Friday, April 14, 2017

The Problems in Bradford's Complaint

An excellent article by Farrell Till comparing the logical, empirical-based presuppositions of naturalists versus the illogical, unsupported suppositions of supernaturalists. From *The Skeptical Review*, Sept-Oct. 2001:

by Farrell Till
Mr. Bradford seems sincerely convinced that I have a prejudice that will not allow me to see that supernatural presuppositions are just as logical as naturalistic ones. Because of his apparent belief that I won't listen to any arguments in the articles he submits to me, I am asking another person to reply to his attempt to prove the existence of God. It will be published in a later issue, although the subject is not really suitable for The Skeptical Review.In the very first  issue of TSR, published in January 1990, I specifically stated that the paper would not debate the issue of God's existence, but if I had declined to publish Mr. Bradford's article, he would have accused me of being too prejudiced to give consideration to attempts to prove the existence of his deity by scientific argumentation. What Mr. Bradford doesn't seem to realize is that he doesn't really argue his positions. He just asserts them and then vents his frustration when we refuse to fall in line and accept his assertions without questions.

Although I am leaving the "God part" of Bradford's article for someone else to answer, he made some personal remarks about himself and me that I will reply to in this issue, because no one else would really be qualified to speak on some of the accusations he made about me.

Do I resort to "subjective ridicule rather than logic and evidence"? I have to answer this charge with both yes and no. Yes, I do ridicule the inability of biblicists to think rationally. Perhaps I should not do this, but it is somewhat difficult not to do it when a biblicist persists in clinging to an irrational belief when he has seen mountains of evidence that the biblical inerrancy doctrine just cannot be true. When biblicists argue that "soon"or "at hand" didn't really mean soon or at hand when they are shown New Testament promises that the return of Jesus was to happen imminently, it is difficult to be patient with their intellectual dishonesty or irrational determination to make faith more important than common sense. On internet forums, I have often said that a time comes in debates with biblicists to call a spade a spade, and when an inerrantist keeps trying to defend a position that has been shown to be untenable, I think it is time to say without apology that the inerrantist is allowing allegiance to an irrational belief to overrule his/her common sense. In a letter on page 15 of this issue, Tom Broom expressed wonderment that I have the patience to discuss biblical minutia with the likes of some inerrantists whose articles appear in this paper. Believe me, it isn't easy, so when I do at times show a lack of patience and resort to ridicule, it should be understandable. Anyway, if I am guilty as Bradford charges, his complaint would be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, because look at his own subjective remarks about me. Saying that I resort to subjective ridicule rather than logic and evidence isn't exactly a compliment.

Logic and evidence: The "no" in my answer to Mr. Bradford concerns his charge that I use ridicule rather than "logic and evidence." As he typically did in his articles, Bradford made an unsupported assertion here. In my replies to him, I am the one who resorted to logic and evidence. He is the one who didn't. He asserted, for example, that supernatural presuppositions are as reasonable as naturalistic evidence, but what evidence did he present in support of this? None, none at all. I, on the other hand, was the one who pointed out that, like Bruce Wildish had said in his reply to Alex Connelly, naturalistic suppositions are empirically derived and have therefore been tested by repeated observations, whereas supernatural suppositions have generally been accepted for no other reasons but to defend supernatural claims in holy books. To equate these with naturalistic presuppositions and call them "effectively identical" is so patently absurd that whoever would seriously make such a claim (as Bradford apparently did) shouldn't be at all surprised to find himself the object of ridicule.

Faith in Jesus Christ is based on empirical, documented, historical evidence: This is just one of many of Mr. Bradford's claims that he "supported" with a string of assertions for which he offered no support at all. He said, "The most important evidence to be evaluated in any investigation of Christianity is the life and death of Jesus Christ" (p. 9, this issue). Well, okay, just what "evidence " would this be? He didn't say, but, of course, he meant the New Testament documents and perhaps some apocryphal writings whose authenticity even the churches reject, because other than these documents, Bradford can find no evidence about the "life and death of Jesus Christ." Outside of these documents, which are examples of religious propaganda but certainly not reliable works of history, Bradford can't find any disinterested contemporary witnesses to the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Since the New Testament documents and apocryphal books were written after the time that Jesus allegedly lived, it would be correct to say that Bradford cannot find a single contemporary document that mentioned Jesus of Nazareth, period. The best he can do is quote a few writers who lived after the time of Jesus and mentioned him briefly in comments that can be seen as nothing more than probable references to what Christians at that time believed about Jesus.

In his string of unsupported assertions, Bradford said that "it is valuable to study the causal relationship between Christ Himself and the actions of His disciples after His death" (p. 9). Some readers probably didn't even understand what Bradford meant, because he rarely takes time to explain and support his assertions. In this comment, he was just regurgitating the discredited argument that the resurrection of Jesus was confirmed in the actions of the apostles and other disciples after the death of Jesus. As the argument goes, they went everywhere "preaching the word" and were willing to suffer persecution and even death, whereas prior to the death of Jesus they were cowardly in their actions toward him.

This old argument has been discredited so many times that I'm surprised that anyone would try to resurrect it. It assumes the historical accuracy of the book of Acts, which claims that the disciples went everywhere preaching the gospel and that some, like Peter, who had once been so cowardly as to deny Jesus, became so emboldened that they were willing to suffer death as martyrs for what they knew was the truth. I replied to this argument in detail in "How did the Apostles Die?" (July/August 1997, p. 1). If Bradford thinks he has found remarkable evidence for the resurrection of Jesus in this argument, he should read my article, which can be accessed here. I showed that there is no substance at all in this old argument.

More question begging: The sermonette with which Bradford ended his article was a classic case of question begging. He quoted scriptures about "sin," "righteousness, " "the lifting up of Jesus," and "everlasting life,"as if he expected us to accept without question anything that the Bible says. He has been with us this long and apparently doesn't yet realize that this is a forum in which the inerrancy of the Bible is critically examined and not automatically accepted. He doesn't seem to understand that the readers of this paper are not "pew warmers," who nod compliantly at every word coming from the pulpit. This exemplifies Bradford's main problem. He just doesn't seem to understand that TSR readers want real evidence and not sermonettes that beg the very question this paper challenges in every issue.

Bradford's scientific background: Mr. Bradford cited for us some impressive credentials that he has in a scientific field, but if such credentials could prove the truth of Christianity, they would also prove the truth of Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, or any other religion. The most reputable surgeon in the town I live in is a Hindu, but all of his medical degrees do nothing to prove the truth of Hinduism. Religious truth just isn't determined by college degrees in scientific fields. 

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