bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 2: No Messages from God

REASON FOR DOUBT #1
Should we view homosexual sex as morally wrong because it is (allegedly) condemned in the book of Leviticus?  In Part 1 of this series I outlined a dozen reasons to doubt this viewpoint.  Here is the first reason:

1. God does NOT exist, so no prophet and no book contains truth or wisdom from God. 

The question “Does God exist?” is not a simple and easy question to answer.  However, in my view there are no good reasons to believe God exists, but there are good reasons to doubt and to disbelieve that God exists.  I cannot establish these conclusions with just a single blog post, but I have written many posts that are concerned with arguments about the existence of God, so I can summarize my conclusions and point to various posts that I have previously published.
If it is unlikely that God exists, then it is also unlikely that there are prophets who communicate truth or wisdom that they received in communications from God, and it is unlikely that there are books that contain truth or wisdom from God.
 
THE SILENCE OF GOD
Furthermore, we can turn this reasoning around, and argue that there probably is no God, because there are no true prophets and no books that were truly inspired by God.
Christians, Jews, and Muslims argue that there are prophets and writings that provide us with messages from God.  Part of their argument is based on the following assumption:

21. IF God exists, THEN it is very likely that God communicated truth or wisdom to human beings through prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years.

This seems like a reasonable assumption to me, but this assumption can also be used to argue for the conclusion that there is no God:

21. IF God exists, THEN it is very likely that God communicated truth or wisdom to human beings through prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years.

22. There have been no prophets or holy books in the past four thousand years that have provided truth or wisdom from God.

THEREFORE:

23. It is probably NOT the case that God exists.

Premise (22) appears to beg the question against the belief that the book of Leviticus was inspired by God, but we can set Leviticus aside for the moment, and think about other allegedly inspired writings:

  • The Quran
  • The Book of Mormon
  • Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
  • Deuteronomy and Joshua (other OT books)

If one was not raised a Muslim, then it is very obvious that the Quran was NOT inspired by God.  If one was not raised as a Mormon, then it is very obvious that The Book of Mormon was NOT inspired by God.  If one was not raised as a Christian Scientist, then it is very obvious that Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures was NOT inspired by God.  When Christian believers who accept the traditional Christian faith examine allegedly inspired writings of other religions or non-traditional Christian sects, they very quickly (and correctly) determine that those other writings were NOT inspired by God.
However, the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, has most of the same defects as the Quran.  In fact, the OT is often worse than the Quran in terms of the cruelty and injustice and bloodthirsty character of Jehovah, the god of the Israelites.  So, the very same reasons that Christians give for rejecting the Quran as NOT being inspired by God apply to the Bible, especially to the OT.  It is clear that the OT is no more inspired than the Quran.  Christians are just biased and hypocritical in how they evaluate the Quran vs. how they evaluate the Bible.
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2018/08/09/ive-got-one-less-prophet-without-you/
The OT is filled with false claims and assumptions, both false claims and assumptions about nature, and false claims and assumptions about historical events.  The OT is also filled with cruel, unjust, and immoral actions and commandments by and from Jehovah, the god of the Israelites.  So, either the OT is filled with SLANDER and FALSEHOODS about what God said and did, or else it accurately portrays the words and actions of Jehovah, but Jehovah is NOT GOD, and therefore the being who communicated with Moses was NOT GOD, and thus the OT was NOT inspired by God.  Either way, the OT is, in general, NOT inspired by God.
It would be rather unlikely that Leviticus was inspired by God while the rest of the OT was inspired by a cruel, unjust, and morally flawed being named “Jehovah”.  We will see later that Leviticus has the same problems as the rest of the OT.
Deuteronomy and Joshua clearly describe Jehovah as commanding that the Israelites MERCILESSLY SLAUGHTER every man, woman, teenager, child, and baby who lived in the geographical area called “the promised Land” (basically Palestine), in order to steal the land from the peoples who had already settled in that area.  This massive slaughter of innocent civilians and children and babies is cruel, unjust, and immoral, so it is clear that Jehovah, as described by Deuteronomy and Joshua is a morally flawed person, and thus is NOT GOD.  Therefore, either Deuteronomy and Joshua contain SLANDER and FALSEHOODS about God, or else Jehovah said and did what these books claim, and Jehovah is NOT God.  Either way, it follows logically that Deuteronomy and Joshua are NOT books that were inspired by God.
For further details see my recent series of posts on this subject:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2020/07/06/index-was-joshuas-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-morally-justified/
 
GENERAL SKEPTICISM PLUS THREE SPECIFIC AREAS OF SKEPTICISM
My doubts about the existence of God are related to skepticism in general, and to three specific areas of skepticism:

  • Skepticism about Supernatural Claims
  • Skepticism about Religion
  • Skepticism about the Existence of God

I am a SKEPTIC because I am a CYNIC.  It is not the case that all skeptics are cynics.  However, it is probably true that many skeptics are cynics (like me).
Furthermore, my cynicism is not merely a pessimistic prejudice about humans, but is supported by historical and scientific data, and investigations into human behavior.  Science and history support cynicism.
By CYNICISM I mean: the view that human beings are naturally and commonly irrational, illogical, ignorant, superstitious, gullible, prejudiced, dishonest, and self-deceived.
My SKEPTICISM can be summed up this way: QUESTION AUTHORITY!  People very often boldly and confidently assert (or believe) things that are FALSE or UNREASONABLE.  Donald Trump, for example, does this several times a day. This is because people are naturally and commonly irrational, illogical, ignorant, superstitious, gullible, prejudiced, dishonest, and self-deceived.
See the second half of the following post, the section called “REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM ABOUT THE SUPERNATURAL”:  Why I Reject the Resurrection – Part 4: Skepticism about the Supernatural.
 
HISTORICAL EXAMPLES OF WISHFUL THINKING
[The above are slides from a PowerPoint that I created for a podcast: Thinking Critically about Christianity – Podcast 5.  Slides 17 through 21 provide the above historical examples of wishful thinking.]
 
SKEPTICISM ABOUT SUPERNATURAL CLAIMS
There are at least three areas of skepticism about supernatural claims that provide examples and evidence supporting doubt about the supernatural:

  • Skepticism about Supernatural Powers: ESP, Psychics, Prophets, Astrology, Telekinesis, Levitation.
  • Skepticism about Supernatural Beings: angels, demons, spirits, ghosts, fairies.
  • Skepticism about faith healers, psychic healers, shaman, and/or new age medicine (Homeopathy, Crystals, Chakras, etc.)

There has been about 150 years of investigation into ESP, telekinesis, and psychics, and no significant evidence has been found that confirms popular belief in these alleged supernatural powers.  Belief in such supernatural powers is due to wishful thinking, gullibility, superstition, bias, deception, and other forms of ignorance and irrationality.
There is no significant evidence for the existence of angels, demons, spirits, or ghosts.  Mediums who claim to communicate with the dead have been studied for over 150 years, and no significant evidence has been found that confirms the popular belief that mediums are able to communicate with the spirits of dead people.  The fact that billions of people have believed in angels, demons, ghosts, spirits, and mediums for many centuries just shows that people are in general, naive, gullible, superstitious, ignorant, and uncritical thinkers.
Faith healers, psychic healers, and New Age medicine (homeopathy, crystals, chakras) are generally practiced by con artists, quacks, and charlatans, and by some superstitious true believers.  There is no significant scientific evidence that confirms the ability of faith healers, psychic healers, shaman, or New Age medicine to heal people of any actual organic diseases (as opposed to making people feel less anxious or fearful or to feel better in some psychological way).  Billions of naive, ignorant, uncritical, superstitious people have for many centuries believed in faith healing, psychic healing, shamanic healing, and/or in New Age medicine, but they are simply more examples supporting general cynicism about human beings.
Billions of human beings over many centuries have uncritically and unreasonably accepted various supernatural beliefs like those listed above.  But whenever such alleged supernatural powers or supernatural beings or supernatural forces are carefully and scientifically investigated, we either find natural explanations for the phenomena, or we find that there is no significant empirical evidence that such supernatural phenomena exist.
That does not mean that there is no possibility that one day someone will discover a supernatural phenomenon that can be confirmed by careful scientific investigation, but the repeated FAILURE of ANY alleged supernatural powers or supernatural beings or supernatural forces to be confirmed when carefully investigated makes is VERY UNLIKELY that any such supernatural phenomena actually exists.
=================
Articles on General Skepticism about the Paranormal
creators-of-the-paranormal
eyewitness-testimony-and-the-paranormal
psychic-experiences-psychic-illusions
cold-reading-how-to-convince-strangers-that-you-know-all-about-them
confirmbias
coincidences
coincidences-remarkable-or-random
Articles on Skepticism about Astrology
Astrology_and_science
astrology
astrology-more-like-religion-than-science
does-astrology-need-to-be-true-a-thirty-year-update
astrology-strikes-back-but-to-what-effect
belief-in-astrology-a-test-of-the-barnum-effect
tests-of-astrology-do-not-support-its-claims
Articles on Skepticism about ESP, Telepathy, Clairvoyance, and Psychokinesis
psychic
esp
clairvoyance
psychokinesis
mind-over-metal
fakers-and-innocents
the-case-of-the-psychic-detectives
psychic-pets-and-pet-psychics
failed-psychic-predictions-for-1998
psychics-strike-out-again-in-1995
psychics-fail-once-again
a-controlled-test-of-dowsing-abilities
Articles on Skepticism about Parapsychology
psihistory
heads-i-win-tails-you-lose-how-parapsychologists-nullify-null-results
the-evidence-for-psychic-functioning-claims-vs-reality
the-elusive-open-mind-ten-years-of-negative-research-in-parapsychology
a-critique-of-schwartz-et-als-after-death-communication-studies
Articles on Skepticism about Specific Psychics and Mediums
geller
dixon
cayce
ramtha
psychic-defective-sylvia-brownes-history-of-failure
years-later-sylvia-brownes-accuracy-remains-dismal
Geraldine Smith – Toronto Psychic
investigation-of-psychics  (James Hydrick and Alan Vaughan)
nostradamus-a-new-look-at-an-old-seer
john-edward-spirit-huckster
testing-natasha
nostradamus-the-prophet-for-all-seasons
edgar-cayce-the-slipping-prophet
the-geller-papers
Articles on Skepticism about Supernatural Beings
ghosts
haunted
poltergeist
fairies
exorcism
satan
so-you-have-a-ghost-in-your-photo
firebug-poltergeists
dispelling-demons-detective-work-at-the-conjuring-house
the-200-demons-house-a-skeptical-demonologists-report
the-conjuring-ghosts-poltergeist-demons
the-bell-witch-poltergeist
enfield-poltergeist
john-edward-spirit-huckster
demons-in-connecticut
a-skeletons-tale-the-origins-of-modern-spiritualism
ghosts-caught-on-film
ghost-hunters-2
amityville-the-horror-of-it-all
john-edward-hustling-the-bereaved
exorcism-driving-out-the-nonsense
Articles on Skepticism about Faith Healing, Faith Healers, and New Age Medicine
faithhealing
Faith_healing  (Kathryn Kuhlman and Peter Popoff)
psychic surgery
homeopathy
crystals
crystal-healing
Crystal_healing
johnofgod
john-of-god-healings-by-entities
benny-hinn-healer-or-hypnotist
peter-popoff-reaches-heaven-via-39-17-megahertz
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 3: Norman vs. Bradley

I’m having fun with critical examination of Norman Geisler’s Thomist cosmological argument in When Skeptics Ask.  There is also a more detailed and in-depth presentation of this argument in Chapter 9 of Geisler’s much older book The Philosophy of Religion (1974).
I previously thought that the first premise of his Thomist cosmological argument was obviously true, but now I’m not so sure.  I now think there are problems of UNCLARITY in the key terms “finite thing” and “changing thing.”
Below is a short fictional dialogue that I quickly constructed to explore some of my thoughts about what it means to say something is a “finite thing”.
I will return to my usual, more pedantic style in future posts.
=====================
Bradley: This pebble in my hand is INFINITE!
Norman: No it isn’t. It is a small object. I can plainly see that it is less than 1″ in diameter.
Bradley: True. It is not INFINITE in its size. However, it might still be an INFINITE thing. It might have INFINITE mass.
Norman: Nope. Plainly you are able to hold the pebble up with just one hand, so it must weigh less than 200 pounds. Since you are not straining at all to hold the pebble up with just one hand, it probably weighs less than 10 pounds. Assuming it is an ordinary pebble, given its size, it probably weighs less than 1 pound.
Bradley: OK. All right. The pebble has a finite size, and a finite mass. Perhaps it contains INFINITE energy.
Norman: If it contained INFINITE heat energy, you would not be able to hold it in your hand. It would instantly burn a hole through your hand.
Bradley: What if it had INFINITE electrical energy?
Norman: Then it would electrocute you and instantly fry your entire body like a billion lightning strikes hitting your hand all at once.
Bradley: You have a point there. Maybe it contains INFINITE kinetic energy.
Norman: I don’t think so. Kinetic energy depends in part on the mass of the object, and we have already established that the pebble has only a small amount of mass, and it clearly isn’t moving very fast, if at all.
Bradley: How about the past age of the pebble? Perhaps this pebble has existed for an INFINITE amount of time.
Norman: I doubt that. The earth is supposed to be about 4.5 billion years old, so the pebble is probably less than 4.5 billion years old (according to your godless evolution-infected geology).
Bradley: But you don’t know the history of this specific pebble. Maybe it came from another planet or from another galaxy. Can you prove that this pebble has only existed for a finite number of years?
Norman: Well, according to the Kalam Cosmological Argument, there cannot be an actually infinite number of days or years that have elapsed in the past.
Bradley: But if you need the Kalam Cosmological Argument in order to demonstrate the first premise of your Thomist Cosmological Argument, then you don’t have two independent arguments. Both arguments in that case would depend on the key claim in the Kalam argument that an actually infinite number of days or years cannot have elapsed in the past.
Norman: I’m confident of the truth of that premise of the Kalam argument, so I’m OK with making the success of both of my cosmological arguments depend on that premise.
Bradley: We have been discussing various common and easily observable physical attributes. Aren’t there lots of other possible physical attributes possessed by this pebble? In addition to being composed of molecules and atoms, it is also composed of sub-atomic particles, like: quarks, leptons, and bosons. Perhaps one of the properties of one of the sub-atomic particles in the pebble is INFINITE.
Do we know ALL of the kinds of sub-atomic particles that exist in this universe? I doubt it. Do we know ALL of the various properties of the sub-atomic particles that are currently known to exist? I don’t think so. Given that we still have a lot to learn about sub-atomic particles, I don’t see how (at this point in time) we can be sure that no sub-atomic particles in this pebble have any INFINITE properties.
Norman: I’ll admit that there is probably much that we have yet to learn about the kinds and characteristics of sub-atomic particles.  But based on all of the ordinary physical properties that we are familiar with, which the pebble possesses in only finite amounts and degrees, and based on the properties of sub-atomic particles that we know about now, we should expect that new properties that will be discovered about the sub-atomic particles in pebbles, will also be possessed by the pebble in only finite amounts and degrees and NOT in INFINTE amounts or degrees.
Bradley: Perhaps all future discoveries about the properties of sub-atomic particles will be limited to properties that exist in only finite amounts and degrees, but we cannot know this ahead of time.  Since there still appear to be some mysteries to unravel in the world of sub-atomic particles, what about the possibility that this pebble has an INFINITE number of physical properties? I don’t see how we can be certain that the number of physical properties possessed by this pebble is a finite number.  Perhaps there is no end to the discovery of natural physical properties of this pebble.
Furthermore, since you believe that there is also a SUPERNATURAL realm, could it be that this pebble has some SUPERNATURAL properties, in addition to the natural physical properties it has? If so, then one of its SUPERNATURAL properties could be INFINITE.  Can you prove that this pebble has no INFINITE SUPERNATURAL properties?  Can you prove that you know ALL of the SUPERNATURAL properties that this pebble possesses?  I don’t think so.

bookmark_borderHinman’s Pathetic Defense of his Sad Little Argument

HINMAN’S SAD LITTLE ARGUMENT AGAINST THE SURVIVAL THEORY
In response to my criticism of Peter Kreeft’s weak and pathetic objections against the Survival Theory, Joe Hinman wrote the following in one of his blog posts:

The second issue Bowen argues the book of John Implies the Romans were confused about Jesus’ death, quotes passages John 19: 31-33 to prove the Romans may have thought he was alive. The reasoning is one soldier pierced Jesus’ side the only reason to do that was to see if he was dead. Therefore they didn’t really think he was dead. So apparently if they were confused he was alive? Of course they ignore the fact that the sticking would have proven he was dead because water coming out separate from blood proves heart is not working. Even so it’s that literalism that says it can’t be that they thought he was probably dead and just wanted to confirm it. …  [emphasis added]

The argument that Hinman puts forward here against the Survival Theory follows the miserable example of intellectual sloth by Peter Kreeft, being stated in a single unclear and sloppy sentence:

the sticking would have proven he was dead because water coming out separate from blood proves heart is not working.

In standard form, this sad and way too brief argument may be stated as follows:

1. Water coming out separate from blood proves [the] heart is not working.

THEREFORE:

2. Jesus’ heart stopped working while he was still on the cross.

Another premise is needed in order to get to what is actually the desired but unstated conclusion:

3. If Jesus’ heart stopped working while he was on the cross, then it is virtually certain that Jesus was dead when he was removed from the cross.

THEREFORE:

4. It is virtually certain that Jesus was dead when he was removed from the cross.

Premise (1) must be immediately REJECTED by anyone who is knowledgeable about this issue.
First, even eyewitness testimony by a trustworthy person who was present at the crucifixion of Jesus CANNOT ESTABLISH that “water” came out of any part of Jesus’ body. This is because many different liquids LOOK LIKE water, and nobody did a chemical analysis of the liquid, or even tasted or smelled the liquid in order to verify that it was just water. So, no ancient historical document can establish that “water” came out of some part of Jesus’ body.
Second, most of the Christian apologists and medical investigators who have suggested theories about the medical cause of Jesus’ death DO NOT BELIEVE that the transparent (or translucent) substance that (allegedly) came from Jesus’ wound was WATER. Instead, they believe it was pleural or pericardial fluids, or urine, or…?  NOBODY thinks that it was “water” that came out of Jesus’ wound!
Let me try to improve and clarify the first premise of Hinman’s sad little argument:

1A. Fluid that LOOKED LIKE water came out of the spear wound in Jesus’ side and fluid that LOOKED LIKE blood also came out of that wound while Jesus was on the cross, and those two fluids came out of the wound separately.

1B. IF fluid that LOOKED LIKE water came out of the spear wound in Jesus’ side and fluid that LOOKED LIKE blood also came out of that wound while Jesus was on the cross, and those two fluids came out of the wound separately, THEN Jesus’ heart stopped working while he was on the cross.

THEREFORE:

2. Jesus’ heart stopped working while he was on the cross.

3. If Jesus’ heart stopped working while he was on the cross, then it is virtually certain that Jesus was dead when he was removed from the cross.

THEREFORE:

4. It is virtually certain that Jesus was dead when he was removed from the cross.

This is what a clear and intelligent argument looks like, and this is merely a high-level summary of an actual argument.  The basic premises (1A) and (1B), for example, BEG THE QUESTION if they are merely asserted.  Those premises are controversial and questionable, so they MUST be supported with EVIDENCE and REASONING in order to get this argument off the ground.
 
MY OBJECTIONS TO HINMAN’S SAD LITTLE ARGUMENT
Concerning premise (1A), I have already provided ten reasons for doubting the accuracy, reliability, and historicity of the passage from the 4th Gospel that is used to support this premise. This historical claim is VERY DUBIOUS. This problem is sufficient by itself to sink this argument as being probably UNSOUND.
Concerning premise (1B), Joe is NOT a medical doctor. His educational background is in theology, so he is NOT qualified to make medical claims like this. NOBODY should believe (1B) just because Joe says so. He OBVIOUSLY needs to provide evidence to support this claim. But Joe apparently doesn’t see this obvious point, because he simply asserts (1B), without providing any evidence for it.
 
HINMAN’S PATHETIC ATTEMPT TO REPLY TO MY OBJECTIONS TO (1A)
I have pointed out and explained in detail TEN problems with the historicity and historical reliability of the relevant passage from the 4th Gospel.  Here is Hinman’s pathetic reply to those TEN detailed objections against premise (1A):

Sorry your understanding is out of date. Since Bauckham’s book Jesus and the Eye Witnesses it is form criticism that is now considered dubious and John has a new credibility. Remember our first 1×1 debate? You used Bauckham as your own source to argue against me.

My understanding of the 4th Gospel is “out of date”.  That is Hinman’s brilliant reply to my ten detailed objections against premise (1A).  I’m a bit skeptical that Bauckham’s book has in fact turned 150 years of NT scholarship on its head, and converted hundreds of NT scholars to believers in the historical reliability of the 4th Gospel.  That seems more like a fantasy that Hinman wishes were the case.  However, even if Bauckham’s book has actually pulled off this minor miracle, and turned NT scholarship around, that still DOES NOT ANSWER my ten detailed objections to premise (1A).
Hinman is again displaying his extreme intellectual SLOTH. If Bauckham’s book doesn’t answer my ten objections, then his book is basically IRRELEVANT to those objections.  On the other hand, if Bauckham’s book really does make a strong case for the reliability of the 4th Gospel, then it should directly answer all (or nearly all) of my ten objections.  But in that case, all that Hinman had to do was to POINT US TO THE PAGES in Bauckham’s book where my objections are answered.
Hinman wouldn’t have to generate a single argument (unless Bauckham failed to cover one of my objections).  But that would be far too much effort for Mr. Hinman.  He would have to pick up Bauckham’s book and scan through it (or read it for the first time) to locate the pages where my objections are answered by Bauckham.  That would take at least an hour of intellectual effort and might completely exhaust Mr. Hinman’s mind to the point he would be unable to ever write another comment on my posts. (Not that I would complain about that.)
When Mr. Hinman decides to push past his extreme intellectual SLOTH, and put out just a tiny bit of intellectual effort, he can easily provide us all with the various page numbers in Bauckham’s book, where my ten objections are answered.  Since I already have a copy of Jesus and the Eye Witnesses, Hinman doesn’t even have to write out the quotes for me.  I suspect that this, however, is too big of a request for Mr. Hinman, and that no such page numbers will be forthcoming, and that Mr. Hinman will continue to simply ignore my ten detailed objections against the reliability and historicity of the 4th Gospel and of the passage from the 4th Gospel that is used to support premise (1A).
 
HINMAN’S PATHETIC ATTEMPT TO REPLY TO MY OBJECTION TO (1B)
Premise (1B) asserts a questionable and controversial medical claim:

1B. IF fluid that LOOKED LIKE water came out of the spear wound in Jesus’ side and fluid that LOOKED LIKE blood also came out of that wound while Jesus was on the cross, and those two fluids came out of the wound separately, THEN Jesus’ heart stopped working while he was on the cross.

Since Joe Hinman is NOT a medical doctor, nobody should believe this claim on his say-so.  He must provide solid factual EVIDENCE to support this medical claim.
Here is Hinman’s pathetic attempt to reply to my objection to his sad little argument:

I already did that [i.e. presented evidence supporting premise (1B)] your majesty. In three different posts above.I am not a doctor but I quote several of them in the internet,

Adrian Treloar FRCP, “Blood and Water,” Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 63(1) (February 2013) http://www.cmq.org.uk/CMQ/2…

“To confirm that a victim was dead, the Romans inflicted a spear wound through the right side of the heart. The medical significance of the blood and water has been a matter of debate. One theory (Bergsma) states that Jesus died of a massive myocardial infarction, in which the heart ruptured [a]which may have resulted from His falling while carrying the cross [b]. Davis suggested that Jesus’ heart was surrounded by fluid in the pericardium, which caused pericardial tamponade [c]. Another theory that I have often heard is that in a sick man (Our Lord was badly beaten) after death the blood will separate into clot and serum. We do know that death of the cross occurs from exhaustion and inability to support the weight of the body and to breathe.”

There are so many problems with Hinman’s pathetic attempt to reply to my objection to his sad little argument that it is difficult to know where to begin.
FIRST, the author of the article quoted by Hinman is a medical doctor, but his expertise is in an irrelevant area:

Old Age Psychiatry (!)

Hinman does NOT claim that Jesus died of old age.  Hinman does NOT claim that Jesus died as the result of Alzheimer’s or of some other mental illness.  So, the expertise of the author of the quoted article does not apply to the medical issues concerning the alleged cause of death in cases of crucifixion and in the case of Jesus’ crucifixion in particular, since he was a relatively young man at the time of the crucifixion, and was not showing signs of dementia.
SECOND,  the title of the publication where this article appeared is VERY MISLEADING:

Catholic Medical Quarterly

This title, especially in the context of this debate, suggests that this is a MEDICAL JOURNAL, which it is NOT.  This publication is clearly a Catholic propaganda publication, and most of the articles in the publication are NOT peer reviewed, not reviewed by medical professionals, at least most are NOT required to have such a peer review by the policy of the publication:

 
 
 
 
 
 
Clearly, an article discussing the death and resurrection of Jesus is an article that discusses “matters of faith”, so there was no requirement for any peer review  by medical professionals of the article quoted by Hinman above.
Furthermore, given that the content of this publication is mainly articles that promote Catholic views about ABORTION, CONTRACEPTION, HOMOSEXUALITY, and EUTHANASIA, most of the articles in this publication “discuss matters of faith” and therefore face no requirement for peer review by any medical professionals.
Here are the subjects that are listed in the TOPIC INDEX for Catholic Medical Quarterly:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Do you notice “cancer” as a topic? No.  How about “heart disease”? No.  Maybe “emergency medicine”? Nope.  “infectious disease”?  Nope.  Anything on “lung disease”? No.  New “drugs” or “vaccinations”? No.  How about “surgical procedures”? Nope.
This publication is focused on Catholic ethical and theological beliefs, and particularly on the PROMOTION of traditional Catholic beliefs on these subjects. Here is a STATEMENT of the PURPOSE of this publication from the home page of the website of the publication:

The CMQ was originally published in 1947 as the Catholic Medical Gazette.  The purpose of the CMQ is to provide and describe an evidence base that enables understanding of the teaching of Christ and his Church as requested by Pope Paul VI, St Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis

In other words, the PURPOSE of this publication is to PROMOTE the teachings of the Catholic Church, and any articles in it that “discuss matters of faith” (i.e. most of the articles) are NOT subject to peer review by medical professionals.
So, Mr. Hinman’s pathetic reply in defense of his sad little argument is based on a quotation from an article written by a medical doctor with IRRELEVANT expertise (Old Age Psychiatry) that was published in a Catholic propaganda publication which does NOT require peer review by medical professionals for most of the articles it publishes, particularly the article that Hinman quotes from, because that article discusses “matters of faith”.
THIRD, it is obvious just from the brief quote provided by Hinman, that the author is a sloppy and careless thinker.  The very first sentence should ring alarm bells for any intelligent and informed reader:

To confirm that a victim was dead, the Romans inflicted a spear wound through the right side of the heart.

This is clearly an important, even critical claim.  I suspect that if this claim is FALSE or DUBIOUS, then Hinman’s argument is likely to completely FAIL.  But this is a questionable HISTORICAL claim.  Surely, Dr. Treloar is aware that his medical expertise in Old Age Psychiatry does NOT make him an expert on ancient Roman history, particularly on such a fine detail about the practices of the Roman military.  Given that he has no expertise in ancient Roman history, surely he does not expect us to simply take his word on this important, perhaps critical, historical claim.
But there is NO historical EVIDENCE provided to back up this key claim, and there is not even a footnote or reference to some other book or article that would provide us with EVIDENCE on this point.  So, apparently Dr. Treloar thinks that being an expert in Old Age Psychiatry also makes him an expert in ancient Roman history.  He (a medical doctor!) believes this idea, so it must be true.  That suggests to me that Dr. Treloar is full of BS.
Furthermore, this sort of IDIOTIC assertion of KEY historical claims with NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER is exactly the same type of shit that Peter Kreeft (as well as a whole host of other Christian apologists) constantly does.  So, to make up for the CRAPPY reasoning of Peter Kreeft, Hinman gives us a nice stinking chunk of CRAPPY thinking by Dr. Treloar.  Pick your poison; it’s bullshit all the way down.
And that is just the first sentence of the quotation from Dr. Treloar.  There is also the jarring non sequitur that occurs between early in the paragraph and the end of the paragraph:

The medical significance of the blood and water has been a matter of debate. …

We do know that death of the cross occurs from exhaustion and inability to support the weight of the body and to breathe.

In between these two statements, Dr. Treloar gives us three different theories about the cause of Jesus’ death and of the fluids that looked like water and blood.  These examples support his initial statement that the “significance of the blood and water” has been “a matter of debate”.  The logical conclusion to draw from this information is that WE DON’T KNOW what caused Jesus’ death.  But Dr. Treloar immediately draws the OPPOSITE conclusion, without any explanation, apparently failing to notice the illogical nature of his reasoning:  “We do know that death of the cross…”.   But if medical investigations of the death of Jesus arrive at different and conflicting conclusions about the cause of Jesus’ death, then how is it that we KNOW what causes death in crucifixions?
Hinman also points us to another article that is from an actual peer-reviewed MEDICAL JOURNAL and which seems much more reasonable and objective than the one by Dr. Treloar.  The other article begins with an observation very similar to that made by Treloar above:

In modern times, the medical profession has shown considerable interest in crucifixion. The typical aim of articles by this group has been to determine how crucified individuals actually died; and they often focus on the case of Jesus of Nazareth. Since Stroud’s book of 1847, at least 10 different theories have been proposed…The postulated causes of death include cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, and psychological pathology.

But this other article draws a much more obvious and logical conclusion than Dr. Treloar did from similar information:

When a large number of theories are proposed for a problem in any scientific discipline, this often demonstrates that there is no clear evidence indicating the answer.

The ultimate conclusions of this other article confirm this initial suspicion:

At first glance, their medical arguments appear plausible. However, our principal finding is that on more detailed examination most of these hypotheses regarding crucifixion are unsubstantiated by the available data.

[…]

Our conclusion is that, at present, there is insufficient evidence to safely state exactly how people did die from crucifixion in Roman times.

So, if Hinman had actually READ the second article that he pointed us to, he should have noticed how it firmly undermines the credibility of the first article that he pointed us to.
Once again, though, Dr. Treloar is an expert in Old Age Psychaitry, so that does NOT make him an expert on the cause of death in crucifixion.  So, surely Treloar realizes that this MEDICAL and HISTORICAL claim he is making (“that death of the cross occurs from exhaustion and inability to support the weight of the body and to breathe.”) requires a good deal of HISTORICAL EVIDENCE and REASONING as well as MEDICAL EVIDENCE and REASONING.  He cannot expect anyone to simply take his word for this, especially given that this claim appears to be another very important, and possibly critical claim.
But where is the HISTORICAL EVIDENCE?  Where is the MEDICAL EVIDENCE?  Where is the REASONING?  We just get a bald assertion from someone who is lacking in relevant medical expertise and lacking in relevant historical expertise.  There is not even a footnote or reference to some other book or article which could provide relevant EVIDENCE and REASONING. So apparently, Dr. Treloar thinks that being an Old Age Psychaitrist means that any claims he believes about the crucifixion of Jesus must be true. This is further evidence, from just one paragraph, that Dr. Treloar is full BS, just like Peter Kreeft, and just like Joe Hinman.  It is bullshit all the way down.
FOURTH, and most importantly, the quote that Hinman provides from Dr. Treloar is IRRELEVANT to premise (1B).  Even if Dr. Treloar had appropriate medical expertise, even if Dr. Treloar was not a sloppy and careless thinker, and even if the Catholic Medical Quarterly were a legitimate medical journal and the quoted article had undergone peer review by medical professionals, this quote does NOT provide support for premise (1B).  As it stands, this paragraph does NOT assert or infer the truth of (1B).   The quote does NOT address the claim made in premise (1B).
Hinman may think that there are some ideas in this quote that would help him to argue in support of (1B), but the quote doesn’t present any such argument.  Hinman will have to stop being an intellectual SLOTH for a few minutes, perhaps for an hour, in order to ACTUALLY ARGUE in support of premise (1B), and he might foolishly choose to make use of some dubious claims asserted by Dr. Treloar as part of an argument for (1B), but that argument has NOT been provided by Dr. Treloar, and so the quote given by Hinman is basically IRRELEVANT to my objection.
What we were missing is EVIDENCE and REASONING that supports premise (1B), and the quote from Dr. Treloar FAILS to provide EVIDNCE and REASONING that supports premise (1B), so we are still in need of an actual argument for (1B) from Mr. Hinman (although I fear that he will continue to follow Peter Kreeft’s path of intellectual SLOTH and just toss out another sad little argument to support this premise).
One statement in the quote from Dr. Treloar does seem to have potential relevance to (1B):

To confirm that a victim was dead, the Romans inflicted a spear wound through the right side of the heart.

The problem here, as I have pointed out above, is that Dr. Treloar is an Old Age Psychaitrist; he is NOT an historian, and NOT an expert in ancient Roman history. So, the fact that Dr. Treolar makes this claim is of no significance; he has no expertise in this area.  Furthermore, this claim requires support from HISTORICAL EVIDENCE and HISTORICAL REASONING, but Dr. Treloar provides us with neither sort of support for this claim, so the quotation of this claim is USELESS for a defense of premise (1B).
The other claim in this quote that MIGHT POSSIBLY be relevant to a defense of (1B) is this:

We do know that death of the cross occurs from exhaustion and inability to support the weight of the body and to breathe.

But Dr. Treloar is an Old Age Psychaitrist; he is NOT an historian, and NOT an expert in ancient Roman history, and his medical expertise is in psychaitry, not in an area relevant to the medical issues surrounding death by crucifixion.  So, quotation of this statement does NOT provide the EVIDENCE and REASONING necessary to show this statement to be TRUE.  Hinman will have to overcome his intellectual SLOTH and actually provide an argument to support this claim, if he thinks it will help him prove premise (1B).  Again, the quotation from Dr. Treloar is USELESS for a defense of premise (1B).
There are no other statements in the quotation that seem to have any relevance to premise (1B), so it is clear that the quotation provided by Hinman is USELESS for a defense of premise (1B).  It is a pathetic reply in an FAILED attempt to defend his sad little argument, and it is further evidence that Hinman’s objections to the Survival Theory are just as CRAPPY as the objections of the grand master of intellectual SLOTH, Peter Kreeft.
It is bullshit all the way down.

bookmark_borderThe Resurrection of Dr. Sean George – Part 2: Littlewood’s Law

Dr. Sean George claims that God raised him from the dead.
I have prepared a PowerPoint presentation called “The Resurrection of Sean George” which contains lots of relevant information and skeptical points about Dr. Sean George’s miracle claim.  Here at The Secular Outpost,  I plan to present my main objections to his miracle claim.
The following is a summary of Dr. Sean George’s alleged resurrection:

 
One of my primary objections to this miracle claim is that there are millions of cardiac arrests in the world each year, so we should expect for there to be some very rare outcomes of cardiac arrests to occur each year.  A one-in-a-million outcome to a cardiac arrest should be expected to occur at least once or twice each year.  Therefore, if Dr. Sean George’s outcome was a one-in-a-million outcome, then it is unreasonable to conclude that it was a miracle, because we would reasonably expect such outcomes to occur somewhere in the world once or twice each year, even if there is no God and there are no miracles.

 
(This data is from: Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2019 Update
A Report From the American Heart Association, Chapter 17, “Incidence”).
The population of the USA is about 4% of the world’s population.  Since about half a million cardiac arrests occur each year in the USA, there must be millions of cardiac arrests in the world each year.  If, for example, cardiac arrests in the USA constitute 10% of the cardiac arrests in the world, then there would be about five million cardiac arrests in the world each year.
An estimate from a 2007 medical journal (Journal of Electrocardiology) article shows that my back-of-the-envelope estimate is not far off the mark:
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of global mortality, accounting for almost 17 million deaths annually or 30% of all global mortality. In developing countries, it causes twice as many deaths as HIV, malaria and TB combined. It is estimated that about 40-50% of all cardiovascular deaths are sudden cardiac deaths (SCDs) and about 80% of these are caused by ventricular tachyarrhythmias. Therefore, about 6 million sudden cardiac deaths occur annually due to ventricular tachyarrhythmias. The survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest is less than 1% worldwide and close to 5% in the US.  (from an abstract for the article “Global public health problem of sudden cardiac death.”   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17993308 , emphasis added)


NOTE:  “Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a sudden, unexpected death caused by loss of heart function (sudden cardiac arrest).”


  • 40% of 17 million is: 6.8 million
  • 50% of 17 million is:  8.5 million

So, there are between 6.8 million and 8.5 million sudden cardiac deaths in the world each year.  If SCDs represent 99% of cardiac arrests (because 1% of people with a cardiac arrest survive), then there are between 6.9 million and 8.6 million cardiac arrests in the world each year, or 7.75 million cardiac arrests (plus or minus .85 million).
My skeptical objection here is basically an application of Littlewood’s Law:

 


“The law was framed by Cambridge University Professor John Edensor Littlewood, and published in a 1986 collection of his work, A Mathematician’s Miscellany. It seeks among other things to debunk one element of supposed supernatural phenomenology and is related to the more general law of truly large numbers, which states that with a sample size large enough, any outrageous (in terms of probability model of single sample) thing is likely to happen.”  (“Littlewood’s Law, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Littlewood%27s_law )


Given the above information, the only thing necessary to dismiss Dr. Sean George’s miracle claim, is to show that the outcome of his cardiac arrest had at least one chance in ten million of occurring.  Since, about 8 million cardiac arrests occur in the world each year, we should expect to see such a rare outcome about once every year or two, even if there is no God, and there are no miracles.
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderSkepticism about Religion – Part 2: Caveats and Qualifications

DOES RELIGION HAVE A POSITIVE CORRELATION WITH HAPPINESS?

There are many empirical studies that appear to show that religion has a positive correlation with happiness.  However, there are a number of important caveats and qualifications that need to be taken into consideration here:

  1. Viewed in geographic terms, religion has a NEGATIVE correlation with happiness.
  2. Whether religion correlates with happiness depends on how one measures happiness.
  3. Whether religion correlates with happiness depends on how one measures religion/religiousness.
  4. In several countries religion does NOT have a positive correlation with happiness.
  5. When a study does find a positive correlation between religion and happiness, it is usually a weak correlation.
  6. There are a number of other factors that have a significantly stronger positive correlation with happiness.
  7. The correlation between religion and happiness appears to be bi-modal: religious people tend towards both greater happiness and also greater unhappiness compared to non-religious people.

1. Viewed in geographic terms, religion has a NEGATIVE correlation with happiness.

Let’s compare the top ten MOST religious states in the USA with the ten LEAST religious states in terms of happiness.
If religion is the key to happiness, then we would expect the states with the MOST religious populations to have the happiest populations as well, and we would expect the states with the LEAST religious populations to have the least happiest populations.  A perfect positive correlation between religion and happiness would be if the number one most religious state also had the number one spot in happiness, and if the second most religious state was number two in terms of happiness, and so on.  A perfect correlation would also mean that the LEAST religious state in the country would have the least happiest population, and the second LEAST religious state would have the second least happiest population, and so on.
There is NOT a perfect positive correlation between religion and happiness.  In fact, the most religious states tend to be states with lower than average happiness, and the least religious states tend to be states with above average happiness.  In terms of states, religion has a NEGATIVE correlation with happiness.
Of the top ten most religious states in the USA (based on Pew Research Center data from 2014), seven out of ten are in the bottom twenty states for happiness(based on Gallup data from 2014), and only one out of ten is in the top twenty for happiness:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Note that West Virginia is one of the top ten most religious states, and it also has the LEAST happy population in the USA (it ranks dead last).
On the other hand, of the ten least religious states in the USA, six out of ten are among the top twenty states in terms of happiness, and only one out of ten are in the bottom twenty states for happiness:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Note that two of the ten least religious states (Alaska and Hawaii) are the two states with the happiest populations in the USA (ranking number 1 and number 2, respectively).
This same negative correlation also appears to hold between different countries.  Many of the countries with the happiest populations are very secular countries that are among the LEAST religious countries in the world.  And many of the most religious countries have populations that are among the LEAST happiest in the world:
Religiosity levels are the lowest (generally less than 30 percent of the population) in prosperous, socialist democracies such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. Yet, according to the annual UN-commissioned World Happiness Reports, these nations are also consistently among the happiest in the world. What’s more, in places like Senegal and Bangladesh — countries with the most self-reported religious people (around 98 percent) but where daily survival is a struggle — life-satisfaction scores are near the bottom of the scale.  (Samantha Rideout,  “Does religion really make you happier?” from UCOBSERVER.org)
Correlation does not show causation, so this data does not prove that religion causes unhappiness or a reduction in happiness.  I suspect that bad circumstances cause unhappiness, and that unhappiness tends to foster religion. Poverty, unemployment, crime, poor medical care, disease, natural disasters, and corrupt or ineffective governments cause fear, anxiety, and unhappiness, and (I suspect) that the suffering and unhappiness caused by such conditions helps to promote religion:
In a 2011 paper that analyzed self-reports from hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, researchers found that the connection between religious faith and happiness was strongest among people living in difficult conditions—fear, poverty, hunger.
Think of it as scientific proof of the old saying that there are no atheists in the foxhole. When life is hard, the communal support of a religious community—and, presumably, the hope for something better to come in an entirely different world—is especially valuable, maybe even impossible to give up. That may be one reason religious community was so important to slave populations throughout history, from the ancient Israelites under the pharaoh’s boot in Egypt to African Americans trapped in the antebellum South. It may also be why even now in the U.S., states with lower life expectancies and higher poverty rates have the largest proportion of religious people. A rich man may find it harder to get into heaven than a camel does passing through the eye of a needle, but he may not think he needs to count on heaven in the first place. 
You don’t need to be a Marxist to believe that materialism matters to happiness and that people who live in a safe and wealthy country are on the whole going to be happier than those who do not. (If religion provides a kind of existential security in poor countries, the welfare state may do the same in rich ones.) … (Bryan Walsh, “Does Spirituality Make You Happy?” in the Time Guide to Happiness)
On the other hand, the negative correlation between religion and happiness that we find in geographically organized data COULD be because religion plays a significant causal role in producing conditions that lead to unhappiness or below-average happiness:
As always when it comes to correlation, it’s also possible that some of the causality goes in the opposite direction: “You could maybe argue that the heavily religious countries are less likely to produce the progressive social policies that foster widespread happiness in the long run,” suggests Caulfield. [Timothy Caulfield, “a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy and a professor at the University of Alberta”].  (Samantha Rideout,  “Does religion really make you happier?” from UCOBSERVER.org)
When we divide the world up by states or nations, the LEAST religious states or nations tend to have the happiest populations, and the MOST religious states or nations tend to have less happier populations.  This geographic organization of data on religion and happiness indicates that religion is NOT the key to happiness, and it also casts doubt on the claim that religious people tend to be happier than non-religious people.
 

2. Whether religion correlates with happiness depends on how one measures happiness.

Some studies find a positive correlation between religion and happiness, while other studies FAIL to find such a correlation.  One reason for such conflicting results is that “happiness” is a complex abstract concept, and there are different ways of understanding and of measuring happiness:
… The majority of studies report a positive association between measures of religion and happiness; however, contradictory findings are common. This is exemplified in the literature that has systematically employed the Francis Scale of Attitude toward Christianity alongside two different measures of happiness among a variety of samples.  Two opposing conclusions have found consistent support. Research with the Oxford Happiness Inventory has consistently found religiosity to be associated with happiness, while research employing the Depression–Happiness Scale has consistently found no association.  (“Religion and happiness: Consensus, contradictions, comments and concerns” by Christopher Alan Lewis & Sharon Mary Cruise, Mental Health, Religion & Culture, Volume 9, 2006 – Issue 3,  Pages 213-225. Emphasis added. )
Religion correlates with happiness only when specific measures of happiness are used, particularly the Oxford Happiness Inventory.  When other measures of happiness are used, the positive correlation between religion and happiness may disappear.
 

3. Whether religion correlates with happiness depends on how one measures religion/religiousness.

There are different ways of understanding and measuring religion and religiousness.  Sometimes surveys ask about religious beliefs (“Do you believe that God exists?”), and sometimes they ask about religious identification:
Most U.S. adults identify with a particular religious denomination or group. They describe themselves as Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Jewish, Mormon or Muslim– to name just a few of the hundreds of identities or affiliations that people give in surveys.  (“The Religious Typology“Pew Research Center)
Surveys also ask people about their religious practices, such as how often they pray, how often they read or study scripture, how often they attend religious services, and surveys ask people about how they feel about religion (“How important is religion in your daily life?”), and about their religious experiences (“Do you feel close to God when you pray?”).
So, religion and religiousness can be evaluated on the basis of different sorts of considerations: religious identification, religious beliefs, religious activities, religious experiences, and attitudes about religion, to name some commonly used considerations.  Whether a study shows a positive correlation between religion/religiousness and happiness depends on how religion/religiousness is measured or evaluated.
Regular attendance at religious services tends to have a positive correlation with happiness, but religious beliefs often FAIL to have a positive correlation with happiness.  For example, Chaeyoon Lim, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his colleague, Harvard researcher Robert Putnam, published a study about religion and happiness in American Sociological Review (December 7, 2010) that found that attendance at religious services had a significant correlation with happiness, but that other aspects of religiousness did NOT have such a correlation:
The surveys showed that across all creeds, religious people were more satisfied than non-religious people. According to the data, about 28 percent of people who attended a religious service weekly were “extremely satisfied” with their lives, compared with 19.6 percent of people who never attended services.
But the satisfaction couldn’t be attributed to factors like individual prayer, strength of belief, or subjective feelings of God’s love or presence. Instead, satisfaction was tied to the number of close friends people said they had in their religious congregation. People with more than 10 friends in their congregation were almost twice as satisfied with life as people with no friends in their congregation. (“Why Religion Makes People Happier” by Stephanie Pappas, Live Science. Emphasis added.)
The specific data concerning friendships in congregations points to a causal explanation:
“We show that [life satisfaction] is almost entirely about the social aspect of religion, rather than the theological or spiritual aspect of religion,” Lim told LiveScience. “We found that people are more satisfied with their lives when they go to church, because they build a social network within their congregation.” (“Why Religion Makes People Happier” by Stephanie Pappas, Live Science. Emphasis added.)
Having more close friends has an obvious relevance to happiness, so whenever “religiousness” is measured in terms of attendance at religious services (as opposed to religious beliefs or religious experiences) the correlation of religion with happiness could be explained in purely natural and ordinary terms, as the result of the social aspects of religious practices.

4. In several countries religion does NOT have a positive correlation with happiness.

In well-off countries and in secular countries religion does NOT have a significant positive correlation with happiness:
In well-off but secular countries such as France and the Netherlands, both the religious and the nonreligious report about the same level of happiness and social support. In fact, Gallup data shows that some of the happiest nations in the world—Nordic countries such as Denmark and Sweden, which perennially score high on well-being—are comparatively abundant in atheists. Being completely unreligious—and presumably not worrying much about any kind of afterlife—didn’t seem to stop them from enjoying this life. (Bryan Walsh, “Does Spirituality Make You Happy?” in the Time Guide to Happiness. Emphasis added.)
Religious people tend to feel better about themselves and their lives, but a new study finds that this benefit may only hold in places where everyone else is religious, too.
According to the new study of almost 200,000 people in 11 European countries, people who are religious have higher self-esteem and better psychological adjustment than the non-religious only in countries where belief in religion is common. In more secular societies, the religious and the non-religious are equally well-off
[…]
Using information from 187,957 daters, the researchers compared each individual’s spirituality and happiness against the backdrop of religiosity in each person’s country. (Data on countrywide religiosity came from eDarling and from the Gallup World Poll.) They found that religion did indeed contribute to happiness, but only in cultures where religion is celebrated.  ( “Why Religion Makes Only Some of Us HappyLive Science. Emphasis added. )
In countries that have good living conditions, non-religious people tend to be about as happy as religious people:
Nations and states with more difficult life conditions (e.g., widespread hunger and low life expectancy) were much more likely to be highly religious. In these nations, religiosity was associated with greater social support, respect, purpose or meaning, and all three types of SWB. In societies with more favorable circumstances, religiosity is less prevalent and religious and nonreligious individuals experience similar levels of SWB [Subjective Well Being, i.e. happiness]. There was also a person–culture fit effect such that religious people had higher SWB in religious nations but not in nonreligious nations. Thus, it appears that the benefits of religion for social relationships and SWB depend on the characteristics of the society.  (“The Religion Paradox: If religion makes people happy, why are so many dropping out?” authors: Diener, E., Tay, L., & Myers, D. G. (2011). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(6), 1278-1290. Quotation is from an Abstract. Emphasis added)

… Ed Diener and his colleagues dissected a Gallup World Poll of 455,104 individuals from 154 nations. What they found was that in healthy nations (where basic needs are being met, when people feel safe walking home alone at night, etc.), there was no advantage to being religious — both religious and non-religious people reported feeling respected and socially supported, and as a result both reported being happy. But in unhealthy nations, religion offered an advantage, in terms of an uptick in well-being.  (“Does Being Religious Make us Happy?Psychology Today. Emphasis added.)
But if religion/religiousness does NOT have a positive correlation with happiness in several countries, then that is strong evidence that religion by itself is NOT the cause of the happiness that correlates with religion in other countries, otherwise the correlation would be consistent across all countries. In any case, religion by itself cannot be “the key to happiness” for people in general because there are many countries where being religious does NOT make a significant difference in how happy a person will be.
To be continued…

bookmark_borderWhy I Reject the Resurrection – Part 4: Skepticism about the Supernatural

SKEPTICAL CLAIMS ABOUT SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS
Two points from my List of Key Points about the resurrection relate directly to skepticism about the supernatural:

1. Nobody KNOWS that supernatural beings exist.

2. Nobody KNOWS that supernatural events occur.

There are two more related points that should be added to the above two points:

21. Nobody KNOWS that supernatural powers exist.

22. Nobody KNOWS that supernatural forces exist.

One form of skepticism about (1) and (2) concerns the question of the TRUTH of supernatural claims:

10. It is IMPROBABLE that any supernatural being exists.

11. It is IMPROBABLE that any supernatural events occur.

So, we can add two more improbability claims in relation to the two added skeptical claims:

23. It is IMPROBABLE that any supernatural powers exist.

24.  It is IMPROBABLE that any supernatural forces exist.

In my previous comments about skepticism (see Skepticism about the Resurrection), I point out two different forms of qualified skepticism:

  • Denial that beliefs or claims in area X are JUSTIFIED/WARRANTED.
  • Denial that beliefs or claims in area X are TRUE.

So, in addition to the four improbability claims above, (10), (11), (23), and (24), we can add four skeptical claims about the lack of justification/warrant for supernatural claims:

25. Nobody has a JUSTIFIED/WARRANTED belief that supernatural beings exist.

26. Nobody has a JUSTIFIED/WARRANTED belief that supernatural events occur.

27. Nobody has a JUSTIFIED/WARRANTED belief that supernatural powers exist.

28. Nobody has a JUSTIFIED/WARRANTED belief that supernatural forces exist.

 
REASONS FOR SKEPTICISM ABOUT THE SUPERNATURAL
My main reasons for skepticism about the supernatural may be summarized this way:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Skepticism about the supernatural may be based on a combination of science and cynicism, and cynicism itself is supported by science.
I’m not claiming that all skeptics think this way.  Rather, this is a representation of my own thinking, of why I am a skeptic. This is a summary or overview of how I would defend skepticism, especially skepticism about the supernatural.
 
CYNICISM
By “cynicism” I mean a collection of negative beliefs about human thinking and behavior that provide reasonable grounds for suspicion and doubt about the rationality and truthfulness and reliability of human beings in general, such as:

30. Many people are stupid.

31. Many people are ignorant.

32. Many people are uncritical  or sophistic thinkers.

33. Many people are influenced by egocentric and sociocentric biases.

34. Many people form important beliefs based on indoctrination, propaganda, or group think.

35. Many people are dishonest or deceptive.

36. Many people have false beliefs based on unreliable memories. 

37. Many people have false beliefs based on unreliable eyewitness testimony.

38. Many people have false beliefs based on cognitive biases.

39. Many people are mentally handicapped or are mentally ill or are addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Here is one simple fact that strongly supports cynicism:  nearly half of Americans who voted in the last presidential election (46% of voters) voted for Donald Trump.  Here is a related fact that is almost as depressing: 72% of Republicans say that Donald Trump is a good role model for children, and only 22% of Republicans say that he is NOT a good role model for children.
 
SCIENCE SUPPORTS CYNICISM
Psychology, Sociology, and other human sciences provide empirical data and empirically confirmed theories and generalizations about human thinking and human behavior that generally support a cynical view about human thinking and human behavior.  Thus, scientific investigation supports cynicism, in the sense that I have explained above.
 
SCIENCE CASTS DOUBT ON SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS
Many ancient supernatural beliefs have been cast into doubt by scientific investigation into the relevant phenomena.  Many contemporary supernatural beliefs have also been cast into doubt by scientific investigation into the relevant phenomena.  Whenever careful objective scientific investigation is conducted into alleged supernatural phenomena, it turns out that either the phenomena doesn’t actually exist, or it exists but is the product of deception and/or that the phenomena has a natural explanation and can be reproduced by natural means.  As the years go by, more and more phenomena can be given plausible natural scientific explanations, and fewer and fewer phenomena remain as potential candidates for having a supernatural cause or explanation.

40. Science casts doubt on belief in supernatural agents.

41. Science casts doubt on belief in supernatural events.

42. Science casts doubt on belief in supernatural powers.

43. Science casts doubt on belief in supernatural forces.

bookmark_borderBlack Holes and the Problem of Evil

Data produced by the Hubble Space Telescope show that the brightest supernova ever recorded was actually a star being torn apart by a black hole in what is being called the ASASSN-15lh event.

This has a high “coolness factor” for astronomy enthusiasts. But I couldn’t help but wonder a little whether there were any planets in that ill-fated solar system with life on them. Suppose such a catastrophe were to befall Earth – what would be the theological implications? This would be a purely hypothetical or speculative instance of the Problem of Evil, but certainly one of massive scale. What would be the theistic response to the possibility of such an event?
Here are several possibilities:

(A) It couldn’t happen.

God loves the Earth too much. The destruction of Earth by a black hole is scientifically possible, but theologically impossible. Similarly, if God has seen fit to have intelligent life exist elsewhere in the universe, he would also prevent the total destruction of alien life just as he would prevent the total destruction of life on Earth.
Needless to say, I am unimpressed by such an a priori argument strategy. To say that we can know with confidence that the ASASSN-15lh event did not destroy any intelligent civilizations from the comfort of our Earthly armchairs seems too callously cavalier for my tastes.

(B) It would be deserved

Just as God (in the story of the Noahic flood) destroyed all Earthly civilizations out of righteous wrath over their wickedness, the destruction of an alien planet by black hole would only be divinely permitted if that civilization were massively sinful. Although God promised never to destroy the Earth by flood, destruction of the Earth by black hole is still on the table as a possibility.
This second response is just as unsatisfactory as the first. Is it really plausible that we can know, from millions of light-years distance, the extent of an alien civilization’s wickedness entirely by what God allows to happen to it? When we read about disaster befalling some location on Earth, only contemptible zealous reprobates think “well, that’s what happens when you allow gays to get married.” This is not relevantly different.
The theist can always, of course, by pointing out that one imaginative hypothesis deserves another: If I am going to float the suggestion that there may have been intelligent life in that distant solar system, the theist can float the suggestion that perhaps they were cruel and aggressive with plans to dominate the rest of the universe, Earth included. God, then, permitted their destruction for the morally justifiable reason of preserving other intelligent worlds. This reminds me too much of theists who respond to the question of why God permits children to die of cancer by suggesting that maybe they were going to grow up to be as evil as Hitler (which only raises the further question of why God allowed Hitler to grow up, then).

(C) Skeptical theism

Our knowledge of good and evil is so puny in comparison with God’s that we’re in no position to say that destruction of an inhabited world by black hole would be a morally bad thing for God to permit.
I have little enough patience with skeptical theism as it is, but at this point I think the appropriate reaction is to despair of the skeptical theist being able to use the terms “good” and “bad” in a truly meaningful way. To respond to the destruction of an entire planet (whether or not it is Earth) by saying, “for all we know it’s all for the best” is to abandon meaningful ethical discourse.

(D) If

It is reputed that Philip II of Macedon sent a message to Sparta saying, “Surrender immediately, for if my armies capture your lands, they will destroy your farms, kill your people, and raze your city.” The response from Sparta was the single word, “If.” The whole scenario here is purely hypothetical. There is no reason to think either that any intelligent alien civilizations have been destroyed by a black hole or that this is to be the fate of Earth.
This response concedes that the destruction of an inhabited planet by black hole would, in fact, count as reason to think that God does not exist. The conditional, “if an inhabited planet were to be destroyed by black hole, then God probably does not exist” is true, but has an unsatisfied antecedent, on this view. This is interesting because it concedes the possibility of empirical disconfirmation of God’s existence.
There are some atheists who think we don’t need to look beyond the surface of the Earth to find abundant disconfirmation of God’s existence. For them, there is already enough “bad stuff” to be found that they think the antecedent of a conditional like “if enough bad stuff were to happen in the world, then God probably does not exist” is satisfied. There are theists, too, who think this conditional is true, but are unpersuaded that the antecedent is satisfied. But at least there is common ground here. Perhaps, then, it may turn out to be true, after all, that science is capable of addressing the question of God’s existence? Just keep studying black holes.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 10: The Goodness of the Creator

REVIEW OF MY EVALUATION OF GEISLER’S CASE (SO FAR)
In Phase 1 of his case for the existence of God, Norman Geisler presents five arguments for five different conclusions:

  • There is exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist.
  • There is exactly one being that has sustained the universe in existence until now.
  • There is exactly one being that is the designer of the universe.
  • There is exactly one being that is the supreme moral lawgiver.
  • There is exactly one being that is a necessary being.

In Phase 2 of his case for the existence of God, Geisler presents more arguments for conclusions about the attributes of “the” being that caused the universe to begin to exist.  So far, we have looked at four arguments in Phase 2 supporting three different conclusions:

  • The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a powerful being.
  • The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is an intelligent being.
  • The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a moral being who can tell the difference between right and wrong actions.

How many of the Phase 1 arguments were good solid arguments?  Geisler admits that Argument #5 of Phase 1 is a bad argument, and we have critically examined the other four arguments in Phase 1, and NONE of them were good solid arguments.
What about the arguments in Phase 2?  How many of the four arguments that we have examined were good solid arguments?  NONE of them were good solid arguments.
So, of the arguments that we have considered so far, ZERO out of NINE were good solid arguments.  Plus, as I pointed out in Part 5 of this series, there are invalid logical inferences between Phase 1 and Phase 2 in Geisler’s case,  so it is reasonable to conclude at this point that Geisler’s case for God is a steaming pile of dog shit.
CLARIFICATION OF ARGUMENT #5  OF  PHASE 2
But there are a few more arguments left to consider in Phase 2, and,  guess what?  Argument #5 of Phase 2 is just as crappy as all of the other arguments that we have examined.  Each premise in Argument #5 is unclear or has a meaning that is problematic, and once we clarify the argument, the premises (at least two of them) are dubious or false.  Big surprise.  You would think that after studying philosophy of religion and Christian apologetics for nearly three decades* that Geisler could produce ONE solid argument in a case for the existence of God, but it looks like this is not going to happen.
Here is the passage where Geisler lays out Argument #5 of Phase 2:
The existence of a moral law in the mind of a moral Lawgiver shows us that God is a moral being. …We know that part of what He created was people, and persons are good, in and of themselves. …But whatever creates good things must be good itself (a cause can’t give what it hasn’t got).  So, God is not only moral, He is good.  (WSA, p.27)
Argument #5 of Phase 2 (using Geisler’s wording)
41.  God created people.
42.  People are good.
43.  Whatever creates good things must be good itself.
THEREFORE:
44. God is good.
The conclusion is not stated accurately by Geisler.  He clearly links this argument to the argument that “God is a moral being.”  But the obvious objection, given that the creator is a “moral being” who “knows…the difference between right and wrong” is that the creator could still be evil or a morally bad person, because knowing the difference between right and wrong actions does NOT guarantee that a person will always choose to do what is right.
Most adult human beings know the difference between right and wrong, but adult humans frequently choose to do morally wrong actions despite this knowledge, and some adult humans are downright evil, even though they know the difference between right and wrong. Thus, it seems strongly implied by the context here that Geisler is answering this objection/concern by arguing that God is MORALLY good, not just that God is good in some other way.
Furthermore, when Geisler presents a similar line of reasoning in his book Christian Apologetics, he explicitly states that this argument is one “showing that the God proven by the cosmological argument is a morally good kind of being.”  (Christian Apologetics, p. 248, in footnote #13, emphasis added).  So, it seems that the conclusion that Geisler intends to prove here is that “God is a morally good being” :
Argument #5 of Phase 2 (Rev.1)
41.  God created people.
42.  People are good.
43.  Whatever creates good things must be good itself.
THEREFORE:
44A. God is a morally good being.
But when we revise the conclusion to state accurately what Geisler is trying to prove, then the inference in this argument becomes logically invalid.   The conclusion talks about a morally good being, but the premises of the argument only talk about good beings.  The conclusion (44A) does not follow from these premises.  (NOTE: I believe that Rev1 represents the argument that Geisler intended to give, so I believe that the argument he intended to give is logically invalid.) So, in order for this argument to have any chance of success, we must also revise the premises, so that they too speak about moral goodness:
Argument #5 of Phase 2 (Rev.2)
41.  God created people.
42A.  People are morally good.
43A.  Whatever creates morally good things must be morally good itself.
THEREFORE:
44A. God is a morally good being.
This argument, like other arguments we have examined, misuses the word “God”.  Geisler is trying to prove the existence of God, so premise (41), for example, begs the question at issue by asserting that “God” did something.  Such a premise assumes that God exists, which is precisely what Geisler is attempting to prove.
Geisler is not actually begging the question here because he is using the word “God” in an idiosyncratic sense.  What he means by “God” here is “the being that caused the universe to begin to exist”.  Geisler is trying to prove that “the being that caused the universe to begin to exist” has all of the various attributes that constitute the ordinary conception of “God”.  So, to avoid the confusion caused by Geisler’s idiosyncratic use of the word “God”, we should replace this word with what Geisler means by this word, in this context.
Argument #5 of Phase 2 (Rev.3)
41A.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist created people.
42A.  People are morally good.
43A.  Whatever creates morally good things must be morally good itself.
THEREFORE:
44B. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a morally good being.
Now we are getting close to a reasonably clear statement of argument #5.
EVALUATION OF ARGUMENT #5 OF PHASE 2
Is premise (41A) true?  There are two different claims involved here.  First, there is the claim or assumption that there is such a thing as “The being that caused the universe to begin to exist”.  In Phase 1, Geisler FAILED to prove that such a being exists, so there is good reason to doubt the truth of (41A).  Second, the universe is about 14 billion years old, but people (human beings on planet Earth) have been around for less than one million years.  Thus, even if there was such a thing as “The being that caused the universe to begin to exist”,  we have no good reason to believe that this being ALSO created people, and Geisler has made no attempt whatsoever to show that this being was ALSO the creator of human beings.  So, this is a second reason for doubting that (41A) is true.
But the most important reason for doubting that (41A) is true, is that scientific study of the origins of the human species have shown that human beings evolved from previously existing species of primates, and thus science has shown that the human species was NOT created by any being, but rather evolved from a previously existing species of animals.  Thus, it is highly probable that premise (41A) is FALSE.
Is premise (42A) true?  This premise is still unclear, at least in terms of quantification.  So, we need to consider the following three possible interpretations of premise (42A):

  • ALL of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth) are morally good.
  • MOST of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth) are morally good.
  • SOME of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth) are morally good.

The interpretation that claims something about ALL people clearly makes (42A) false, so we can toss that interpretation aside.  The interpretation about MOST people makes (42A) questionable, so we should use that interpretation only if there is no better, more plausible, interpretation of this premise available.  The interpretation about SOME people would make premise (42A) true, so by the principle of charity, this is the best interpretation of (42A).
But once we clarify the quantification in premise (42A), we also need to clarify the quantification in premise (41A), because if the cause of the beginning of the universe only created SOME of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth) , and only SOME people (who have existed on the planet Earth) are morally good, then the cause of the beginning of the universe might NOT have created ANY people who are morally good, but might have only created some people who are evil or morally bad.  Thus, it seems that in order to ensure that the cause of the beginning of the universe created some morally good people, we need to assume that this being created ALL of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth):
Argument #5 of Phase 2 (Rev.4)
41B.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist created ALL of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth).
42B.  SOME of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth) are morally good.
43A.  Whatever creates morally good things must be morally good itself.
THEREFORE:
44B. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a morally good being.
Premise (42B) does appear to be true, but now premise (41), on this interpretation, is even more certainly FALSE than it was before.
Even if we believe that there was a being that caused the universe to begin to exist and even if we believe that this same being created the first human beings (e.g. Adam and Eve), it still would NOT be the case that this being created ALL of the people (who have existed on the planet Earth), because every human being who came to exist after the initial pair(s) that were created would be produced by sexual reproduction, not by divine intervention.  Since premise (41B) is undeniably FALSE, this version of the argument is clearly UNSOUND.
What this also means is that even if we assume that there is a creator of the human species, we still cannot know whether this being created any morally good people, because we cannot know whether the original pair(s) of human beings were morally good people. So, we cannot know whether the creator of the human species (if there were such a being) created any morally good people.  This whole line of reasoning is doomed to FAIL.
Is premise (43A) true?  Geisler gives a reason in support of (43A):
…But whatever creates good things must be good itself (a cause can’t give what it hasn’t got).  (WSA, p.27)
The reason given is a bit unclear.  It seems like it might be concerned with the properties of a cause, but this is less than certain.  So, I suggest that we consider two different interpretations of the reason given in support of (43A):

  • A being B cannot cause an effect at time T that has a property P unless being B had property P at time T.
  • A being B cannot give X to another being at time T unless being B had X at time T.

Here are some examples related to the second interpretation:
I cannot give you my car keys at 9pm tonight unless I have my car keys at 9pm tonight.
I cannot give you twenty dollars at 9pm tonight unless I have twenty dollars at 9pm tonight.
Although the principle stated in the second interpretation has some plausibility, it is in fact FALSE, as the following counterexample shows:
I can give you the measles at 9pm tonight even though I do not have the measles at 9pm tonight.
I could give someone the measles by injecting them with a liquid that contained the measles virus.  Thus, I can cause someone to get or have the measles even if I myself never get or have the measles.
Similarly, sometimes people who do not have AIDS cause other people to get or have AIDS.  One can carry the virus that causes AIDS without first developing AIDS.  So, it is possible for a person P to cause someone else to get or have AIDS even if P never has AIDS.
Clearly, there are exceptions to the general principle stated in the second interpretation of the reason given in support of (43A).
What about the first interpretation of the reason given in support of (43A)?

  • A being B cannot cause an effect at time T that has a property P unless being B had property P at time T.

This principle is also FALSE.  A  150-pound mother can give birth to a 7-pound baby.  The mother does not weigh 7 pounds at the time she gives birth to her child, but the child has a different weight than its mother.  A bullet that causes a serious wound to a person, will usually cause the wounded person to bleed.  But bullets themselves do not and cannot bleed.  The property of bleeding is not a property that bullets possess.  Sodium and Chorine combine to form common table salt.  Sodium chloride is salty, but neither sodium nor chorine are salty.  Clearly, effects can have properties that differ from the properties of their causes, so the principle given in support of (43A) is FALSE on the first interpretation of the principle.
So, on both possible interpretations of the principle given in support of (43A), this principle is FALSE, and thus the argument supporting (43A) is UNSOUND and unacceptable.
Furthermore, there is no good reason to think that only a morally good person could create a morally good being.  In so far as the parents of a child “create” or cause the existence of that child, we reject the claim that a child can be morally good ONLY IF its parents were morally good.  A child can be morally good even if it was produced by parents who were NOT morally good.  Thus, premise (43A) is not only unsupported, but we have good reason to believe that it is FALSE.
As we saw above, premise (41B) is based on unproven and dubious assumptions, and even if we assume the assumptions are correct, the premise would still be FALSE, becuase it is clear that nearly all human beings were produced by sexual reproduction, not by divine intervention or divine creation.
Since two of the three premises of argument #5 are FALSE  (or at least NOT TRUE), we must reject this argument as UNSOUND.
Geisler’s case is now ZERO for TEN; he has presented ten arguments as part of his case for God (so far) and NONE of the arguments is a good solid argument, not a single one.
I will examine one or two more arguments from Phase 2, but I have no reason to expect anything other than more crappy and unclear arguments with dubious or false premises and/or invalid logic.  I strongly suspect that Geisler’s final tally will be ZERO for TWELVE.
================
*Norman Geisler earned a B.A. in philosophy from Wheaton College in 1958.  He did graduate study in philosophy in the 1960s, and earned his PhD in philosophy from Loyola University in 1970. He published a book called Philosophy of Religion in 1974, and a book called Christian Apologetics in 1976.  The book When Skeptics Ask, which Geisler co-authored with Ronald Brooks was published in 1990.  So,  WSA was published two decades after he earned his PhD, and three decades after he started graduate-level study in philosophy.
Link to Geisler biographical information
 
 
 
 
 

bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 6: Faith as Irrational Trust

Some Key Points from Part 5
Mr. Loftus is on a crusade against FAITH, and his book Unapologetic, is a part of this crusade.  But before any person who is a critical thinker (i.e. someone who “sits at the adult table”) chooses to join this crusade, Loftus needs to clearly specify the purpose of the crusade, and that means that Loftus needs to provide a clear definition or analysis of the meaning of the word “faith”.  In particular, he needs to clearly specify what it is that he means by the word “faith”, so that others can make a rational decision as to whether or not to join Loftus’ crusade against faith.
In Part 5 of this series we examined a definition of “faith” that Loftus gives in Chapter 2 of Unapologetic:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence.  (Unapologetic, p. 55)
I also proposed a modified version of this definition, which borrows a key element from a definition of “faith” that Loftus gave in Chapter 7:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence [for claims that they believe], which in turn results in the believer overestimating the probability of the claim in question.
On either of these definitions, the meaning of the word “faith” is the same as the meaning of the psychological term “confirmation bias”.
If “faith” just means “confirmation bias”, then I and many other atheists and skeptics would be glad to join Loftus’ crusade; however, there are some problems that result if Loftus is  asserting that the word “faith” means the same thing as “confirmation bias”:  (1) this raises doubt about the correctness of this definition because it seems very unlikely that a word that has been part of the English language for more than six centuries would happen to have the very same meaning as a modern term of scientific psychology which was invented in the second half of the 20th century (i.e. “confirmation bias”),  (2) it seems foolish to drag the unclear and controversial word “faith” into the fray, if the enemy to be vanquished is “confirmation bias”, because an attack on “faith” will provoke serious political, social, and psychological resistance (much more than an attack on “confirmation bias”),   (3) “confirmation bias” is a universal human problem that is NOT confined to religious believers; it is a widespread cause of serious intellectual deficiencies for both religious and non-religious people.
Faith As Irrational Trust
Loftus also provides a different definition of “faith” in Chapter 6:
Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (Unapologetic, p.152)
This definition appears to be an important one to Loftus, because he repeats it verbatum in Chapter 8 (Unapologetic, p.194).
Is this a better or less problematic definition of “faith” than the definition from Chapter 2?
This can be viewed as a genus/species definition, where the genus of “faith” is trust, and the species of “faith” is irrational (or unevidenced or misplaced).   Faith is a particular kind of trust, namely trust that is irrational.  Faith, according to this definition, is a sub-category of trust.  All instances of faith are instances of trusting something or someone, but not all instances of trusting something or someone are instances of faith.
Loftus does not provide clarification of the adjectives used in this definition: “irrational” and “unevidenced” and “misplaced”.  He does not indicate whether these three terms represent three different categories of trust, or if two of the words are being used to point to one kind of trust (“irrational” and “unevidenced” being closely-related ideas) and the third word relates to a different kind of trust (thus pointing to two different categories of trust), or if all three words are being used to describe one single category of trust.
Because Loftus provides no details about this definition, we are left to guess at his meaning (this is NOT the way those who sit at the adult table usually present definitions of very important words).  I take it that “irrational trust” and “unevidenced trust” and “misplaced trust” represent three distictly different categories of trust, and I will now attempt to explain how these concepts differ from each other.

  1. IRRATIONAL TRUST does not imply UNEVIDENCED TRUST (because one can have some evidence that a person P is worthy of trust and yet also have much stronger evidence indicating that the person P is unworthy of trust).
  2. UNEVIDENCED TRUST does not imply IRRATIONAL TRUST (because a newborn infant is about the only person who would have zero evidence to trust a person P, and thus be capable of having unevidenced trust in person P, but such trust in P by a newborn infant would not count as irrational trust).
  3. IRRATIONAL TRUST does not imply MISPLACED TRUST (because the person S who trusts person P might have evidence that strongly indicates that P is unworthy of trust, even though person P is in fact worthy of trust–evidence can sometimes point in the wrong direction).
  4. MISPLACED TRUST does not imply IRRATIONAL TRUST (because person P might in fact be unworthy of trust, so that person S’s trust in person P is misplaced trust, and yet the evidence that person S has could strongly support the view that P is worthy of trust–since evidence can sometimes be misleading).
  5. UNEVIDENCED TRUST does not imply MISPLACED TRUST (because even if a person  S has no evidence indicating that person P is worthy of trust,  S’s placing trust in P might not be misplaced trust, because P might in fact be worthy of trust).
  6. MISPLACED TRUST does not imply UNEVIDENCED TRUST (because person P in fact be unworthy of trust, so that person S’s trust in P is misplaced trust,  and yet S might have some evidence indicating that P is worthy of trust).

I take it that “misplaced trust” is an external or objective phenomenon that is NOT relative to the evidence possessed by some specific individual.  I also take it that “irrational trust” and “unevidenced trust” are internal or subjective phenomena that ARE relative to the evidence possessed by some specific individual.  Different people can be in possession of different bits of evidence, so the rationality or irrationality of person S’s trust for person P depends on the specific bits of evidence that happen to be possessed by S during the time when S trusts P.  The same goes for “unevidenced trust”.
I understand “misplaced trust” to be an external or objective phenomenon that is primarily concerned with whether the object of trust is in fact worthy of trust.  Thus:

Person S has MISPLACED TRUST in person P  if and only if:  

(a) person S trusts person P, and

(b) person P is unworthy of trust. 

In the above comparisons of “unevidenced trust” with “irrational trust” and with “misplaced trust” I interpreted “unevidenced trust” to mean that one person trusts person P while having zero evidence in support of the view that P is worthy of trust.  But perhaps that sense of this phrase is too strong, since only a newborn infant would be in a position to have zero evidence about whether to trust a person.  The rest of us almost always have some relevant evidence based on past experiences with trusting other people, and in most cases we have some relevant evidence about the appearance and demeanor of the person in question, which is relevant to making such judgements (even if not very significant), or we have some relevant evidence based on past experiences with some category of people to which this particular person belongs.  So “unevidenced trust” might not mean trust that is based on ZERO evidence relevant to whether the person in question is worthy of trust, but might instead mean something like having ZERO evidence based directly on the past actions and behavior of that specific person.
If “unevidenced trust” just means trusting a person without having any evidence based directly on the past actions and behavior of that specific person, then one could have rational trust in a person P, even if that trust was “unevidenced trust”, since one might have other information that supports the view that person P is worthy of trust.  Thus, “unevidenced trust” on this weaker interpretation still does not imply “irrational trust”.
Shoud We Join this Crusade against “faith”?
Should we be willing to join a crusade against trust in something or someone when that trust is either “irrational trust” or “unevidenced trust” or “misplaced trust”?
Misplaced trust is clearly a bad thing, but it is unavoidable to an extent, because even when one makes a serious effort to trust people only when the available evidence indicates that a person is worthy of trust, we are still going to make some mistakes and end up trusting some people who are in fact unworthy of trust.  This is because evidence can sometimes be misleading, and because it can often be difficult to determine that a person is unworthy of trust, especially if that person is good at deceiving others.  It would be good to try to reduce the amount of “misplaced trust” in the world, but we are going to have to live with a significant amount of “misplaced trust” even if we get nearly everyone to be more rational about what and whom they trust.
Should we be willing to join a crusade against “unevidenced trust”?  In the strong sense of “unevidenced trust” where this means trusting a person P when one has ZERO evidence in support of the view that person P is worthy of trust, then I would not join such a crusade, because “unevidenced trust” is extremely rare, and probably only occurs in newborn infants.  We have no way to persaude newborn infants to alter their behavior, since they have not yet mastered basic language skills, so there would be no point to such a crusade.
Furthermore, if we understand “unevidenced trust” in a weaker sense where this means trusting a person P when one has ZERO evidence based directly on the past actions and behavior of that specific person, then I would not be inteterested in joining a crusade against “unevidenced trust”, because we can have other sorts of evidence for making rational decisions about whether to trust a person.  So, in this weaker sense of “unevidenced trust” such trust is often not such a bad thing.
If there is anything called out by the definition of “faith” in Chapter 6  that is worthy of fighting against, it is “irrational trust”.  Irrationality is something that critical thinkers oppose, and something that we who sit at the adult table are very concerned about.  Human beings are the “rational animal” in the sense that we are THINKING animals, but our thinking is very often biased, illogical, unclear, confused, ignorant, and unreasonable.  We humans are perhaps better named the “irrational animal”, as evidenced by the recent election of an ignorant, racist, bigoted, idiotic demagogue as president of the United States of America.  Perhaps “irrational trust” in something or someone, is an evil that is worthy of a crusade.
But “irrationality” is more than a problem concerning who we decide to trust.  Irrationality affects and infects all of our thinking, all of our believing, and all of our decisions.  So, why not make the crusade against irrationality in general?  Why focus on only irrational trusting?  Furthermore, if we are going to focus in on just one area of irrationality for a crusade, why not irrationality in elections? or irrationality in decision making?  I’m not yet convinced that irrational trusting should be at the top of our list of priorities.
Suppose, however, that I am mistaken, and that irrational trust ought to be at or near the top of our list of evils to fight and overcome.  Some of the same objections that I had about a crusade against confirmation bias apply here.  If irrational trust is the dragon that we wish to slay, then why bring the unclear and controversial word “faith” into the fray?  This will provoke a serious amount of political, social, and psycological resistance, so it seems foolish to make “faith” the target of a crusade, when it is actually “irrational trust” that we want to reduce or eliminate.
Irrational trust of things and persons is a universal human problem.  This is not something that is isolated just to Christian believers, nor to religious persons.  If every religious person in the world were to vanish into thin air tonight at midnight, in the morning the world would still be populated by people who frequently engage in irrational trust of things and persons.  Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, marxists, secular humanists, communists, and every sort of “none-of-the-above” non-religious person engages in irrational trust in things and persons.  Irrational trust is a universal human problem, not just a problem for religious people.
Finally,  I myself view Christian trust in Jesus, and Christian trust in God, as irrational trust, as trust that is not reasonable and rationally justifiable (Loftus and I agree on this point).  But I think that one important way of helping people to see that their trust in someone is irrational, is to challenge them to defend the reasonableness of this trust with reasons and arguments, and then to point out problems in, and objections to, the reasons and arguments that they provide in response to this challenge (including problems with lack of factual evidence, or with questionable factual claims and assumptions).
When we challenge Christian believers to rationally justify their trust in Jesus or trust in God, and when we criticize reasons and arguments they provide in support of trusting in Jesus or trusting in God, we are DOING philosophy of religion.  So, if we are going to join a crusade against “irrational trusting”, then an important part of that crusade would require that we engage in some philosophy of religion.
 

bookmark_borderUnapologetic Review – Part 5: The Meaning of “Faith”

The Beating Heart of Unapologetic
The heart of the book Unapologetic is Chapter 5:  “Why Philosophy of Religion Must End”, and the heart of Chapter 5 is the Ten Reasons that Loftus gives for this conclusion (in the subsection of Chapter 5  titled “Why Philosophy of Relgion Must End,” on pages 131-135), and the heart of the Ten Reasons is in Reason #9 (on page 135).  And at the heart of the argument given as Reason #9 is this premise:
…faith-based reasoning must end.  (Unapologetic, p.135)
It is not an overstatement to say that Mr. Loftus is a crusader against faith, and that this book is a part of his crusade against faith.  This is made clear from the start of the book, beginning with the Introduction:
Philosophy of religion must end because there is no truth to religion.  Religion must end because it isn’t based on evidence, but rather on faith.  Faith must end because it is the antithesis of an intellectual virtue.  Faith has no objective method and solves no problems.  Faith-based belief processes are unreliable.  Faith cannot tell us anything about matters of fact like the nature of nature, its workings, or even its origins.  If faith is trust then there is no reason to trust faith.  (Unapologetic, p.13, emphasis added)
The dividing line is between atheist philosophers who think faith has some epistemic warrant and those who don’t.  I don’t.  Faith has no method, solves no problems, and is an utterly unreliable guide for knowing anything objective about the nature of nature.  (Unapologetic, p.14-15, emphasis added)
There is further confirmation in Chapter 1 (“My Intellectual Journey”) that the dragon Mr. Loftus wants to slay is “faith”.  In Chapter 1 we learn that Loftus did not invent this crusade himself, but joined in an already existing crusade against faith led by Peter Boghossian:
Boghossian first got my attention a year before I read his provocatively titled book, A Manual for Creating Atheists.  I first heard of him when a talk he gave titled “Faith Based Belief Processes are Unreliable” hit the web in April 2012.  He began by critically examining several paranormal beliefs where faith was shown to be unreliable for gaining knowledge. …he said, “We are forced to conclude that a tremendous number of people are delusional.  There is no other conclusion that one can draw.”  …[and] he said, “The most charitable thing we can say about faith is that it’s likely to be false.”  He had a way of putting things that resonated with me.  Faith itself is the problem.  (Unapologetic, p.32, emphasis added)
Before I, or any person who is a critical thinker (i.e. who “sits at the adult table”) chooses to join Loftus in his crusade against “faith”, we need to have a very clear understanding of what Loftus means by the word “faith”.
Rush Limbaugh’s Crusade Against “Liberalism” 
Rush Limbaugh is undeniably on a crusade against “liberalism”.  But before I, or any person who is a critical thinker (i.e. who “sits at the adult table”) chooses to join Limbaugh in this crusade, we need to understand what Limbaugh means by “liberalism”.
I think that Limbaugh has no clue what the word “liberalism” means.  This word is just an unclear insult that Limbaugh casts upon any person or any law or any policy or any program that Rush Limbaugh happens to dislike.
If Limbaugh dislikes X this week, then X becomes a “liberal” policy or program or person.  If Limbaugh changes his mind, and decides that he likes X next week, then X will cease to be a “liberal” policy or program or person, and it will magically and instananeously become a “conservative” policy or program or person.  So, one ought NOT to join Limbaugh in his crusade against “liberalism” because that would simply mean joining a crusade against whatever it is that Limbaugh happens to dislike this week.
One ought NOT to join a crusade against “liberalism” unless and until one has a reasonable and clear idea of what the word “liberalism” actually means.  Similarly, one ought NOT to join a crusade against “faith” unless and until one has a reasonable and clear idea of what the word “faith” means.  Otherwise, we might well end up on a crusade against whatever it is that Loftus or Boghossian happen to dislike this week.
There is nothing wrong or unreasonable about joining a crusade against something, but there is something highly unreasonable about joining a crusade against “X” when we have no clear idea of what “X” means.  Those of us who “sit at the adult table” do NOT join crusades without first being very clear about the purpose of the crusade.
I Was Wrong
In Part 4 of this series I admitted that I was wrong in making the following criticism (in Part 3 of this series) of Loftus’ book Unapologetic:
His failure to provide any definition or analysis of the meaning of any of the key words and phrases in his central argument suggests that he does not have a clear idea of what those words mean.
This statement is incorrect and unfair to Loftus, especially in relation to the meaning of the key word “faith”.  On closer examination, Loftus makes several statements in Unapologetic which appear to be brief definitions of the word “faith”, and some, though not all, of those definitions are fairly clear.
I have now read the Introduction, and Chapters 1 though 8 of Unapologetic.  I don’t plan on reading Chapter 9, because the title of that Chapter (“On Justifying Ridicule, Mockery, and Satire”) indicates that it is not relevant to the main question at issue (and that it assumes one has accepted Loftus’ point of view about faith and is willing to join his anti-faith crusade).
I have found statements that appear to be brief definitions of “faith” in each of the eight chapters that I read, except for Chapter 3.  There is some redundance and overlap between these statements, so the seven definition-like statements do not represent seven different definitions.  My view is that there are two main definitions of “faith” in Unapologetic that are worthy of serious consideration, and these two defintions are both stated more than once in the book.
Loftus NEVER says “Here is my definition of ‘faith’…” or “Here is how I define ‘faith’…” or “This is a good definition of ‘faith’…” or anything that clearly identifies a statement about faith as being a definition of faith.  The closest he ever comes to being clear about the nature of these statements is in Chapter 4, where he begins a statement about faith with these words:
 I consider faith to be…  (Unapologetic, p.92).
So, Loftus has given himself a degree of “plausible deniability” by failing to label any of his statements about faith as recommended definitions of “faith”.
But because it is so obviously idiotic to lead a crusade against “faith” without providing a clear definition of what the word “faith” means (that would be something that an idiot like Rush Limbaugh would do), I think it is fair to assume that the definition-like statements that Loftus makes about “faith” in his book Unapologetic are in fact recommended defintions of the word.  I am going to assume (for now at least) that Loftus belongs “at the adult table” with the rest of us critical thinkers, and thus that he did in fact provide at least one or two recommended defintions of “faith” in his book Unapologetic.
Definitions of “faith” in Unapologetic
Below are the seven passages that appear to contain brief definitions of the word “faith”.  The statements in red font are what I take to be the primary defintions, the definitions worthy of serious consideration.  The phrase “cognitive bias” appears in blue font to show how often it appears in (or near) these apparent definitions:
Chapter 1:  
Faith adds nothing to the probabilities.  It has no method and solves no problems.  If faith is trust we should not trust faith.  It’s a cognitive bias keeping believers away from objectively understanding the truth.  (Unapologetic, p.37, emphasis added)
Chapter 2:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence.  (Unapologetic, p. 55, emphasis added)
Chapter 4:
…faith is always about that which lacks sufficient evidence or even no evidence at all.  I consider faith to be an unrecognized-as-yet cognitive bias that gives believers permission to pretend what they believe is true, even if there is no objective evidence at all… (Unapologetic, p. 92, emphasis added)
Chapter 5:
Just consider what’s wrong with Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses….  Faith.  The adherents of these religions do not believe based on sufficient evidence, because faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities.  If they thought exclusively in terms of the probabilities by proportioning their belief to the evidence (per David Hume), they would not believe at all.  (Unapologetic, p.125, emphasis added)
Chapter 6:
Faith should one day be labeled a cognitive bias.  It keeps one’s cognitive faculties from functioning properly.  Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (Unapologetic, p.152, emphasis added)
Chapter 7:
 Because faith requires special pleading and so many other informal fallacies, I can say faith itself is a fallacy.  It’s certainly a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate the probabilities on behalf of faith. (Unapologetic, p.169, emphasis added)
Chapter 8:
 I take David Hume’s principle as axiomatic, that the wise person should proportion his or her conclusions to the available evidence.  Going beyond the probabilities of the evidence is unreasonable.  That’s what faith does when we embrace it.  Faith takes believers beyond the probabilities.  Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (Unapologetic, p.194, emphasis added)
The definition of “faith” from Chapter 1 is defective because it is a genus/species defintion, that is incomplete, because it fails to spell out the species part of the definition.  The genus of “faith” is “a cognitive bias”, according to this definition, while the species portion of this defintion states that this particular cognitive bias keeps people “away from objectively understanding the truth”.  Both parts of the definition are fairly clear, but the species part is redundant and adds nothing to the definition.
ALL cognitive biases keep people “away from objectively understanding the truth”–that is simply an implication of what it means to be a “cognitive bias”.  The second part of the definition is true or correct, but uninformative; it fails to specify a particular TYPE of cognitive bias, because it states something that is true of any and every cognitive bias.  So, this definition is not worthy of any further serious consideration.
The defintion of “faith” given in Chapter 2 is also a genus/species defintion, and both genus and species parts of the definition appear to be fairly clear.  Furthermore, the species part of the definition properly distinguishes one TYPE of cognitive bias from other cognitive biases.  So, this definition, unlike the one in Chapter 1, is worthy of further serious consideration.  Furthermore, although Loftus does not repeat this definition verbatum, he does provide a definition in Chapter 7 that is very similar:
It’s certainly a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate the probabilities on behalf of faith. (Unapologetic, p.169)
This partial repitition of the definition in Chapter 2 indicates that this is an important definition to Loftus.  The definition in Chapter 7, however, is not as good as the one in Chapter 2, because the defintion in Chapter two  (a) is more specific about HOW “the probabilities” get overestimated, and (b) does not use the word “faith” as part of the definition of the word “faith” (which is a violation of a basic principle of Critical Thinking, and is thus unworthy of consideration by those who are sitting at the adult table).  So, I will focus my attention on the definition in Chapter 2, and ignore the similar definition given in Chapter 7.
The definition in Chapter 4 reinforces the idea that the genus of faith is, for Loftus, a “cognitive bias”, but the rest of this defintion is problematic:
…that gives believers permission to pretend what they believe is true…
The phrase “giving permission” is metaphorical, and is thus a problematic expression to use in a definition statement, and the whole idea of “pretending what they believe is true” is unclear and problematic.  It might well be the case that people sometimes  “pretend what they believe is true”  but this is, in most cases, a difficult sort of thing to identify and verify, so this seems like a bad criterion to use in a definition of a key concept.  Other definitions provided by Loftus do not involve such tricky and difficult to identify and verify characteristics.  So, I’m going to ignore this definition in Chapter 4.
The definition in Chapter 5 is also problematic because it makes use of metaphorical language: “leap over the probabilities”.  Also, the definition in Chapter 7 already links “faith” to “probabilities” in a clearer way.
Since the definition in Chapter 7 is very similar to the definition in Chapter 2, I can borrow the concept of “overestimates the probabilities” from the definition in Chapter 7, and use it to modify the definition in Chapter 2, so that one definition that I seriously examine will explicitly relate “faith” to estimation of “probabilities”:
Modified Chapter 2 Definition:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence, which in turn results in the believer overestimating the probability of the claim in question.
This modified version of the Chapter 2  definition of “faith” combines key elements of that definition with a key element of the definition in Chapter 7, and it also gets at the intention behind the definition of “faith” in Chapter 5, while avoiding the unclear and problematic language used in the Chapter 5 definition.
The definition in Chapter 6 seems to be a significant departure from the definition in Chapter 2, and it seems to be a fairly clear defintion which does not make use of metaphorical or problematic language.  Furthermore,  Loftus repeats this definition verbatim in Chapter 8, so it is clearly an important defintion to Loftus.  For these reasons, I plan to give some serious consideration to the definition of “faith” from Chapter 6:
Faith is an irrational, unevidenced, or misplaced trust in something or someone. (Unapologetic, p.152)
I have already indicated some problems with the defintion of “faith” given in Chapter 7, and I have already incorporated a key idea from the definition in Chapter 7 into the definition given in Chapter 2, so I will not be giving separate consideration to the definition of “faith” found in Chapter 7.
The brief one-sentence definition of “faith” given in Chapter 8 is identical to the definition given in Chapter 6, so I will only use the passage containing this definition in Chapter 8 for background or context, in order to further clarify the definition of “faith” found in Chapter 6, if there is a need to clarify that definition further.
The Modified Definition of “faith” from Chapter 2
The definition of “faith” in Chapter 2 is fairly clear, as is my modified verion of this definition, which borrows a key element from the definition of “faith” found in Chapter 7.  There are no metaphorical expressions in the Chapter 2 definition, nor in the modified version of that definition:
Modified Chapter 2 Definition:
Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence, which in turn results in the believer overestimating the probability of the claims in question.
Metaphorical language is NOT appropriate for definitions of key words and phrases that are used in philosophical arguments.  Metaphorical language is fine if one is writing a poem, or a song, or a novel, or a speech, but metaphorical language tends to be “rich” and thus vague and/or ambiguous, so one should avoid using metaphorical expressions in definitions of key words and phrases whenever possible. Those of us who sit at the adult table try to avoid using metaphorical expressions when we define key words and phrases that are used in philosophical arguments.
I understand that Loftus did not write Unapologetic only for professional philosophers, so the use of metaphorical expressions here and there can be justified as useful for purposes of persuasion and style, but the use of metaphorical expressions in definitions of key words also provides a good reason for rejecting those defintions, or at least a good reason for preferring other defintions that avoid the use of metaphorical expressions.
The definition of “faith” in Chapter 2 and the modified version of that definition are, in a way, too clear.  I say that because, they are clear enough to make it easy to identify these as being definitions of ANOTHER concept, a very important concept in the theory of critical thinking and in the field of informal logic, namely:  CONFIRMATION BIAS.
CONFIRMATION BIAS is a cognitive bias that causes PEOPLE to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence [for claims that they believe], which in turn results in PEOPLE overestimating the probability of the claims in question.
If we take Loftus definition of “faith” in Chapter 2 seriously (and assume that he belongs at the adult table), or if we take the modified version of that definition (which incorporates a key element from the defintion in Chapter 7) seriously, then a very imporant implication follows:
FAITH simply IS the same thing as CONFIRMATION BIAS
This implication has both positive and negative aspects, from Loftus’ point of view.  Here are some of the positive aspects of this implication:

  • The definition of “faith” proposed in Chapter 2 is not only clear, but it can be made even clearer in view of the scientific study of CONFIRMATION BIAS.
  • I and many other atheists and skeptics would gladly join a crusade to fight against the evil of CONFIRMATION BIAS.
  • There is a good deal of existing scientific data, research, and theory that already exists about CONFIRMATION BIAS, so our understanding of this evil can be significantly enhanced by lots of empirical data, scientific studies, and scientific theories.

But from Loftus’ point of view, this implication also has some negative aspects:

  • How is it that a word that has been used for many centuries (i.e. “faith”)* happens to have the very same meaning as a term that was invented by a modern scientific psychologist in the second half of the 20th century  (in about 1960)? This casts doubt on the correctness of Loftus’ definition of “faith” in Chapter 2):  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Cathcart_Wason#Early_studies
  • Given that the dragon that Loftus wants to slay is CONFIRMATION BIAS, isn’t it foolish to drag the unclear and controversial word “faith” into the fray?  The use of the word “faith” as the target of attack creates all kinds of political and social and psychological resistance and backlash, which is completely unnecessary if what we are fighting against is simply CONFIRMATION BIAS.
  • CONFIRMATION BIAS is a universal human problem;  it is not a problem isolated to Christians, nor to religious believers.  Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, secular humanists, marxists, communists, and your run-of-the-mill “nones” (non-religious people who may not identify themselves as atheists or agnostics or skeptics) ALL suffer from this cognitive bias.  If all of the religious people in the world vanished into thin air tonight at midnight, then tomorrow morning the world would still be populated by people who have serious intellectual deficiencies due to CONFIRMATION BIAS.  Religion is (at most) a symptom of the evil of CONFIRMATION BIAS,  not the primary cause of it.  The problem of CONFIRMATION BIAS is a universal human problem.

To be continued…
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* The word “faith” (spelled as “feith”) appears in the first English translation of the New Testament, which was a hand-written manuscript created by John Wycliffe in about 1378, more than six centuries ago…
1378 Wycliffe New Testament: First Printed Edition (1731) Facsimile Reproduction
“The very first translation of the scriptures into the English Language was done in the 1380’s by John Wycliffe, who is called “The Morning Star of the Reformation”. Because he lived nearly a century before the 1455 invention of the printing press, his New Testaments and Bibles were of course, hand-written manuscripts. Wycliffe is also credited with being the inventor of bifocal eyeglasses (necessity being the mother of invention), though history tends to more frequently credit Ben Franklin with improving upon Wycliffe’s invention of bifocals.”
“Wycliffe’s hand-written manuscripts of the English scriptures are very challenging to read, but being the very first English scripture translation (albeit a translation from the Latin, and not the original Biblical languages), the Wycliffe translation is extremely historically important. For this reason, in the 1731, a reprint of Wycliffe’s circa 1378 manuscript was produced in modern easier-to-read type. It preserves the original Middle-English spellings and wordings 100% faithfully, but it simply makes the text easier to read by rendering the text as typeface, rather than being hand-written.”
http://greatsite.com/facsimile-reproductions/wycliffe-1731.html
Here is the Wycliffe’s translation of  the opening verses of 1 Corinthians Chapter 12, which includes the word “feith” in verse 9 (click on image below for a clearer view of the text):
The word FAITH in 1 Cor 12