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Jagella
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2019 7:20 pm  The Christian's Grasp on Reality Reply with quote

I think that the debate between Christian apologists and skeptics might boil down to the following exchange:

Apologist: We know that Yahweh and Jesus are a real god, and we know that they have performed miracles like parting seas and raising dead people back to life.
Skeptic: You are mistaking natural phenomenon for the supernatural.

Keeping this exchange in mind as a basic template, consider the real-life exchange I had with a Christian friend of mine earlier today (1/1/2019). Ginger (her real name) has told me for a month or so that she's been having trouble with fluid on her brain. She testified today that her head-trouble was miraculously healed by God. She is experiencing no more pain. Soon after she told me of this miracle she left my apartment using her walker.

Although I want Ginger to be in good health, and I hope she has no more problems with her head, I'm very skeptical that any miracle has happened to cure her head problem. First, aside from her improved mood, I cannot tell by seeing her that any change has occurred to her. There is no visible evidence that she is any better physically speaking. Second, Ginger is overlooking her body's ability to heal itself naturally, and that no miracle is needed to explain the apparent improvement in her health. And third, Ginger doesn't seem to understand that if God went to all the trouble to cure her head problem, then he would have went all the way and cured her need to use a walker!

In all probability Ginger is mistaking a natural improvement in her health for a miracle. These kinds of mistakes are extremely common among Christians. Consider, for example, how many Christians flock to see faith healers like Peter Popoff. Despite his being conclusively exposed as a fraudster by atheist James Randi, Christians still go to see Popoff expecting a miracle from God.

I could post many other examples of the Christian inability to see that supposed miracles done by the Bible god are merely natural events or outright hoaxes, but for now let me ask the...

Questions for Debate: If Christians today routinely mistake the natural for the supernatural with not one known case of their seeing any real miracle, then why believe Christians ever did see a real god performing real miracles? Are Christians even able to recognize the difference between the real and what they hope is real?
Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 31: Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:00 am
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Jagella wrote:
Your questions here a vague. What is a "general probability," and what "act" are you asking about? Certainty needed for what?

But if we get back to what I said earlier, logically if I consider the probability of a miracle as less than the probability of any other available explanation, then if any other explanation is available, I opt for that explanation as more probable. For example, if a skeptic explains the resurrection story as resulting from the apostles seeing Jesus' identical twin brother mistaking that brother of Jesus for Jesus, then I'd conclude that it's more probable the apostles saw this brother of Jesus mistaking him for Jesus than that Jesus rose from the dead. In other words, it's more probable that Jesus had an identical twin brother that the apostles thought was the risen Jesus than that Jesus rose from the dead.


By "act" I meant the event we are trying to explain. By "general probability" I meant the probability of an event considered outside of any specific occurrence. That seems to be what you are saying here with your example. Since the probability of a resurrection is lower than the probability of having a twin brother, for you to believe Jesus resurrected would require every other possible explanation to be proven false, to the level of complete certainty (100%) as opposed to the resurrection simply becoming more plausible than the possible-but-not-very-likely alternatives.

Jagella wrote:
So what physical evidence do you have for Christian miracle claims?


How do you define "physical"? You clarified, I thoguht, that you didn't mean it had to be tangible like having Booth's pistol.

Jagella wrote:
And that's exactly why basing claims on historical events is tricky. People can easily assess the evidence differently. Often the best you can do is make your case for what you think is historical and then hope people agree with you.


I'm not sure what you mean by it being easy to assess it differently. It may be easy, but that doesn't mean it's rational.

Jagella wrote:
No, I don't generally argue like that. Apologists have popularized these formal arguments without letting people know that all these words may have little to do with reality. Logic can't make any gods real.


I don't mean the form of how you argue, but the content of what you were saying. Also, the way I formed the argument didn't say anything about gods being real. I'm simply trying to make sure I understand you correctly. Are you saying that philosophical arguments are inadequate for making a positive discovery about reality because they can be made for things that don't exist? Or would you want to clarify the wording somehow?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 32: Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:14 pm
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The Tanager wrote:
...for you to believe Jesus resurrected would require every other possible explanation to be proven false, to the level of complete certainty (100%) as opposed to the resurrection simply becoming more plausible than the possible-but-not-very-likely alternatives.


Even if all possible alternate explanations are proved false, the explanation that Jesus did rise from the grave could still be false. For me to believe Jesus rose from the grave, it would be a good start for me to see him. But even then I'd have trouble knowing if it was really Jesus.

So it looks like the resurrection is impossible to prove.

Quote:
How do you define "physical"? You clarified, I thoguht, that you didn't mean it had to be tangible like having Booth's pistol.


Obviously physical evidence is evidence that we can actually see. An example of physical evidence for a miracle might be a one-hundred foot-high solid gold statue that Jesus conjured.

Quote:
I'm not sure what you mean by it being easy to assess it differently. It may be easy, but that doesn't mean it's rational.


I can cite the Jesus-myth theory as an example of a controversial historical issue. As far as I can tell most of the Jesus myth theories I'm acquainted with seem to make good sense. Real-Jesus apologists attempt to rebut Jesus mythicism by assessing the evidence differently. But neither side appears able to prove their case. So that's why I think basing claims on history is like "building a house on the sand."

Quote:
Are you saying that philosophical arguments are inadequate for making a positive discovery about reality because they can be made for things that don't exist?


That would be one reason why philosophy is inadequate for making discoveries about reality. Philosophy isn't very reliable as we know from Aristotle wrongly concluding that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects. So science goes beyond pure reason to actually check if that reason works in the real world.

So in summary, apologists rely way too much on philosophical arguments to prove their beliefs. If we really want to know what's going on in the world, then we need to get up out of our arm chairs and take a look. "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your apologetics."

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 33: Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:46 pm
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[Replying to post 14 by ttruscott]

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If secular materialists today routinely mistake the supernatural for the natural by repressing the fact they saw a real miracle of proof, Rom 1:20,


Why do you believe what Paul (author of Romans) says about atheists (he doesn't use the term secular materialists, by the way, just so you know)? Is it at all possible that Paul could have been wrong, or mistaken?
Can I use the same logic for example about black people? Or Chinese people? Can I just make blanket statements about large demographics of people?

TL;DR - Why do you give any credence at all to what is basically bigotry?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 34: Sat Jan 05, 2019 2:15 pm
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Jagella wrote:
Even if all possible alternate explanations are proved false, the explanation that Jesus did rise from the grave could still be false. For me to believe Jesus rose from the grave, it would be a good start for me to see him. But even then I'd have trouble knowing if it was really Jesus.

So it looks like the resurrection is impossible to prove.


So, in other words, your position is completely unfalsifiable.

Also, help me to pinpoint the difference between your line of reasoning as it pertains to overcoming the general improbability of resurrections in the case of Jesus and, say, overcoming the general improbability of winning the lottery in the case of lottery winners. If the general probability is enough to disbelieve actual instances of improbable events, then you should never believe a lottery winner exists.

Jagella wrote:
Quote:
How do you define "physical"? You clarified, I thoguht, that you didn't mean it had to be tangible like having Booth's pistol.

Obviously physical evidence is evidence that we can actually see. An example of physical evidence for a miracle might be a one-hundred foot-high solid gold statue that Jesus conjured.


So, it must be a tangible artifact, like Booth's pistol?

Jagella wrote:
I can cite the Jesus-myth theory as an example of a controversial historical issue. As far as I can tell most of the Jesus myth theories I'm acquainted with seem to make good sense. Real-Jesus apologists attempt to rebut Jesus mythicism by assessing the evidence differently. But neither side appears able to prove their case. So that's why I think basing claims on history is like "building a house on the sand."


Prove in the sense of showing it absolutely certain or in the sense of one side being more plausible than the other? If it's the former (which it seems to be), then science isn't safe either, yet you hold scientific beliefs (and rightfully so, in my opinion).

Jagella wrote:
That would be one reason why philosophy is inadequate for making discoveries about reality.


Yet, you just did philosophy in arguing for the truth of that principle. That's self-defeating.

Jagella wrote:
Philosophy isn't very reliable as we know from Aristotle wrongly concluding that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects. So science goes beyond pure reason to actually check if that reason works in the real world.


What about phlogiston?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 35: Sat Jan 05, 2019 2:21 pm
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[Replying to post 34 by The Tanager]

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An example of physical evidence for a miracle might be a one-hundred foot-high solid gold statue that Jesus conjured.


As with all things physical, such a conjuring would have to be explained scientifically as anything except evidence for the miraculous.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 36: Sun Jan 06, 2019 7:37 am
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[Replying to post 35 by William]

I'm trying to figure out why you only quoted Jagella in a post replying to my post. Could you rephrase your point to help me clear up my confusion?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 37: Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:37 pm
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The Tanager wrote:
So, in other words, your position is completely unfalsifiable.


What you're saying here doesn't make any sense. How can my skepticism about the resurrection be unfalsifiable? Is my love for chocolate unfalsifiable?

Quote:
Also, help me to pinpoint the difference between your line of reasoning as it pertains to overcoming the general improbability of resurrections in the case of Jesus and, say, overcoming the general improbability of winning the lottery in the case of lottery winners. If the general probability is enough to disbelieve actual instances of improbable events, then you should never believe a lottery winner exists.


I'm not sure what it means to "overcome a probability." But I never said I cannot believe claims just because they are improbable. If I go with your analogy of the lottery winner, I don't have any trouble believing somebody won the lottery because it happens often enough. In fact, it's certain that some lucky person will win the lottery. Resurrections, by contrast, never seem to happen, and there's no good reason to believe they do happen. So it seems to make good sense to doubt resurrections.

But if you'd like to raise somebody from the dead, I'm willing to take a look!

Quote:
So, it must be a tangible artifact, like Booth's pistol?


Pistols are examples of physical evidence, yes. Do you have the cross Jesus was crucified on? Whatever happened to it? Maybe the apostles just tossed it in the garbage not realizing its value to future generations of Christians.

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Prove in the sense of showing it absolutely certain or in the sense of one side being more plausible than the other?


I'd describe proof in the historical context as evidence that would convince reasonable persons that an event took place or that a thing or person existed. A "reasonable person" is any individual who will accept or reject evidence using reason rather than as a result of desire or fear that the historical claim may be true or false.

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Quote:
That would be one reason why philosophy is inadequate for making discoveries about reality.


Yet, you just did philosophy in arguing for the truth of that principle. That's self-defeating.


But I never said my philosophy is a discovery about reality. It's just an opinion that seems right to me.

Quote:
What about phlogiston?


I don't know. What about phlogiston?

In summary, I think that you are making the same error in reasoning that many apologists do which is shifting the burden of proof to unbelievers. Skeptics have no burden of proof to prove your beliefs wrong; rather, you have the burden to prove those beliefs to be right.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 38: Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:53 pm
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Jagella wrote:
What you're saying here doesn't make any sense. How can my skepticism about the resurrection be unfalsifiable? Is my love for chocolate unfalsifiable?


Your position is that Jesus' resurrection has a natural explanation. You said you would need to see Jesus to believe otherwise. You then said that even if you saw Jesus, there would be other available explanations and you'd always trust them over a miraculous explanation. Therefore, there is no way to falsify your position.

Your love of chocolate can be falsified, if only by an honest self-assessment.

Jagella wrote:
I'm not sure what it means to "overcome a probability." But I never said I cannot believe claims just because they are improbable. If I go with your analogy of the lottery winner, I don't have any trouble believing somebody won the lottery because it happens often enough. In fact, it's certain that some lucky person will win the lottery. Resurrections, by contrast, never seem to happen, and there's no good reason to believe they do happen. So it seems to make good sense to doubt resurrections.

But if you'd like to raise somebody from the dead, I'm willing to take a look!


That resurrections "never seem to happen" is saying they are improbable. You said Jesus' resurrection was outlandish simply because resurrections never seem to happen and that it's not even worth investigating the supposed evidence because of that. Improbability has nothing to do with the truth of the matter. I agree that burden is on the one claiming Jesus resurrected, but that requires us to actually look at the supposed evidence rather than just saying it's outlandish because it never seems to happen and, therefore, we don't even need to look at any suppossed evidence, as you were earlier saying.

Jagella wrote:
Pistols are examples of physical evidence, yes. Do you have the cross Jesus was crucified on? Whatever happened to it? Maybe the apostles just tossed it in the garbage not realizing its value to future generations of Christians.


But you said earlier that you believed Lincoln was assassinated without tangible evidence to back it up. Here you seem to be implying that our beliefs must be accompanied by tangible/physical evidence to be worth holding.

Jagella wrote:
I'd describe proof in the historical context as evidence that would convince reasonable persons that an event took place or that a thing or person existed. A "reasonable person" is any individual who will accept or reject evidence using reason rather than as a result of desire or fear that the historical claim may be true or false.


So, historical argument is a rational way to come to a belief about something? If the historical evidence points towards Jesus' resurrection versus alternative naturalistic explanations, then belief that Jesus did resurrect would be a rational belief to hold? Or is it ruled out by a naturalistic bias before even looking at the specific evidences?

Jagella wrote:
Quote:

Quote:
That would be one reason why philosophy is inadequate for making discoveries about reality.


Yet, you just did philosophy in arguing for the truth of that principle. That's self-defeating.


But I never said my philosophy is a discovery about reality. It's just an opinion that seems right to me.


I'm talking about your view that "philosophy is inadequate for making discoveries about reality." You think that is true. That claim is a philosophical claim and it is self-defeating. You think philosophy isn't very reliable, but no one can get away from engaging in philosophy to make claims about reality.

Jagella wrote:
I don't know. What about phlogiston?


You said philosophy wasn't reliable because it has been known to lead to asserting false things about reality. I shared an example of science asserting false things about reality (phlogiston). I don't think this proves science is necessarily unreliable (nor that philosophy necessarily is), but since you did I was urging you to remain consistent.

Jagella wrote:
In summary, I think that you are making the same error in reasoning that many apologists do which is shifting the burden of proof to unbelievers. Skeptics have no burden of proof to prove your beliefs wrong; rather, you have the burden to prove those beliefs to be right.


You made a positive argument that because Christians have never seen a real miracle, that no Christian miracle could be real. I was the skeptic regarding the OP. I've been countering that positive argument, which you have a burden to support.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 39: Mon Jan 07, 2019 10:11 am
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The Tanager wrote:
Your position is that Jesus' resurrection has a natural explanation. You said you would need to see Jesus to believe otherwise. You then said that even if you saw Jesus, there would be other available explanations and you'd always trust them over a miraculous explanation. Therefore, there is no way to falsify your position.


It appears that you are correct. Christian truth claims regarding the miraculous are probably not provable. There's no way to rule out naturalistic, nontheistic explanations.

Quote:
You said Jesus' resurrection was outlandish simply because resurrections never seem to happen and that it's not even worth investigating the supposed evidence because of that.


The only evidence I know of for the resurrection is the written testimony of the New Testament writers. I have investigated that evidence, and I believed it for years only to eventually doubt that the resurrection happened.

In any case, now that I've met your goal of investigating the resurrection and other supposed miracles yet have ended up a doubter, what additional goal will you set for me?

Quote:
But you said earlier that you believed Lincoln was assassinated without tangible evidence to back it up.


I can believe the story of Lincoln because I know that America has presidents and that they can be assassinated. I have no such knowledge of dead people coming back to life only to float away into the sky. It seems reasonable to me to believe claims that are based in what I know to be true and to doubt claims based in what I don't know to be true.

Quote:
Here you seem to be implying that our beliefs must be accompanied by tangible/physical evidence to be worth holding.


The missing physical evidence for Jesus seems like a good topic for a thread.

Quote:
So, historical argument is a rational way to come to a belief about something?


I'd say yes, historical investigation can be a reasonable way to come to a conclusion about the past. However, it's important to keep in mind that such conclusions are subject to revision as new evidence is discovered.

Quote:
If the historical evidence points towards Jesus' resurrection versus alternative naturalistic explanations, then belief that Jesus did resurrect would be a rational belief to hold?


I'm not sure if history is good enough to establish a resurrection. I'd say it would be more likely that the historical evidence is misleading than that a resurrection really happened. Among other difficulties, a resurrection would probably violate the second law of thermodynamics. A resurrection is about as likely as unscrambling an egg. With the arrow of time, systems go from order to disorder and almost never the other way. That's why scrambled eggs stay scrambled, and dead bodies stay dead.

Quote:
Or is it ruled out by a naturalistic bias before even looking at the specific evidences?


I suppose I do have a naturalistic bias for the simple reason that naturalism seems to work while supernaturalism fails.

Are you free of such bias? If so, then you'd be open to any miracle claims including the claims of religions not your own. Do you believe that the angel Moroni gave Joseph Smith golden tablets? Did the Virgin Mary appear in Fatima and in Lourdes?

Quote:
I'm talking about your view that "philosophy is inadequate for making discoveries about reality." You think that is true. That claim is a philosophical claim and it is self-defeating. You think philosophy isn't very reliable, but no one can get away from engaging in philosophy to make claims about reality.


Philosophy can be useful while I recognize its limitations. I'm careful not to apply philosophy to situations where it doesn't work well.

In any case, what's the point in arguing that what I'm saying is self-defeating?

Quote:
You said philosophy wasn't reliable because it has been known to lead to asserting false things about reality. I shared an example of science asserting false things about reality (phlogiston). I don't think this proves science is necessarily unreliable (nor that philosophy necessarily is), but since you did I was urging you to remain consistent.


Any philosophy or science that gets something wrong should be revised to correct any errors.

By the way, how do apologists recognize error and correct it?

Quote:
You made a positive argument that because Christians have never seen a real miracle, that no Christian miracle could be real.


I'm not sure where I said any such thing. What I do argue is that many Christians seem to be unable to recognize errors in their beliefs.

Quote:
I was the skeptic regarding the OP. I've been countering that positive argument, which you have a burden to support.


I already posted the example of the con-artist Peter Popoff deceiving Christians who are unable to see that he's conning them. What more evidence for Christians mistaking the unreal for the real would you like?

In summary, I should point out that like many apologists you attempt to shift the burden of proof to the skeptic. You also are quick to accuse skeptics of bias while apparently blind to your own bias.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 40: Mon Jan 07, 2019 4:40 pm
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Jagella wrote:
The only evidence I know of for the resurrection is the written testimony of the New Testament writers. I have investigated that evidence, and I believed it for years only to eventually doubt that the resurrection happened.

In any case, now that I've met your goal of investigating the resurrection and other supposed miracles yet have ended up a doubter, what additional goal will you set for me?


I'm not sure whether or not you have met the level of investigation I'm talking about concerning Jesus' resurrection. That's not an insult, it just means I would need more information. You talk of the evidence being the 'written testimony of the New Testament writers," but that could mean different things. I would say there are at least three pieces of evidence one needs to consider, with none of them relying on the overall reliability of NT texts: the discovery of Jesus' empty tomb, Jesus' post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples' belief in his resurrection. But from another current thread here it appears you look at historical sources as all-or-nothing. That approach cuts you off from a full historical investigation concerning any event.

Jagella wrote:
I can believe the story of Lincoln because I know that America has presidents and that they can be assassinated. I have no such knowledge of dead people coming back to life only to float away into the sky. It seems reasonable to me to believe claims that are based in what I know to be true and to doubt claims based in what I don't know to be true.


Exactly! Your naturalistic presuppositions close you off from even considering something that goes against those presuppositions, regardless of the evidence. You are holding things outside of your philosophical worldview to a different standard of truth than things that fit within your philosophical worldview. I'm not saying one isn't reasonable to start at skepticism towards Jesus' resurrection, but I do think one is unreasonable if they don't even consider things that could falsify their philosophical worldview.

Jagella wrote:
I'd say yes, historical investigation can be a reasonable way to come to a conclusion about the past. However, it's important to keep in mind that such conclusions are subject to revision as new evidence is discovered.


Absolutely. Just like science and, therefore, the philosophical statements built off of historical and scientific investigation.

Jagella wrote:
Among other difficulties, a resurrection would probably violate the second law of thermodynamics. A resurrection is about as likely as unscrambling an egg. With the arrow of time, systems go from order to disorder and almost never the other way. That's why scrambled eggs stay scrambled, and dead bodies stay dead.


Yes, if you could prove a resurrection was logically impossible, that would be something, and something philosophical at that, so I hope you are have changed your mind about the reliability of philosophy. If you have, then could you say more here? Could you give the second law of thermodynamics (since there are various formulations)? And then show exactly how a resurrection would violate that?

Jagella wrote:
Are you free of such bias? If so, then you'd be open to any miracle claims including the claims of religions not your own. Do you believe that the angel Moroni gave Joseph Smith golden tablets? Did the Virgin Mary appear in Fatima and in Lourdes?


Bias does get in all of our ways, yes. I noted a personal example not too far back in another thread. When I become aware of bias, I admit it and change my views if the evidence calls for it. Bias is not a rational thing. I'm open to any miracle claim, but I start off as a skeptic, whether they come from within my religion or not. I have looked into Joseph Smith's claims some and I remain skeptical. I have not looked into the appearances of the Virgin Mary, because I am not sure how much impact that would have on my worldview. I am open to hearing the impact it would have if true and looking at the evidence if you want. I'm open to looking at Joseph Smith, because I realize I may have not considered all the evidences about it.

Jagella wrote:
In any case, what's the point in arguing that what I'm saying is self-defeating?


Because you were using it to support something I disagreed with.

Jagella wrote:
Any philosophy or science that gets something wrong should be revised to correct any errors.

By the way, how do apologists recognize error and correct it?


The same way anyone does, through philosophy, science, history, etc. All are helpful ways in coming to our beliefs about reality.

Jagella wrote:
Quote:

You made a positive argument that because Christians have never seen a real miracle, that no Christian miracle could be real.


I'm not sure where I said any such thing. What I do argue is that many Christians seem to be unable to recognize errors in their beliefs.


Jagella wrote:
I already posted the example of the con-artist Peter Popoff deceiving Christians who are unable to see that he's conning them. What more evidence for Christians mistaking the unreal for the real would you like?

In summary, I should point out that like many apologists you attempt to shift the burden of proof to the skeptic. You also are quick to accuse skeptics of bias while apparently blind to your own bias.


If all you are saying is that there are some clear fakes out there and some Christians who are fooled by them, then I agree. Your OP question seemed to ask why one should believe any Christian claim of the miraculous. That seemed to be based on your belief that not one claim has been proven so far. That would be a positive argument that you have the burden to support and which I was critiquing. Do you not believe this? If you do believe this, why should I have the burden to prove your argument wrong? People have the burden to prove their own arguments.

And I did not accuse you of a naturalistic bias. It seems like you had such a bias, so I offered two options that seemed to me to be available to you, asking in the form of questions so that you could clarify your position, even if providing a third alternative. Instead you have admitted it is a bias. I think biases must be overcome, even if one's conclusion doesn't change.

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