I found some old stuff lying around, and thought our fundies might want to tackle them. Here's the first one:
|1. We have eyewitness accounts of Jesus rising from the dead.|
Actually, we don't. We have a few anonymously written documents. These documents were written decades after the supposed events described, and ascribed decades after that. On the other hand, we have reams of materials written by people who claim to have seen UFOs and/or extraterrestrials, many of whom are still alive today.
|2. Twelve guys who knew Jesus claimed he rose from the dead.|
We can't find these twelve guys mentioned anywhere in history outside of the dogma of the religion itself. For all we know, the list of names was concocted by some early gospel writer from scratch. Nor do we have any writings which can be reliably attributed to any of these phantom twelve guys. On the other hand, we have something like seventy eyewitness accounts of things at Roswell, to name only one UFO incident. Many of those eyewitnesses are still alive. You believe in aliens in UFOs probing anuses, right?
|3. Those twelve guys suffered and died for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead.|
The twelve guys we can't find mentioned anywhere in history? Of course we don't know any such thing. On the other hand, UFO witnesses have been willing to suffer humiliation and ridicule, for some reason apparently not linked to seeing a dead guy walking.
|4. People high in the early Christian church claimed to know one or more of those twelve guys, so they must have existed.|
Two guys want to be president of your local chess club. One learned to play chess from books. The other claims to have been taught by Bobby Fisher. For whom are you going to vote? If you wanted to be a big wheel in the new religion of Christianity, might you not claim to have been taught by <fill-in-an-apostle-here> to cement your position? Particularly if the apostles were nowhere to be found to deny your claim? In a more modern context, think it might win you some followers if you claimed to channel a thousand-year-dead sage?
|5. No one bothered to debunk the Christian religion in its infancy.|
Travel wasn't exactly easy in the first century A.D, and Judea was, at that time, often a war zone. Moreover, who attempts to debunk a whelp religion? Have you travelled to Roswell to debunk UFOs? How many people have dug up JFK to prove he's not lurking somewhere as the antichrist, or dug up Elvis to prove he's not hanging out at the local 7-11, even in these days of fast and easy transportation? And how easy do you suppose it would be to debunk UFOs by visiting Roswell, even if you could be bothered to make the trip? Would UFOlogists with their minds already made up listen? Would Elvis sightings stop if an unrecognizably decomposed body were exhumed?
It has been suggested that, since we know people exist, it's reasonable to assume that gods exist using a variation of the conceptual fallacy of redefinition (among others). Seems silly, doesn't it? It is. Here's how it goes:
1. Define humans as "creative intelligences."
2. Define gods as "creative intelligences."
3. Claim that, since we know creative intelligences exist, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that one more creative intelligence exists.
4. Restore original definitions, substituting "humans" for "creative intelligences" and "god" for "creative intelligence" in number 3 above.
Well, try this one. You see hoof prints on the beach. A unicorn is as likely an explanation for the source of the prints as a horse:
1. Define horse as "hoofed equine."
2. Define unicorn as "hoofed equine."
3. Claim that, since we know hoofed equines exist, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that one more hoofed equine exists.
4. Restore original definitions, substituting "horses" for "hoofed equines" and "unicorn" for "hoofed equine" in number 3 above.
Occam's razor still states that one should not multiply entities without cause. We know horses exist, so there's no reason to assume that unicorns exist where horses will serve as an explanation.
Moreover, the known existence of horses does not imply the existence of unicorns. Neither does the known existence of hippos imply the existence of invisible pink flying hippos. Neither does the known existence of humans imply the existence of gods. Such an assertion is ludicrous, lacking other evidence.
In point of fact, explanations which use entities known to exist are preferable over explanations using entities which are not known to exist, all other things being equal, according to Occam's razor (do not multiply entities _without reason_). To claim otherwise is to abuse the principle of parsimony without any reason other than blind (and silly) faith.
It's been claimed that monotheism was responsible for the scientific revolution that came after the European Dark Ages. Is it true?
No. Here's why:
1. Monotheism was in practice in Judea for centuries with no "scientific revolution." Perhaps all the Hebrews were asleep.
2. No "scientific revolution" occurred during the first thousand years of Christianity. Perhaps all the Christians were asleep.
3. Scientific and mathematical discoveries were made throughout the world without the aid of monotheism. Scientific progress has escalated more-or-less at an ever-increasing rate, aside from occassional Dark Ages (see note 5 below for the short answer as to why).
4. The origins of European science are to be found in ancient Greece, India and Arab lands, not some monotheistic society. This includes the early origins of scientific method (natural phenomenon have natural, not supernatural, causes), and speculations on evolution and heliocentric systems.
So, what were the driving forces behind the European "scientific revolution?" The most important were:
1. The reintroduction of ancient Greek texts brought back from the Crusades (the Christians had previously burned their copies of these texts, thus, in large part, causing the European Dark Ages).
2. The introduction of Arabic mathematical concepts, again, brought back from the Crusades. Note that the Arabs were the mathematical geniuses of their time, having imported both Indian and Greek knowledge and then built on that foundation.
3. Various other information from Islam (such as optical science, which Roger Bacon built upon).
3. A lessening of the power of the Christian Church, which continues to this day.
4. A broadening of the role of artists (architects, for example) and other hands-on craftsmen, creating a class that appreciated both scholarliness and technical proficiency.
5. The invention over the centuries of the appropriate tools for scientific observation, including lenses for telescopes and microscopes, and, most importantly, the printing press, which allowed ideas to be widely distributed, discussed and mulled over. Thus, more minds were able to grapple with a wide body of scientific knowledge. Those Greek texts returned from the Crusades reached more people than ever before, as did new texts.
It has been suggested that monotheism (particularly the Christian three-headed version) provides a "mindset" that allows one to question the laws of nature while no other mindset does so. Yet the ancient Greeks did such questioning, as did the Hindus and Chinese. Is monotheism the ultimate mindset for science?
No. Virtually any religious or non-religious mindset can be used as a basis for investigating the laws of nature. For examples: Polytheists might reason that the universe must be founded on logical rules, else the gods themselves would be unable to communicate; nontheists might reason that the universe can be observed to obey rules which at least appear to be comprehensible to humans; and so forth. Note that the converse is also true. Plain fact is, you can rationalize most anything you like from such starting points.
How did monotheism (particularly the Christian three-headed version) actually work out for science in practice? Well, in 529 AD Justinian closed the Academy and the Lyceum, two universities in Athens, founded by Plato and Aristotle. The reason? Christian distrust of pagan learning. In 800 AD, French ecclesiastic St. Bernard forbid Cistercian monks from studying medical books, declaring that prayer was the only remedy allowed to treat the sick (meanwhile Persians required their physicians to take examinations before becoming licensed). It was not until ancient Greek ideas began to filter back into Europe and get printed that science began to win in its battle against the Church. Even then, and to this day, Christianity continued to try to suppress scientific discoveries that it found unpalatable (ask Galileo or Hawking for details).
How did the monotheistic "mindset" work out for science? In Islam, science made great progress at first, but a religious backlash settled in later in many places. In Christianity, as many people seemed to oppose as support science, often citing reasons that seemed identical in all respects except their conclusions. It appears to have been a wash as to mindset -- no overall effect (although it is worth noting that the more successful science became, the more it detached itself from religious influences altogether). Again, this is probably due to the fact that one can rationalize any stance beginning solely from the basis of believing that one or many gods exist, or simply not believing in gods at all.
Did individuals cite Christianity as the basis for their interest in science? Undoubtedly. People have cited Christianity as the basis for everything from child sacrifice to racial bigotry to mass suicide. In point of fact, for an individual to practice science in early Christian society, it was often necessary to concoct some story to feed the Church as a practical matter, to keep from being thrown in jail for practicing magic or being branded a heretic (with the particular Christian kindnesses shown to such folk).