Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Carrier's Christmas Whoosh: Finale

Here's Nick Peters with the last installment on Carrier's Christmas parody post. It's well past even Orthodox Christmas, but for these "arguments" -- it hardly matters!


We continue our look at Carrier's blog on Santa and it's still a
wonder as to how this is to be taken. If atheists are sitting back and
laughing and thinking that they've put the theists in their place,
then I say nothing of the sort has been done. Instead, it's been shown
that apparently some atheists are so bad at comedy that you can't tell
when they're being serious, or it could rather be that they're so bad
at serious argumentation, that you can't tell if it's supposed to be

Anyway, on to the argument from Christmas Miracles with the first premise:

1.Miraculous events have been documented to occur at and around
Christmas (by multiple eyewitnesses and even mechanical recording
devices that never lie, like TV cameras).

Of course, not knowing how to take this, it's hard to determine if we
should ask for documentation or not. It's also difficult to know how
he means us to take recording devices that never lie. True, these
cannot lie since a lie requires intent. However, they can be
manipulated or their content messed with in such a way as to picture
something as happening that never did. (To which, if the resurrection
had taken place in our times, we know skeptics would claim someone was
messing with the video tape.)

2.It is extraordinarily improbable that those miracles occur just by chance.

A miracle by chance is the term that doesn't make sense. If a miracle
means an agent outside of nature has acted in nature, then that is not
by chance but is by some sort of intention. They may seem to be chance
events to us, but they cannot be.

3.It is very probable that they would occur if Santa Claus caused them.

And here, if this is to mock God, I believe the argument is false. If
Santa caused a miracle, it would be very probable that the miracle
occurred? It would not be probable. It would be certain. Of course, we
just need to replace "Santa" with "God" to see how it works. What we
should say is "If a miracle occurs, it is probable some supernatural
agent caused it." (Keeping in mind that the dichotomy really doesn't
exist.) I am fully open to the possibility of a miracle happening
outside of Christian or even Judaistic theism. It could be another
agent like a demon or it could be God giving light to non-Christians.

4. Therefore it is far more probable that Santa Claus caused them than
that random chance did.

Given the backwardness of the last claim, I find this one doesn't
make sense. If God caused a miracle, then we do not say that it is
more probable that God caused a miracle.

5. Therefore it is very probable that Santa Claus exists.

From here, Carrier concludes that Santa exists, but I would argue that
while it could be more probable, you cannot get from a probability to
a certainty. You can only get to greater certainty or maybe beyond a
reasonable doubt.

Again, I just keep wondering how to take this. Carrier gives no clues.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Carrier's Christmas Whoosh, Part 4

I'll hand the reins to Tekton ministry associate Nick Peters again today -- I had planned to anyway, but after we had a little mishap at the house that left water all over one room, I'm feeling pretty beaten up and grateful for the break. Back Monday with Part 2 on Buddha and Q.


Once again, I approach this subject just confused. I do not wonder if
it is my own mindset or not, but I am just wondering how it is Carrier
expects me to take him. Does he think that these arguments show
theistic arguments to be silly? Does he already know that they are
silly? One can't really say for sure. However, let's look at the
argument from the Christmas Spirit.

To begin with, it's the kind of argument that is based on a more
subjective phenomena and not one I would use. For instance, I would
not use Bill Craig's argument about God being personally experienced
through the Holy Spirit and it's not a surprise to me when atheists go
after this argument. However, let's look at the first premise:

1.Every Christmas season everyone the world over experiences the
Christmas Spirit.

Now if we had had something like "Every year, all over the world,
everyone at the time we call December 25th has a certain experience"
we might have something interesting to explain. As it is, I really
don't know what Carrier expects me to get from this. What does it mean
to experience the "Christmas Spirit"?

Carrier doesn't explain any of this. Again, if this is to be a parody
of an argument, it doesn't really work if we don't know if we're even
supposed to laugh.

Premise 2 gets even shakier:

2. Santa Claus is by definition the Christmas Spirit.

No reference is given to this. I have not heard of Santa Claus being
described as the Christmas Spirit nor do I think he could be seen as
whatever Santa Claus is: he is a material being and a material being
cannot be an immaterial being like a spirit.

3. Therefore every Christmas season everyone the world over
experiences Santa Claus.

This would follow of course if the first two premises are true, but
really, none of it makes any sense whatsoever.

4. It is extraordinarily improbable that six billion people would
simultaneously, the same time every year, hallucinate exactly the same

Well, yeah. Of course, I have no reason to believe that any of this is
going on.... (JPH note: And aside from that, a substantial portion of those six billion -- now much closer to seven billion, actually -- don't observe Christmas.)

5. Therefore Santa Claus is not a hallucination.

This would depend on what is meant by a hallucination exactly. Does it
mean some external experience or some internal experience? Thinking
you see or hear something could qualify. Feeling something, I do not
believe does. I do not doubt, for instance, that many Mormons have
prayed the prayer in Moroni 10:4-5 and experienced something very
strong. I question the content of that experience however, but not
that the experience happened. If all the world feels something, that
would not make it real, though it could lead to some strong reasons
for why we could think it real.

6. That which is experienced and is not a hallucination, is real.

Based on what I said earlier, I am not sure. For instance, I could say
I am experiencing right now the thought of a unicorn being outside my
door. Because I am experiencing thinking about opening my door and
seeing a unicorn, it does not mean that when I open the door, that
there will be a unicorn.

Furthermore, how many people have to experience something before it is
real then? Everyone? Suppose half the world experienced something and
the other didn't. How could we tell who was right? The obvious way is
simply to look at the real world the best that we can. Perhaps those
who think they see something could take pictures and see that what
they thought they saw wasn't real.

From this, Carrier concludes that Santa is real and Santa exists.

I, however, conclude that Carrier just doesn't know what he's talking about.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Carrier's Christmas Whoosh, Part 3

Today I once more hand the reins to Tekton ministry associate Nick Peters, who will have a look at Carrier's "fine gifting" argument from his parody (?) Christmas posting.


Once again, it is hard to tell if Carrier is being serious or not. Does he really think this is an effective parody of theistic arguments, or is he just trying to get a laugh and realizes there is no comparison? The sad reality is that it's hard to tell. The fine-tuning argument, for instance, says nothing about God fine-tuning the universe for his function, but rather for us to have a place to survive. Carrier has his parody of the fine-gifting argument.

Absent is any attempt to counter a fine-tuning argument here. Carrier is not a scientist, however. Neither am I. While I believe the argument works, I do not use it for that reason. I am not skilled in the background sciences to explain the parameters of the argument and I do not wish to use an argument that is outside my area of expertise.

I also note that again, Carrier ties this with the ontological argument when he expounds on premise three on his page. I do realize there are Christians who find that argument valid, which would in the past have included myself. I can no longer say that. Of course, this is likely an appeal to Craig and his five arguments, and Craig does believe the ontological argument is valid. Still, the kalam and fine-tuning arguments do not depend on the ontological argument.

There are a number of responses to fine-tuning I would like to comment on.

First, some would say it's chance. The problem is I don't think many scientists would take this seriously. I also think chance doesn't explain the existence of the factors that constitute the chance. You can say getting a perfect hand in Bridge is chance. That is accurate, and Bridge players know it is extremely extremely extremely rare. However, for that chance to even be, there has to be Bridge first. Something has to exist for there to be even chance involving the interaction of matter.

Second, some would say that of course it's fine-tuned. We're here after all and we couldn't realize that if it wasn't fine-tuned. The problem with this has been pointed out by John Leslie. Leslie asks us to imagine being held before a firing squad. If you survive, you are free to go. As you are held, 100 marksmen are before you with laser-focused rifles and you hear the command to fire. You close your eyes and hear the shots fire. You have no sensation of dying and open your eyes to find your are alive. Everyone missed.

When asked about how fortunate you are, you say "What's so amazing about that? Since I'm alive, they all obviously missed or I wouldn't be here to tell about it." The problem is such a statement would show a profound ignorance. The question is "Why are you alive?" The atheist with regards to the universe is saying "It just is." To us, that does seem ad hoc. It's more likely that someone wanted us here.

The third way is to say that this is one of many universes. I once gave an illustration of why this doesn't work at my church. Suppose you are in church and you look out in the parking lot and see a dead body. You tell people and many of you go over to see what has happened. A police officer comes and asks what you're doing. You say you want to know what happened to explain a corpse in the parking lot. Imagine the officer saying "Simple. There's 500 more corpses behind that building."

That would not help you. In fact, now you have 501 dead bodies to account for. If one universe is to be a problem, how does it help me to here that there are even more universes? It would seem that that would still require an explanation just as much and in fact more so. Having one mystery to explain does not help by multiplying mysteries.

Again, is Carrier serious? I do not know. The parallel is just silly but with Carrier, I am not too surprised.