Showing posts from 2009

Cards, Probabilities and the Anthropic Principle

Pick a Card, Any Card

Let's suppose you go to visit your friend, Bobbie. As you spend a fine evening talking about old times, she pulls out a deck of cards and begins to shuffle it. You note that she is shuffling it thoroughly. She fans the cards out and asks you to pick one. You pick one at random and it turns out to be the jack of clubs. Returning the card to the deck, Bobbie thoroughly shuffles the cards several more times then fans them out and asks you to once again pick a random card. You do so only to find that you have picked ... the jack of clubs. What an interesting coincidence.

You return the card to Bobbie and she repeats the process of shuffling the cards thoroughly. Now, being the third time, you are shocked to find that you have once again picked the jack of clubs. You are probably thinking that this is getting weird. After all, picking the same card twice was pretty incredible, but three times in a row? That's pretty darned unlikely.

When she shuffles the cards …

Debate between Michael Shermer and Greg Koukl

Today, December 30, 2009, Hugh Hewitt will air a previously recorded debate between Michael Shermer, the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and Adjunct Professor of Economics at Claremont Graduate University, and Greg Koukl, Founder and President of Stand to Reason, author of Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air with Francis J. Beckwith, and Precious Unborn Human Persons, and adjunct professor in Christian apologetics at Biola University.

If you tune in today, the debate can be heard here by clicking the "Listen Live" link. The debate will be broadcast from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm Eastern time and 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm Pacific time. (I know that those of you in the Central and Mountain times are smart enough to figure out what that translates to for your local time.)

Greg has been dropping hints about some of…

Evil and the movie Independence Day

I expect that most readers who are the least bit attuned to popular movies will have seen and can remember the movie Independence Day starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman. For the rest of you, let me assure you that Independence Day wasn't the type of movie one would expect to find featured at an art house. It was more of a typical guy movie with lots of explosions, ground-breaking (at the time) special effects and huge crowds at the box office. (The movie grossed a whopping $817,400,878 world-wide, but like most highly popular movies didn't garner any Academy Awards other than the typical "Visual Effects" award.) Interestingly, I think that the reaction to the film by the audience makes a point that many skeptics don't grasp when reading certain Bible passages.

For the small minority who spent the 1990s in an cultural isolation chamber, Independence Day centered around the arrival of several huge alien spacecraft which hung over major cities aroun…

From all of us Trinitarian Christians at the Cadre this season...

...who not only believe that the single fundamental ground of all reality is rationally active; but who also believe that this independently existent Fact (upon which, or rather Who, all other reality--including us, all our readers, and the evident natural system around us--is dependent for existence) is a self-existent eternally coherent interPersonal relationship...

...and who believe that tomorrow at least represents the day in history when the living Action of this essential Love, having descended into the Nature He loves and for which He gives His own life, was born of a woman; in order to give His own life with utter completeness, fulfilling all fair-togetherness (or 'righteousness' as we tend to translate it in English)--not only for those who love Him, and not only for those who don't know Him, but even for those who are outright His enemies--

--to all our readers throughout the world, whether or not you believe a single word of what I just wrote:


AP: First Jesus-Era House Discovered in Nazareth

Not that I ever gave any credence to the Nazareth-didn't-exist-in-Jesus'-life obsession, but it receives yet another blow:

Just in time for Christmas, archaeologists on Monday unveiled what may have been the home of one of Jesus' childhood neighbors. The humble dwelling is the first dating to the era of Jesus to be discovered in Nazareth, then a hamlet of around 50 impoverished Jewish families where Jesus spent his boyhood....

Archaeologists also found clay and chalk vessels likely used by Galilean Jews of the time. The scientists concluded a Jewish family lived there because of the chalk, which Jews used to ensure the ritual purity of the food and water kept inside the vessels.

The shards also date back to the time of Jesus, which includes the late Hellenic, early Roman period that ranges from around 100 B.C. to the first century, Alexandre said. The determination was made by comparing the findings to shards and remains typical of that period found in other parts of the Gali…

Ye olde Yuletide Mithras roast

It's just about Christmas time again, which means that 'skeptics' will be trotting out the old hoary 'Christ=Mithras' chestnuts again, while Christian apologists will be having oodles of fun poking holes in the theory. The latter get an early present this year: an excellent demolition job by Chris Romer. Enjoy!

Historian and former atheist: Craig Keener's journey

I'm becoming steadily more impressed with the work of the award winning historian Professor Craig S. Keener. Somehow I only heard about him for the first time earlier this year. In the past month I've gotten around to reading his GosJohn commentary. I'm almost through with volume 1, and ironically I've been seriously debating whether to start a new tome of his just recently released, before I've even finished his second (of 2) GosJohn volume!

That new release is The Historical Jesus of the Gospels. (From what I can tell, it's actually vol 1 of a 2-part series, too; the sequel will be about the miracles of Jesus.)

I'm a big fan of progressing systematic analysis, whether in metaphysics (my own forte) or historical studies. So I can't help but adore the layout of this book as indicated in the table of contents. (See the Amazon link above and Search Inside the Book for the ToC.) And I'm a big fan of footnotes: 385 PAGES OF ENDNOTES AND WORKS CITED!! In s…

On "Doubting Jesus' Resurrection"

Kris Komarnitsky has a guest post on Common Sense Atheism, in which he summarizes the argument he made in his book of the same name, Doubting Jesus' Resurrection. I have not read the book yet and I am sure it contains much more detailed evidence in support of that argument, but if the blog post is an accurate summary I can't say that I'm impressed. What follows are some critical comments.

Komarnitsky begins by noting that one of the most popular arguments for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus construes the latter as the only plausible explanation for the early Christian beliefs summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7:

For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time…

The Plausibility of the Slaughter of the Innocents

The latest newsletter from the Associates for Biblical Archaeology contains a very interesting article about Matthew's account of the birth of Jesus entitled, The Slaughter of the Innocents: Historical Fact or Legendary Fiction? by Gordon Franz, M.A. In the article he notes the objection by skeptics that the lack of a secular account of the slaughter makes it unlikely that it ever occurred, then begins to piece together a very good article explaining possible reasons for such secular evidence (which means "anything but the Bible") to be absent.

In the course of the article he discusses the fact that Herod was a bad guy (which is an understatement even using the secular records) and the fact that the event was not so great as many think. The slaughter was not a huge blood bath with hundreds of babies brutally murdered in their mothers arms. Rather, it is likely that only a few mothers had their babies murdered at that time.

Second, the massacre might not have been as larg…

Do Christians Put Things Off Until the Afterlife?

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been hanging out at the Religion and Spirituality page at Yahoo! Answers for awhile. While the majority of the questions and answers on that site are really little more than thinly (and often not so thinly) disguised attacks on religion, there is an occasional gem.

One poster asked: "Do Christians put anything off until the afterlife?" He added:

I heard some say that atheists should make more of their lives since we believe we only have this one life to live. So do Christians not cram as much into their lives as we do, thinking they have all eternity to play with?
I thought that was a reasonable question. After all, we hear about how we are to "go for the gusto" (for those old enough to remember that advertisement) and "live life to its fullest." We only go around once in life (so it is said), so we have to grab all we can.

Is that what Christians do? After all, as the question notes, we don't believe in just this …

Logic and Reason are Not Answers In and Of Themselves

Lately, in an apparent show of masochistic tendencies of which I was previously unaware, I have spent some time answering questions on the Religion and Spirituality page at Yahoo! Answers. With all due respect to Yahoo!, the page should more appropriately be named the ADD Answers or ADHD Answers. Following two to three days on the site, I became convinced that the reason so many one line answers were given was because the people posting can't think beyond one-line, bumper-sticker slogans. The atheists on these sites are brazen, rude and ill-informed. (The Christians, for their part, could be just as bad at times, but it would take someone blind to their own shortcomings to not see that the atheists definitely held a large lead in the total number of rude, condescending and ignorant statements).

One common thread (which is repeated on other unnamed bulletin boards dominated by skeptics) is the mantra that somehow the skeptics have cornered the market (probably a bull market) on rea…

Atheist Watch Alert, Review of "When God Becomes a Drug"

Poster Bill Walker (a follower of this blog) going for the "big one" trying to de-convert me )on (Metacrock's Blog) introduces a book:

There is a book that I think may help you. "When God Becomes a Drug.By Bart Aikins. Please vdon't feel that this is a criticism of you. You are a victim- one of countless millions. I am rooting for you.On the comment page he says:

Joe, I read all of you post. I know you had a tough time. I'm glad you have that bgehind you. Bu god/jesus had nothing to do with it. Ple4ase Joe, read " When God Becomes a Drug." Joe this book w2as written for YOU. You have nothing to lose but your delusions. Join us at You will be as welcome as the flowers in May. Share your experiences & your thoughts with us. You may write as a Xian or a former Xian. Many people start with us as Xians, & are 'won over'. But you are very welcome to make posts as a Xian. It is POSSIBLE that you can make some4one revert to X…

On the Significance of Simon of Cyrene, Father of Alexander and Rufus

One of the most interesting passages in Mark’s Passion Narrative, from a historiographical perspective, is Mark 15:21:

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country and they forced him to carry the cross.
First let us compare the passage to its parallels in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew (it does not appear at all in the Gospel of John).

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.
Luke 23:26.

As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross.
Matt 27:32.

Matthew and Luke retain the reference to Simon as well as describe him as being from Cyrene, but drop the reference to Cyrene being “the father of Alexander and Rufus.”

It is notable that Mark identifies Simon by name. This is rare for Mark unless the author is referring to the disciples and some famil…

Wolfenism And Its Aspirations! (probably not subject to change)

I had been going to springboard from my original post on the third edition of the Humanist Manifesto, into a broader discussion of its principles and the logical coherency thereof; but when I read a recent review of the 1980 film Wolfen (here on AICN) by someone who had never watched it before, I thought... hey! Halloween's coming up, we should do a Halloween post, right? And I'm a big fan of both the film and the book (by Whitley Strieber). And the reviewer makes explicit a point about the movie that always rather bothered me in the background. And, hey!--that happens to tie into my recent post on the Humanist Manifesto and the logical coherency of its principles thereof!

I love it when providence comes together. {gggg!}

And then I got sick with the pseudo-flu and missed posting it, not only for Halloween, but for several weeks. I did manage to get it posted in time for Thanksgiving weekend! Barely! I’ll try to make some relevant connection to that later.

So: first, some back…