence." This study supposedly shows that "cognitive biases explain religious belief."

several studies show that people who think more intuitively are also more susceptible to magical thinking. One intuition that's been proposed as a foundation for religious thought is Cartesian mind-body dualism, the idea that a mind can exist independently of a body. (See chapter 5 of my book The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking, "The Soul Lives On.") This proposition allows for souls, ghosts, spirits, and gods, all made of disembodied mind-stuff. Explanations for dualism include belief in free will and the mutual inhibition of brain areas responsible for pondering feelings and physics.

Of cousre that doesn't say that any of these studies show that religious belief is magical thinking. Instead they present a possibility based upon the notion that more intuitive people are susceptible to magical thinking. So that says "if you are not careful you might do some magical thinking." Nor is a link provided between being more intuitive and religious belief. Although I would not doubt that believers are more intuitive, but the lack of prevision of that link is telling.

There just brings up a bait and switch that the Aiyana and Norenzayan study is pulling off. They discuss their methodology:

We used a path model to assess the extent to which several interacting cognitive tendencies, namely mentalizing, mind body dualism, teleological thinking, and anthropomorphism, as well as cultural exposure to religion, predict belief in God, paranormal beliefs and belief in life’s purpose. Our model, based on two independent samples (N = 492 and N = 920) found that the previously known relationship between mentalizing and belief is mediated by individual differences in dualism, and to a lesser extent by teleological thinking. Anthropomorphism was unrelated to religious belief, but was related to paranormal belief. Cultural exposure to religion (mostly Christianity) was negatively related to anthropomorphism, and was unrelated to any of the other cognitive tendencies. These patterns were robust for both men and women, and across at least two ethnic identifications. The data were most consistent with a path model suggesting that mentalizing comes first, which leads to dualism and teleology, which in turn lead to religious, paranormal, and life’s-purpose beliefs. Alternative theoretical models were tested but did not find empirical support.

Notice that anthropomorphism is not linked to religoius beilef but they are going to use it anyway because it's involved in belief. In fact all of these things are descriptions of various overlapping historical artifacts form religious thought because it goes back so far in human history. Most of them have not been disproved, none of them are magical thinking. What's the link bewteen teleology and magical thinking? Teleology means an end goal, so religious thinking is teleological if and only if it assumes there's a creator who has a plan that's being fulfilled. Why is that in itself magical thinking? It's just logical if there is a creator. Has teleological thinking been proved to always be wrong? No, of course not and it's logical if there is a creator. So actually they are just begging the question. They are assuming there can't be a creator so therefore anything connected with belief must also be connected with magical thinking. This probably goes back to the biases of anti-clerical prejudice, that religion is superstition. So they start with the assumption religious beilef must be magical thinking because it's superstition, thus they just look for typical aspects of religious thought (many of which are connected to ancinet religious texts) and assume it's all magical thinking. No psychological link is provided that proves that teleological thinking is magical thinking.

When he says "several studies" he links back to his own website for the book 7 Laws of Magical Thinking (he uses the number 7 rather than writing "seven" seems infantile). So his article is just a rehash of his website. What are these studies what do they really show? Those are the ones that supposedly show that intuitive thinkers are apt to be suckers for magical thinking if they are not careful, but does it access the percentage of the time that they are not careful? Can't we still check the results by our own logic and empirical data?

One such satment in disclosing these "several studies:"

Psychologists who study the origins of religion say belief in God relies on several intuitions, including a teleological bias (the assumption that certain objects or event were designed intentionally) and Cartesian dualism (the belief that mind can exist independently of the body). So to become an atheist one must second-guess these automatic ways of thinking. And recently a number of studies have supported the idea that belief in God is influenced by cognitive style–how much of a second-guesser you are.

Why is teleology "intuitive" any more than it is logical? If God is what you believe in then is it not logical to assume God has a purpose in crating? it's not prove that necessarily intuitive. Not that they link intuitive thinking with magical thinking. His comment about Cartsteian thinking is ironic since major aspects of atheist thinking is also based upon Cartesian thinking. E.O. Wilson's world view is largley Cartesian and he produced evolutionary psychology which is important to atheist thinking.

One such study: paper published last year in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General by Amitai Shenhav studuents took cognitive reflection test and answered questions. This is so telling he says "The number of intuitive (incorrect) responses they gave on the CRT was correlated with their belief in God and immortal souls," so in other words intuitive means "wrong." How could one possibly study the validity of intuitive thinking when one defines it as "wrong form the outset? Moreover, they are judging it wrong because it's connected to God, is that not also what makes it "intuitive?" They are just running around in circles demanding that what they believe has to be true and using their baises as the basis for proof. When we look at the actual tests on the study (see link above) we find that the real way they administer it (reported badly by Hustson) was to compare math answers arrived at intuitively with the persons individual belief in God. They compared believers answers to non believers answers. We are infer that the believers missed more. Actually that would mean that intuitive thinking does not correlate to belief in God and that the better intuitive thinking is done by non believers. Why? Because they got more math problems right by intuitive means. That would destroy their link from intuitive thinking to magical thinking. Wouldn't it also matter what one used intuitive sense for? Perhaps intuitive sense is better at God finding than at mathematics. What if that's what it was made for? Massimp Pigliucci sights research and argues that intuition is domaion specific. Some things lend themselves to it and some don't. [1]

Moreover, both studies demonstrated that intuitive CRT responses predicted the degree to which individuals reported having strengthened their belief in God since childhood, but not their familial religiosity during childhood, suggesting a causal relationship between cognitive style and change in belief over time. Study 3 revealed such a causal relationship over the short term: Experimentally inducing a mindset that favors intuition over reflection increases self-reported belief in God. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)[2]

So in other words because they have some evidence that initiative thinking is part of the stronger religious belief that means that religious belief is produced by intuitive thinking which is mostly wrong and is magical thinking. There are a number of things wrong with that methodology. That's not the same as proving that religion itself is derived from intuitive thinking. That is not even investigating the logic that goes into it. Nor does it investigate the right answers in one's personal life that lead to believe, they don't even offer a theological measuring devices for such answers. Putting up a bunch of math problems is not valid. People don't arrive at belief by just saying "I sense that God is really there." There is a sense of God's presence that people have and they are totally confusing that sense with 'intuitive' thinking,' they don't have it they don't know how it feels or works so they assume it's "intuitive." Moreover, the term "intuitive" can refer to different things. There's no link that the kind of intuitive thinking (guessing) about the math is the same kind done by religious thinkers.

There's an article in N.Y. Times that illustrates scientific work depending upon and being conformed by intuitive thinking. The article is a chapter form a book by Philip Lieberman, Eve Spoke, Human Language and Human Evolution.[3] The book is based upon scholarly work.

Over the past thirty years my colleagues and I have studied monkeys, chimpanzees, infants, children, normal adults, dyslexic adults, elderly people, and patients suffering from Parkinson's disease and other types of brain damage. We have also examined the skulls of our fossil ancestors, comparing them with those of newborn infants and apes. The focus of these studies has been the puzzle surrounding human evolution. Why are we so different from other animals, although we are at the same time so similar?...In some deep, unconscious way we "know" that dogs, cats, chimpanzees, and other intelligent animals would be human if they could only talk. Intuitively we know that talking = thinking = being human. The studies discussed below show that this intuition is correct.

This may upset young earth creationists, which I don't mind doing, but it doesn't disrupt my Christian faith because I don't see evolution as a disruption. Nor does it disprove the existence of the soul because that depends upon answering the question "why is it we did evolve to talk and other animals did not? There are two points that refute Hutson's ideas: (1) not only does religious belief depend upon intuitive thinking of a kind (at certain points) but so does scinece as well. (2) this scientist thinks that the intuitive thinking is proved correct by the scinece. So intuitive thinking is not always wrong. Some studies backing this up have shown that the correct results of intuitive thinking, while not better than other forms of knowing, are not worse.[4]

U.S. Navy reserach has yielded so much scientific data backing the notion that there is an intuitive sense that aids troops in battle that they started a program to teach troops how to be more intuitive.

Research in human pattern recognition and decision-making suggest that there is a "sixth sense" through which humans can detect and act on unique patterns without consciously and intentionally analyzing them. Evidence is accumulating that this capability, known as intuition or intuitive decision making, enables the rapid detection of patterns in ambiguous, uncertain and time restricted information contexts, that it informs the decision making process and, most importantly, that it may not require domain expertise to be effective. These properties make intuition a strong candidate for further exploration as the basis for developing a new set of decision support training technologies.[5] Ivy Estabrook, program manager at the office of Naval Resarch, says, "There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence, combined with solid research efforts, that suggests intuition is a critical aspect of how we humans interact with our environment and how, ultimately, we make many of our decisions."[6]

Published in Popular source Sarah Moore form Alberta School of Business and colleagues from Duke and Cornell have produced research that proves that the first choice one makes is often the right choice. [7] That certainly implies an intuitive choice. While Trisha Greenhalgh discusses research that shows that intution is a valuable aid in medical diagnosis and that it improves with critical thinking about the process. Intuition is not unscientific. It is a highly creative process, fundamental to hypothesis generation in science. The experienced practitioner should generate and follow clinical hunches as well as (not instead of applying the deductive principles of evidence-based medicine. The educational research literature suggests that we can improve our intuitive powers through systematic critical reflection about intuitive judgements--for example, through creative writing and dialogue with professional colleagues. It is time to revive and celebrate clinical storytelling as a method for professional education and development.[8] Not only is it not unscientific, not only can it assist in medical care, but it there's a large body of literature that shows it can be improved. How can it be improved (meaning the answers are right) if it's no good and it never works and it's just magical thinking?


(1) None of the studies demonstrate a real link between intuitive thinking and religious belief. They make an unsupported assertion that teleology and other quasi religious ideas are intuitive thinking. The closest thing to a link is one study that shows that believe was strengthened apart form family tie, but that does rule out logic, empirical data, discussions with friends and individual thought.

(2) The studies that claim to link religious belief with magical thinking are doing a bait and switch whereby the substitute intuitive thinking. They don't bother to consider the venue or the domain but merely assume that if intuitive thinking is wrong for math then it must be wrong for all things. They assume intuitive = magical, probably because they think belief in God is magic or supernatural is magic. Then they assert that since intuitive thinking doesn't work in one domain it work in any domain. Since that tag that as religious thinking then religious thinking is wrong. They actually prove nothing at accept that they are biased against religion.

(3) A vast body of scientific research disproves the idea that intuition is always wrong and doesn't work. It's not only backed by science it's part of science. I give examples of scientific work that is based upon intuitive thinking. It's not more special and unique to religious thought than is logic. Nor is it always wrong. The scientific reserach shows it has it's place where it's right, that including not only some scientific work but also medicine.


[1]Massimo Pigliucci, Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life , New York: Basic books, 2012. Massimo Pigliucci (Italian pronunciation: [ˈmassimo piʎˈʎuttʃi]; born January 16, 1964) is the chair of the Department of Philosophy at CUNY-Lehman College.[1] He is also the editor in chief for the journal Philosophy & Theory in Biology.[2] He is an outspoken critic of creationism and advocate of science education.

[2] Shenhav, Amitai; Rand, David G.; Greene, Joshua D. "Divine intuition: Cognitive style influences belief in God." abstract on line: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 141(3), (Aug 2012), 423-428 abstract on Apa Psychnet accessed 10/2/13.

[3] Philip Lieberman, "The Mice Talked at Midnight," except from Eve Spoke: Human Language and Human Evolution, New York: W.W. Norton, published in New York Times, on line accessed 10/2/13 [4]AJ Giannini, ME Barringer, MC Giannini, RH Loiselle. Lack of relationship between handedness and intuitive and intellectual (rationalistic) modes of information processing. Journal of General Psychology. 111:31-37 1984.

[5] Office of naval research Basic Research Challenge: Enhancing intuitive deicsion making.

Solicitation Number: 12-SN-0007 Agency: Department of the Navy Office: Office of Naval Research Location: ONR accessed 10/2/13.

[6] Ivy Estabrook, uoted in Channing Joseph, "U.S. Program to Study How Troops Use Intuition," New York Times, Wednesday (Oct 2, 2013) story filed March 27, 2012, 5:09 pm on line accessed 10/2/13.

[7]Leon Watson ."why we are right to trust out gut intincts:Scientists discover First Decision is the Right One." Mail online updated 30 (August 2011) accessed 10/2/13

[8]Trisha Greenhalgh, "Intution and Evidence--Uneasy Bedfellows?" BJGP:British Journal of General Practice. 52, (478) May (2002) 395-400. On line article accessed 10/2/13 Posted by Joe Hinman at 6:40 AM

“When they had driven [Stephen] out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep.” ~ Acts 7:58-60

Stephen was the first recorded martyr of the Apostolic Church, i.e., the "protomartyr." His death, witnessed by Saul (who would later become the Apostle Paul) has been viewed by some as the second most important in the New Testament – the first, of course, being that of Jesus. As stated in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,

“The impression made by Stephen's death was even greater than that made by his life. Though it marks the beginning of the first great persecution of Christians, the death of the first Christian martyr resulted in the greatest acquisition Christianity has probably ever made, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. The vision of the risen and exalted Jesus vouchsafed to the dying Stephen presented Christianity to Saul of Tarsus in a new light, tending to remove what had been its greatest stumbling-block to him in the Crucified One. This revelation coupled with the splendid personality of Stephen, the testimony of his righteous life and the noble bravery of his sublime death, and above all his dying prayer, fell upon the honest soul of Saul with an irresistible force and inevitably brought on the Damascus event, as Augustine clearly recognized: ‘Si Stephanus non orasset, ecclesia Paulum non habuisset.’”

Recently, some archaeologists reported that they have located the remains of a church about 2 kilometers west of Ramallah in Palestine which appears to have been built over the burial place of St. Stephen. According to an article written on an Eastern Orthodox website, Provoslavie.Ru, entitled "Burial place of Holy Archdeacon Stephen the Protomartyr discovered":   

Research in the Kharaba at Taiar village, which lies two kilometers west of Ramallah, carried out by the Palestinian and Israeli researchers have yielded unexpected results. Within the framework of a project by the University of Jerusalem for the discovery and restoration of antiquities, a group of archaeologists led by Dr. Salah al Hudeliyya has discovered ruins of an entire church complex that includes a temple of the Byzantine-Umayyad era as well as a Byzantine monastery.
“Inside one of these churches we came across an inscription which indicates that this church had been built in honor of Holy Apostle and Archdeacon Stephen the Protomartyr, buried here in 35 AD,” the historian related.

The Christian Media Center adds a few more details as reported by Salah H. Al-Houdalieh, a Researcher at the Institute of Archeology through Al-Quds University. According to its report:

“In this church, an inscription has been found that is 88 centimeters wide and and one meter high, consisting of eight lines and with an inscription in Greek, which speaks about the body of St. Stephen and says that he was buried here. This place is known as “Khirbet al Tireh” and also as “Kafr Ghamla,” and “Ghamla” is St. Stephen’s spiritual guide. The other part of the inscription speaks about a woman named Dina, who would have invested money in this church in order to honor Jesus’ visit to this place, when Joseph and Mary, his mother, could not find him, during their trip from Jerusalem and Nazareth that lasted three days. He likely passed through this place on one of those three days.”
I am thus far underwhelmed by this discovery. I certainly acknowledge that St. Stephen’s importance was probably not lost on the early church, and so it is highly likely that his burial place would have been preserved somewhere. There are a few details of this report plus other reports that make me wonder what this find really may be.
First, this is not the first time that St. Stephen’s remains have allegedly been discovered. According to the tradition of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, the body of St. Stephen was originally buried “a few miles from Jerusalem,” but was apparently lost shortly thereafter.  Church tradition further teaches that the bodyof St. Stephen was located in August 415 by Lucian following a dream. It appears that his bones (or “relics” as they are referenced in the traditions) were transferred to the Church of Sion (or Zion) at Jerusalem. At this point, the teachings differ as to what happened.
The Orthodox church teaches that his bones were translated to Constantinople. According to the Orthodox Church in America website in an article entitled “Stephen from Jerusalem to Constantinople”:

In the year 415 the relics of the saint were uncovered in a miraculous manner and solemnly transferred to Jerusalem by Bishop John and the bishops Eutonius of Sebaste and Eleutherius of Jericho. From that time healings took place from the relics. Afterwards, during the reign of holy Emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450), the relics of the holy Protomartyr Stephen were transferred from Jerusalem to Constantinople and placed in the church of the holy deacon Laurence (August 10). When a church dedicated to the Protomartyr Stephen was built, the relics were transferred there on August 2. St Stephen’s right hand is preserved in the Serapionov chamber of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra.

Roman Catholic tradition seems to differ on the ultimate disposition of the bones (relics) of St. Stephen.  According to the website, the relics of St. Stephen are located in the church of St. Stephen in the city of Jerusalem. The New Advent Encyclopedia reports that after St. Stephen was moved for a time to the Church of Zion, in 460 the relics were moved to “the basilica erected by Eudocia outside the Damascus Gate, on the spot where, according to tradition, the stoning had taken place (the opinion that the scene of St. Stephen's martyrdom was east of Jerusalem, near the Gate called since St. Stephen's Gate, is unheard of until the twelfth century). The site of the Eudocian basilica was identified some twenty years ago, and a new edifice has been erected on the old foundations by the Dominican Fathers.”
So, it appears that we have multiple, possible relics of St. Stephen. The ones housed in this new find outside Ramallah, the ones housed in the Eudocian basilica, the ones located in the church at St. Stephen in Jerusalem, and the ones in the Serapionov chamber of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. I think that we need clarification as to whether any of the other locations can lay legitimate claim to being the home of the true relics of Stephen before we can answer whether this new site might even be a possible location for his tomb.
The second question raised by the alleged find relates Al-Houdalieh's placement of importance on the place being known as Kafr Ghamla, which is noted because Ghamla was allegedly St. Stephen’s “spiritual guide.” Now, I cannot find from where Al-Houdalieh derives this information. The Bible contains no reason to believe that St. Stephen had a spiritual guide other than Christ (as clearly indicated in Acts 6 and 7) and I find no other reference to St. Stephen having a spiritual guide named “Ghamla” in any of my other resources.
I think it is possible that Al-Houdalieh is confusing Ghamla with Gamaliel, who was a teacher of Paul prior to his conversion, and who allegedly had a hand in the initial burial of St. Stephen immediately following his execution. According to "The Finding of the Relics of St. Stephen, the First Martyr" by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876:

After St. Stephen, the first martyr, had been stoned to death by the Jews for having incontestably proved that Christ, Whom they had crucified, was the true Messiah, some pious men, filled with deep sorrow, buried him with all due reverence. Foremost among these was Gamaliel, who had formerly been a teacher, and later a disciple of St. Paul. He arranged everything so that the body of St. Stephen was carried, during the night, by some Christians, from the spot in which it lay, to his country-seat, which was a few miles from Jerusalem.

I don’t know if Ghamla is supposed to be a variation of Gamaliel, but if this isn’t the reference, I am unable to discern what Professor Al-Houdalieh is talking about. Moreover, even if Ghamla is supposed to be Gamaliel, it is unclear on what basis Al-Houdalieh believes that Gamaliel was Stephen’s spiritual guide. All that can be gleaned about Gamaliel from the Bible is that he was on the Sanhedrin and urged caution about the quick rejection of Jesus as the Messiah prior to the date of Stephen’s execution. It isn’t even clear whether he was present at Stephen’s execution, and it certainly isn’t clear that Gamaliel had any direct connection with Stephen. The only connections I could find between Stephen and Gamaliel Church Tradition teach (1) Gamaliel had a hand in the burying of St. Stephen’s body shortly after the execution, and (2) that it was Gamaliel who came to Father Lucian in a dream to lead him to find the missing body of Stephen. Neither of these translate to Gamaliel being Stephen’s spiritual guide.
Third, I wonder about the additional reference of Dina referencing the trip of the Holy Family to the temple from Nazareth when Jesus was 12 years old. (Luke 2:41-51) It almost seems as if this new site is being used to promote this new find as a tourist mecca. This belief is reinforced by the remainder of the information found on the Christian Media Center site which suggests that the goal of the dig in the first place was to attract tourists. The CMC site continues:
The project began in 2013 as the collaboration between the University of Jerusalem and the Greek Orthodox church. After the excavations, a phase of awareness and fundraising phase has begun. The goal is to enhance this new acquisition in the Palestinian archeological heritage and make it accessible to all in the future by including it in the Holy Land pilgrimage circuits.
“The main purpose of this project is to create awareness among all Palestinians on the importance of Palestinian cultural heritage. In addition, we would like to create an archeological park, which probably open in 2020.”
Finally, even Christianity Today cautions that this particular archaeological find should be taken with some skepticism. According to a page entitled the “BiblicalArchaeology’s Top Ten Discoveries of 2014” by Gordon Govier:
The tomb of the first Christian martyr may have been located in an excavation just west of Ramallah. An Orthodox church news service recently reported that a church complex excavation revealed an inscription indicating that the church had been built over the burial site of St. Stephen, who was interred there in 35 AD. However, the lack of news of this discovery from other sources raises questions that bear further investigation.
Now, it certainly is possible that the church tradition on this point is incorrect. It is possible that St. Stephen was taken about 12 miles from Jerusalem shortly after his execution by Christians (perhaps, including Gamaliel) and buried in the location identified by Al-Houdalieh. It is possible that the entire account of Father Lucian finding the relics as the result of a dream could be fictitious. It is possible that the remains were found by Father Lucian as reported, taken to Jerusalem and interred in the Church at Sion, only to be moved to the location identified by Al-Houdalieh when Church at Sion was sacked and the church destroyed in the early Second Millennium. But regardless, there are a lot more questions to be answered on this find then have been answered thus far.
So, I will leave the reader with two thoughts: (1) this may be the actual tomb of St. Stephen, however, more research is needed before anyone should jump on this bandwagon, and (2) one needs to wonder whose hand is located in the Serapionov chamber of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. I wonder if the hand bears any relation to Cousin It?

In what was obviously intended to be a light hearted interview, Physicist Stephen Hawking was interviewed last night at the Sydney Opera House where he was asked the gripping question, “What do you think is the cosmological effect of Zayn leaving One Direction and consequently breaking the hearts of millions of teenage girls across the world?" In a move obviously designed to keep the hopes of these millions of heart-broken girls intact, Hawking responded, “My advice to any heartbroken young girl is to pay close attention to the study of theoretical physics. Because one day there may well be proof of multiple universes. It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that somewhere outside of our own universe lies another different universe—and in that universe, Zayn is still in One Direction."

Ah, my heart is still aflutter. Zayn may still be with One Direction in another universe.

This is, of course, standard fare for the Multiverse crowd in an effort to respond to the obvious fact that this universe seems carefully designed to support life, aka, the Anthropic Principle. To get around the appearances of fine-tuning of so many of the basic facts of our universe which have to be what they are to support life, Multiverse theorists have maintained that somewhere outside of this universe is a sort of cosmic pool which is bubbling up billions upon billions of universes. It just so happened that one of them is the universe that we inhabit, and the reason that this universe appears so finely-tuned for life is that we have had billions of universes and with so many universes the odds were in favor of one having just the right balance to support life. So, what appears as fine-tuning or design is simply the result of random chance.

But, of course, in these billions upon billions of universes, Hawking is suggesting that there is one that is identical to ours except that Zayn stays in One Direction. In fact, this is consistent with the theory that there are multiple universes which are wholly identical with our own except that one decision was made differently. So, in one universe, Zayn leaves One Direction. In another, Zayn stays with One Direction. In a third, Zayn never joined One Direction. In a fourth, Zayne left One Direction two years ago but returned after spending two years as a driving instructor at Cheap Thrills Driving School in Sacramento. In a fifth, Zayn died in a horrible car accident three years ago, but in a sixth, Zayn survived the accident but lost both of his legs and One Direction turns into a group dedicated to supporting the rights of the disabled. The list goes on and on.

Now, think about your own situation. If the version of the Multiverse being referenced (perhaps even promoted) by Hawking is correct, there are millions of you in existence. In one version of you, you went to a different college. In another version, you went to prison. In another version, you married your high school sweetheart, but in a fourth, you had a shotgun marriage with someone you didn’t care about. In still another, you are working as part of the crew of a travelling carnival. And despite their myriad of differences, all of these people are you existing in various alternatives of your life simultaneously.

Is this really sensible? Not really. But that doesn’t stop the theorists. Never mind that there is no real evidence that such a Multiverse Pool bubbling up universes exists. That’s irrelevant. The question to the Multiverse theorists is whether it could exist, and since we can create computer models that show how it would work if it did exist then it is obviously the explanation for the appearance of design that we see in the universe. At least, that’s the theory. And if these multiple universes exist, then the multiple billions of you exist as well.

I’m sorry that I am going to break the heart of so many One Direction fans, but while it is theoretically possible that there may be such a Multiverse and in billions of those alternative universes Zayn is still singing in One Direction, we have no real evidence to believe it to be true. And even if it were true there is no way to ever get to those different universes (or even if we could get to them, it would take an eternity to find any of the right universes where Zayn stayed in One Direction). But don’t worry, if there is that alternative universe, there would also be an alternative you already listening to One Direction and cheering on Zayn in that universe (unless, of course, it is one of the other alternative universes where you never became a fan of One Direction in the first place).

So, you can take comfort that even as Zayn leaves One Direction in our universe, you possibly remain a fan in billions of other universes (at least in the billions of universes where you became a Zayn or One Direction fan at all). In this universe, you’ll just have to listen to their old music and live in the good ol’ days.

Rather than conjecture about other multiple universes that we can’t know or prove exist, isn’t it better to accept what we actually do know? Isn’t it better to acknowledge that this universe does support life and it is the only universe you know or ever will know? Isn’t it better to accept that while there may be multiple billions of you in other universes, that this is the one life you have any true knowledge about and in which you can make life decisions?

"And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ("sudarium") which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself." ~ John 20:6-7

After a five year absence from public display, the "controversial" Shroud of Turin can once again be viewed by the public in Turin, Italy.  For those unfamiliar with the Shroud (possibly because they have been spent the last few decades living on the moon -- it's hard to imagine some other way someone would be unfamiliar with the Shroud), I defer to the description of the Shroud found at the official website of the Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin is a centuries old linen cloth that bears the image of a crucified man. A man that millions believe to be Jesus of Nazareth. Is it really the cloth that wrapped his crucified body, or is it simply a medieval forgery, a hoax perpetrated by some clever artist? Modern science has completed hundreds of thousands of hours of detailed study and intense research on the Shroud. It is, in fact, the single most studied artifact in human history, and we know more about it today than we ever have before. And yet, the controversy still rages.

Personally, I don't think that the Shroud is all that "controversial", but that's the word chosen to describe the Shroud by our friends at USA Today as well as the Shroud of Turin website. Personally, I believe a better word to describe the Shroud would be fascinating, as in "the question of whether the Shroud is really the burial cloth of Jesus leads to fascinating discussion." I love reading stories about the Shroud because there is so much up-in-the-air about the authenticity of the Shroud and the questions that have been raised about the efforts to determine a date for the Shroud. I mean, if the Shroud is a fake, exactly how did people with medieval technology manage to pull it off?

But in reading about the Shroud, I recently came upon a very interesting article entitled
The 'Other' Shroud of Christ" by Mary Jo Anderson (hereinafter, the "Anderson article") about an object called the Sudarium of Oviedo. Now, I have never heard of the Sudarium of Oviedo previous to reading the Anderson article, but in looking through the articles, I found the story to be worth sharing with CADRE readers -- especially since there appears to be a relationship between the Sudarium and the Shroud of Turin.

According to a Anderson article,

While the assumed chronology of the Shroud is veiled in the mists of medieval history, the Sudarium is a revered relic that could well have been preserved from the days of Christ’s crucifixion.

In Latin, sudarium means “face cloth.” The Revised Standard Version of the Bible translates sudarium as “napkin,” a clear indication that this smaller cloth was not identical to the longer burial shroud called the sindon in the New Testament’s Greek. The smaller cloth was used to cover the face of the body immediately following death, a Jewish practice of respect and compassion for the family of the dead.

According to Liber Testamentorum (Book of Testaments), written by Bishop Pelayo of Oviedo in the twelfth century, a “holy ark” made out of oak by followers of the twelve apostles was said to contain the Sudarium, along with several relics of the Virgin Mary and the apostles and a piece of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. According to Pelayo, the ark remained in Jerusalem for the first 500 years following the resurrection.

Philip “the Presbyter,” a leader of the Christian community in Palestine, fled Jerusalem with the oak chest when Chosroes II, king of Persia, sacked the holy city in 614 A.D., according to Pelayo’s chronicle. John the Almoner, bishop of Alexandria, welcomed Philip and his precious cargo. When the Persian invasion continued into Egypt, the chest was said to have accompanied the faithful into Spain, where St. Fulgentius received it and sent it to Seville. In 657, according to Pelayo, the ark traveled north to Toledo where it was protected until 718. Citing slightly different dates from those in Pelayo’s chronicle, Lucas, the bishop of Tuy, wrote in his 13th-century Chronicum Mundi (Chronicle of the World) that the ark was taken north from Toledo to Monte Sacro in Asturias in 711, to escape the advancing Moors. History and Description of Spain, a text completed in 977, corroborates this move, at least obliquely, with a description of Christians fleeing the Muslims to the mountains of Asturias and burying their relics underground.

From atop Monte Sacro, Alfonso II, king of Asturias, turned back Spain’s Moorish invaders and established his court at Oviedo. The 800-year Reconquista, or reconquering of Spain from the Moors, began with Alfonso’s victory. He built a Cámara Santa (holy chamber) in 840 A.D. to shelter the relics in the ark. Later kings built Oviedo’s cathedral of San Salvador (Holy Savior) around this tiny chapel.

So, the Sudarium (face-cloth) appears to have a pedigree that demonstrates that it was in existence (apparently without dispute) since at least 718 A.D. when it left Toledo and was transferred Monte Sacro in Asturias. It has remained in Oveido since 718 A.D. and has been in the Oviedo Cathedral since it was built in 840 A.D. While the Sudarium itself is not on display, the ark in which it is stored can be found in the Ovido Cathedral.

The Sudarium, while rarely displayed to the public, has been the subject to some examinations over the past several years. According to the Anderson article,  

In the late 1980s, Ricci urged a systematic study of the Cloth of Oviedo that would compare it with the Shroud. Early investigations included a photographic study of ultraviolet and infrared images of the cloth. This preliminary study confirmed that there is no underlying image of a face on the Sudarium—unlike the Shroud, which contains a bodily image that looks like a photographic negative. The Sudarium presents only a pattern of successive stains from perspiration, blood, and lymph. In the testing, video images were digitized so that the images on the two cloths could be highlighted and compared.

The First International Congress on the Sudarium of Oviedo, held in 1994, sponsored further testing. The findings indicated that the Sudarium had been placed against the face of a man who had been beaten on the front and back of the head. Although there is no facial image on the Sudarium, it does contain a distinct facial impression, the 1994 study showed. The cloth is impregnated with blood and lymph that match the AB blood type on the Shroud. (This was a crucial test, for had the blood types not matched, any subsequent testing would be pointless.) The pattern and measurements of the stains indicate a placement of the cloth over a face. Measurements of facial features were also made.

It sounds very interesting, but the carbon dating of the Sudarium has been, to a certain degree, as disappointing as the carbon testing of the Shroud. According to the Anderson article, the Sudarium's Carbon testing placed the date of the relic in the 7th Century (the 600s) which would correspond to the date that we know that it has been in Spain. So, if the Sudarium is a 7th Century forgery based on Carbon testing, why am I bringing it to the attention of the readers?

I bring it to the attention of the readers because the Sudarium gives rise to a rather interesting problem when combined with the Shroud. The Shroud, some may recall, was Carbon tested three times since 1988, and the dating from those studies placed the creation of the Shroud between 1260 and 1390 A.D.  But here's the interesting part: there are a lot of similarities between the image on the Shroud and the evidence found on the Sudarium. According to the Anderson article:

Alan Whanger, professor emeritus of medicine at Duke University, found similarities in the blood stains on the two cloths by using a polarized image overlay technique. He noted 70 congruent patterns on the face and more than 50 on the back of the head and neck. Furthermore, when the image on the Shroud was placed over the stains on the Sudarium, there was an exact correlation between the stains on the Sudarium and the image of the beard of the man on the Shroud.

Now, if the Sudarium has been kept safely in Oveido since 718 A.D., and if the Shroud was created between 1260 and 1390 A.D., exactly how did these two forgeries (because that is what the carbon dating tells us that they are) come to correspond so exactly? Did the artist who created the Shroud -- using methods unknown to 21st Century artists -- also have access to the Sudarium? Was his/her access lengthy enough for him/her to measure out 120 different patterns on the front and back side of the Sudarium so that they would correspond with the patterns on the yet-to-be-created Shroud? How was this artist able to observe these patterns when they are so very difficult to see today despite 1300-1400 years of careful preservation? How did the artist create the image of the face on the Shroud so that there would be an "exact correlation" between the stains on the Sudarium and the bearded image on the Shroud?

I don't know the answers, but I do think that these are good questions. I will keep my eyes open for other articles and pass them along when discovered.

The Internet has opened up new quick avenues for facts, and there is very little we cannot learn about very quickly if we want to do so. Ask something like, “What were the Bab Ballads?", and most of us can whip out our cell phones, lap tops or tablets and look up the Bab Ballads on the World Wide Web in a matter of seconds. The amount of information immediately available about any given subject gives people the illusion that they know more about a particular subject than they actually know. But knowing a few facts is not the same as knowing the subject.  Moreover, the depth of learning that comes from reading articles on the Internet limits understanding.

Think about it: in your field of study – whatever it may be – have you ever conversed with another person who has read a couple of articles on the Internet and acts as if he/she knows as much about your job/field as you do? Of course, you have, and of course, he/she doesn’t. It is less common in fields of the hard sciences or mathematics because people are largely notoriously weak in mathematics and physics. Besides, there is usually only one answer to questions like, “What is the square root of X?” or “What is the formula for calculating the force exerted by Y on Z?” Still, I imagine that even physicists and mathematicians have had to deal with people insisting that they understand physics or math better than the physicist or mathematician. Certainly, doctors report that the access to medical information on the Internet at websites like WebMD (which my office jokingly calls "") has caused people to show up at doctor's offices already convinced of their diagnosis and refusing to accept any other diagnosis.

However, for other areas, religion, psychology, alternative health treatments and politics being chief among them, people regularly feel as if they are super-knowledgeable about a subject with only a few moments of Internet research. Why? In part, because there are multiple possible answers to a question such as “Why are so many people in poverty?” and simplistic answers are readily available on the Internet, e.g., “The poor are being oppressed by those with wealth,” or “the poor are lazy and don’t want to work.” Both of these answers may have some merit to them, but neither is fully correct by itself. Still, because the ill-informed individual was able to find an answer quickly on the Internet they feel as if the answer discovered is final. It is rarely easy to respond to these people because they can usually cite facts they found on the Internet to support their view. Nevertheless, they miss the details that make all the difference between being knowledgeable and being dangerous.  

Living in this information age has led people to believe they know everything (or, at the very least, can become informed on anything in a few quick web searches). Consequently, we begin to believe that we are somehow better than those in the past. But breadth of knowledge is not equivalent to depth of knowledge. Today, thanks to technology, the river of knowledge is wide but it is shallow – very shallow. And a shallow knowledge leads to a faulty knowledge. One can ordinarily find factual support for anything that suits the predilections of the individual doing the searching – in fact, sometimes experts are paid to sway public opinion by posting on familiar websites information that agrees with those visiting that website. An endless loop is created where the website informs the reader of the “truth” and the reader than goes back to that website to get confirmation that what they originally learned is the “truth” – which they always receive.

But knowing facts is not the same as knowing the subject. Information garnered from web searches, even if accurate, remains extremely shallow. As mentioned above, I could ask someone a question about the Bab Ballads. Chances are that the individual will never have heard about the Bab Ballads. So, using today’s amazing access to information, the individual will pull out her tablet, cell phone or computer and look up “Bab Ballads” on the Internet.  Of course, she will find a website or two (certainly Wikipedia will be consulted – even though in some areas it is less reliable than Yahoo! Answers) which will give her a quick description of the Bab Ballads. But reading a description is not the same as reading or hearing the Bab Ballads themselves. It is not the same as recognizing the author of the Bab Ballads or the purpose of the Bab Ballads or fully seeing why the Bab Ballads were unique. It certainly isn’t the same as trying to put yourself in the place of a typical 19th Century Englishman reading or hearing the Bab Ballads. The factual information is there, but there is no depth. In today’s world, we have become more and more familiar with things, but knowing only a few basic facts about something creates a shallow pool of knowledge, indeed.

Moreover, as reported in the Atlantic Monthly's article, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", not only is the access to quick, easy answers making us less able to comprehend (or at least consider) deeper issues, the way that the Internet presents the issues also tends to make us less thoughtful and insightful. An article on citing this Atlantic Monthly article sums it up nicely:

According to developmental psychologist at Tufts University, Maryanne Wolf, “We are not only what we read. We are how we read.”

“Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged. Deep reading, as Maryanne Wolf argues, is indistinguishable from deep thinking.”

Just because we have more information, doesn’t necessarily mean that the information is better. In fact, it could even be argued that information is being dumb-down and infantilized due to our ever-shrinking attention spans. This bombardment of information, according to some psychologists and researchers, could even end up “interfering with our sleep, sabotaging our concentration and undermining our immune systems”.

When the person believes that they already know everything that they need to know about a subject, they become resistant to instruction from those who know more. The attitude becomes one of "been there, done that." They may even become obstinate believing that since they have already read about the subject to their satisfaction on the Internet, efforts by others to give them more and/or better information become interruptions or annoyances. As a person becomes more comfortable that he knows all that is needed to be known about a particular subject, he will begin to dismiss those who are the real practitioners as if they are laboring in fields that he has already harvested. As a result, this person lingers in a faulty view based upon faulty information, and consequently he may come to hold those who actually know better wrongly in contempt because of their hubris. As the old saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Contempt, of course, is "the feeling that something is...worthless"; "disdain"; "scorn." Contempt follows for points of views that are not consistent with the simple (and often simplistic) foundational principle from which the individual has formed beliefs.

I believe that those of us who have been reading about, thinking about, and studying the claims of Christianity for many years -- and especially those of us who have argued for the truth of Christianity on the Internet -- will understand this: the ability of people to immediately access snippets of information from the Internet to argue against Christianity is killing true conversation. Many of the shallower objections raised have been answered and soundly, but they continue to persist as if they are brand new because anti-Christian websites never take down articles or arguments that have been proven unfounded. And even when the objections have some measure of merit (I admit that there are several good reasons to doubt Christianity although I believe each of them have been adequately answered), the person posting the objection is usually unwilling or even unable to think past the initial argument. The thought is there, but it is generally not the thoughts of the person actually posting the objection -- they merely mimic or mirror the thoughts of others without truly understanding the underlying premises for the argument.

Don't get me wrong. I am not against information being as available as possible. I would much rather have too much information than too little, but the exhaustive amount of unfiltered information available on the Internet presents new challenges to Christians in spreading the Gospel message. Not only do we need to present the news, we have to overcome objections gleaned from casual surfing of the Internet which aren't even the individual's personally held objections because they are merely borrowing the thoughts of another. How do I know whether an objection is really real or if it is just a convenient roadblock dug up from some anti-Christian website?

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