Thursday, April 28, 2005

Response to Ed Babinski

Here are some comments by Ed Babinski which I would like to take a moment to respond to:

Ed: Vic, Why can't you be satisfied as a philosopher with simply trying to get more people to acknowledge which things they know the MOST about, and which they know the LEAST about, rather than tying to get others to agree with you concerning your "Christian" beliefs about so many things both seen and unseen, in nature and supernature, in this life and the next?

VR: Ed, people care about the beliefs they hold, and they would like to see others hold the same beliefs as themselves, especially if they think those beliefs really matter. Being agnostic about everything, and holding "suspicions" instead of convictions is fine, but doesn't comport too terribly well with trashing people who have firmer convictions and try to defend them. Or at least some people with firmer convictions; I have yet to see you criticize dogmatic fundamentalist atheists like Richard Dawkins, a man who treats any doubt about full-blown Darwinian naturalism as proof of stupidity or ignorance. (OK there's no hell for people to go to, but they do suffer intellectual damnation on his view nonetheless. I don't find him any more tolerant than Jimmy Swaggart). It does matter to you that people "leave the fold" and stop accepting evangelical Christianity. So you are interested in getting people to agree with you about that. Since you don't know what the truth is, you have to admit that evangelical apologists might be right. Nevertheless, you seem sure that even though you don't know the truth, anything has to be better than evangelicalism. Why?

Ed: Your work thus far also seems to be assuming that there are only two choices, 1) no meaning whatsoever to life, or, 2) meaning lay in accepting the dogmas, doctrines and holy book of one particular religion.

VR: I don't think I ever said that. The post on which you were commenting was an exploration of the idea that we can explain natural evil in terms of Satan. You will notice that I presented both sides and threw the issue out for discussion. In what part of that post was a trying to convince people to agree with my spiritual beliefs about this world and the next? You know what my main motive for writing that post was? I was trying to give my daughter material for her paper on the problem of evil. No more, no less.

You have a very bad habit of assuming that if someone is interested in defending or writing Christian apologetics, that everything they say must be some calculated attempt at evangelism. That is certainly not true of me, and I can assure you that it is not true of most Christian philosopher I know.


Edward T. Babinski said...

VR: Ed, people care about the beliefs they hold, and they would like to see others hold the same beliefs as themselves, especially if they think those beliefs really matter. Being agnostic about everything...

EB: Actually, I meant my original comment in the sense of acknowledging a gradation of beliefs. There are some things we each are quite certain about, as well as being quite certain that we could prove to others, and at the other end there are beliefs we are least certain about, and least sure of being able to show or prove to others.

I am speaking in particular about the way that "true believers" of all stripes appear equally "sure" about literally EVERYTHING they believe. There is no gradation of beliefs nor acknowledgement of a sliding scale of uncertainties for them. They are equally "sure" that they can show or prove to another person most everything, ranging from spiritual experiences to their belief in the Trinity, Christian afterlife and the inspiration of Scripture.

It seems to me that's a lot to show or prove to anyone. On a sliding scale of showing and proving things, I'd have to say that expecting people to believe specific things about revealed holy books, the afterlife, the structure of the Godhead, etc., are on the far side of things anyone believes they should be able to show or prove to another person. While, on the near side we have being able to show and prove to someone else how a nail may be hammered into a board (no soteriological pun intended).

I have grown to acknowledge which things are less certain than others, and specific religious beliefs concerning things unseen or in the afterlife or in heaven or hell are some of those things I find relatively less certain than other things.

I am not saying I am an atheist, just an uncertaintist when it comes to the unseen, afterlife, structure of God, or the "inspiration" of some written passages in one book when compared with what I find to be equally inspiring passages in other books, etc.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, Please let me introduce you some upbeat, positive, intellectually mind stimulating (and/or mind boggling) web sites!

Reality Carnival

Raymond M. Smullyan (mathematician, logician, philosopher)--Selections from his books, The Tao Is Silent, and, The Mind's Eye

Raymond M. Smullyan, Is God A Taoist?--A fascinating conversation between a "Mortal" and "God," that raises a host of interesting logical and philosophical questions. (Smullyan is a noted mathematician, logician, philosopher)

World Question Center--"Big, deep and ambitious questions... breathtaking in scope. Keep watching The World Question Center."-—New Scientist

Robert Anton Wilson [novelist, philosopher, also know his Lovecraft] and the Maybelogic Academy

Wilson wrote this:

I don't believe anything, but I have many suspicions.

I strongly suspect that a world "external to," or at least independent of, my senses exists in some sense.

I also suspect that this world shows signs of intelligent design, and I suspect that such intelligence acts via feedback from all parts to all parts and without centralized sovereignity, like Internet; and that it does not function hierarchically, in the style an Oriental despotism, an American corporation or Christian theology..

I somewhat suspect that Theism and Atheism both fail to account for such decentralized intelligencce, rich in circular-causal feedback.

I more-than-half suspect that all "good" writing, or all prose and poetry that one wants to read more than once, proceeds from a kind of "alteration in consciousness," i.e. a kind of controlled schizophrenia. [Don't become alarmed -- I think good acting comes from the same place.]

I sometimes suspect that what Blake called Poetic Imagination expresses this exact thought in the language of his age, and that visits by"angels" and "gods" states it an even more archaic argot.

These suspicions have grown over 72 years, but as a rather slow and stupid fellow I do not have the chutzpah to proclaim any of them as certitudes. Give me another 72 years and maybe I'll arrive at firmer conclusions.

A few more of my favorite links:


Victor Reppert said...

Ed: I don't claim to be absolutely certain about everything I believe, nor do I consider that kind of absolute certainty to be an essential element of Christian faith or Christian apologetics. If you think that's what I am up to, then kindly read my book again. How many times do I have to keep saying something before you stop accusing me of having said just the opposite?

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, I am not asking you to be absolutely certain nor absolutely uncertain about anything. I am asking you to try and admit or distinguish between the things you are MOST certain about and the things you are less certain about, and tell me for instance, which is which.

Are you as certain of my existence and our frienship and having convivial talk-back conversations with me, as you are certain that an executed Galilean was the third person of a holy trinity, and that his bleeding "saved" you, and that same person was also all God and all man simultaneously, and will remain both all man and God while also being a third person of the Trinity, and that believing certain things about Jesus, based on "orthodox" interpretations of one particular holy book, or one collection of holy books, is less doubtful than the fact that I am your friend, that people have friends, and that joys shared are doubled and sorrows shared are halved?

I mean do you really know Jesus and the truths of Christianity like you know so many other people and things about the world and about life and dare I say, about science (which people of all religions or non-religions practice and agree on)?

Even scholars don't claim to "know" Jesus with certainty. Most admit there's too little evidence to go on. Those who examine the rise of Christianity in historical fashion believe stories grew up around Jesus. You can see that just by comparing the Gospels.

Secondly, You don't have vigorous talk-back conversations with Jesus. As for the Gospels, one of them has over 90% reproduced in two of the other Gospels, so they repeat themselves. And among those two, they repeat a lot between themselves also. So the number of Jesus' words is not that great. All of Jesus's words, his parables, could fit in a little 16 page booklet. Many non-Evangelical scholars including James D. G. Dunn don't believe Jesus spoke a single word that the final Gospel has Jesus speaking. So with what degree of certainty do you, or anyone else "know" Jesus? Pat Robertson says he knows Jesus. And Jesus told him the world was going to end in the 1970s and then to run for president in the 1980s.

I came to the conclusion that I didn't know God or Jesus like I did so many other things around me and inside me, including my own honest reactions based on reading lots of books, and having a lifetime of experiences, all of which I recognized that I was relatively more certain about, than orthodoxy, Jesus, and God.

I'm not arguing whether or not anyone can be a believing Christian. I'm asking you as a philosopher to please distinguish between the things you believe with more certainty and those things you are less certain about. That's my point.

Examine just how many things you really DO know, and compare them with other things like beliefs about God, holy books, Biblical history, the afterlife, the unseen, the unknown, and please tell me what you discover simply by keeping in mind that simple philosophical question.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Care to define for me the difference between having a suspicion and holding a religious belief, doctrine or dogma?

kh123 said...

You know, beyond the actual article itself, I think the comments here left by Mr. Babinski speak more about his character than anything else. "Unhinged" is a conservative way of putting it. After having read through numerous piles of his writings (unwelcome emails and comments mostly), they all seem characteristically repetitive and kind of unstable.