"Testing the God Hypothesis," The Huffington Post,
November 6, 2013, Victor Stenger. Physicist, PhD, bestselling author "Testing the God Hypothesis ... My comments are in bold. In this article Stenger sets up a series of straw man fallacy tests:
"A straw man or straw person, also known in the UK as an Aunt Sally, is a common type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. ... To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and to refute it, without ever having actually refuted the original position. This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged, emotional issues. In those cases the false victory is often loudly or conspicuously celebrated" ("Straw man," Wikipedia, 30 October 2013)to prove, and if the test fails, to disprove the existence of God. Because Stenger set up each straw man to fail, surprise, surprise, each does fail - but only in Stenger's true-believing professional skeptic mind.
To keep this post short and on topic, I will only consider Stenger's `scientific proof' of the non-existence of God based on his paragraph about the Shroud of Turin:
•Physical and historical evidence might have been found for the miraculous events and the important narratives of the scriptures.First, there is "historical evidence ... of the miraculous events and the important narratives of the scriptures." The New Testament is itself such "historical evidence" but skeptics like Stenger, and non-Christians generally, dismiss it out of hand. Yet if they consistently applied the same criteria (assuming charitably that they have any criteria and are not driven by naked prejudice) for dismissing the New Testament, to other ancient documents, there would be little or no ancient history at all.
And if the skeptics demand independent corroborative evidence for the New Testament's major claims, then Christian philosopher Gary Habermas' "Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus" 1984), since republished as "The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ" (1996), sets out the astonishing amount of extrabiblical evidence for "the miraculous events and the important narratives of the scriptures."
And also there is "Physical ... evidence ... for the miraculous events and the important narratives of the scriptures" (ignoring for the moment the Shroud of Turin), namely the Christian Church, which is inexplicable (a major world religion, Christianity, suddenly arises and persists in the very heart, Jerusalem, of another major world religion, Judaism) unless the New Testament is true and Jesus really was God incarnate, who was crucified and arose from the dead.
For example, Roman records might have been found for an earthquake in Judea at the time of a certain crucifixion ordered by Pontius Pilate. If there were such Roman records of an earthquake near Jerusalem at the time of Jesus' crucifixion, then Stenger would probably dismiss them with the claim that the New Testament writers weaved that event into their accounts to make them sound more convincing! It is easy for Stenger to make up a test for Christianity's truth based on evidence that he knows has not been found and is very unlikely to be found in the future, and which no Christian has offered as proof that Christianity is true and therefore God exists. Note: As pointed out in a comment below, according to a 2012 Daily Mail article: "Jesus 'died on Friday, April 3, 33AD' claims study that matches crucifixion to earthquake mentioned in gospel," there actually is scientific evidence that there were earthquakes around Jerusalem "between 26AD and 36AD." But of course Stenger won't change his mind in the light of this evidence and become a Christian. He will either ignore it or attempt to explain it away.
Noah's Ark might have been discovered. Again Stenger knows that Noah's Ark has not been discovered and is unlikely to be discovered in the future. And again, if the remains of a large wooden boat, many thousands of years old, had been discovered on, or near, Mt Ararat, Stenger and his ilk would likely claim that the writer of the flood account in Genesis based his story on that boat! Moreover, only a minority of those Christians, like myself, who believe that there really was a Noah's ark (based ultimately on Jesus, who was God incarnate, stating that there was a Noah, an ark and a flood):
"For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark," (Mt 24:38; Lk 17:27)expect that a wooden structure as Noah's Ark was, would last for many thousands of years. The oldest known wooden structure, the Horyu-ji temple in Japan, was completed in AD 607, and is therefore less than 1500 years old.
The Shroud of Turin might have contained genetic material with no Y-chromosomes.It is interesting that Stenger tacitly regards the Shroud of Turin as "Physical ... evidence ... for the miraculous events and the important narratives of the scriptures." And Stenger is presumably aware that a gene found only on the male Y-chromosome was found in blood from the Shroud:
"In order to establish the sex of the individual, one can look for the testes-descending gene, which is positive only in the male. If you don't find it, however, you cannot conclude that your sample is from a female: it may be that something went wrong during the testing procedure. Another way to determine the sex is to clone the genes amelogenin-X and amelogenin-Y, and that is what Dr Tryon advised. Again he was right; the PCR technique enabled us to isolate the amelogenin-X gene from chromosome X and the amelogenin-Y gene from chromosome Y." (Garza-Valdes, L.A., "The DNA of God?" 1998, p.42)
Since the image is that of a man with a beard, this would confirm he was born of a virgin. Stenger shows a lack of thinking through the position (or rather the straw man of it) he is criticising. The Gospels clearly state that Jesus was "conceived in the womb" of the virgin Mary (my emphasis):
Mt 1:20 "But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, `Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.'"The same root Greek word for "conceived" (sullambano) is used in Lk 1:24 and 1:36 of the ordinary conception, following sexual intercourse, of John the Baptist. Therefore the virginal conception of Jesus had to be by the Holy Spirit implanting a specially created male sperm cell into one of Mary's ova. Anything else would either not be virginal, or not be conceived.
Lk 2:21. And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Or, the genetic material might contain a novel form of coding molecule not found in any other living organism. This would have proven an alien (if not divine) origin of the enshrouded being. Stenger is right, that that would show that Jesus was an "alien," i.e. that Christianity is a hoax played by extraterrestrials on humanity, not that Jesus is God who became man without ceasing to be God (Jn 1:1,14; Php 2:5-7; Heb 2:9). Christian theology has always maintained that Jesus is fully God and fully man:
"It is furthermore necessary for eternal salvation truly to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ also took on human flesh. Now this is the true Christian faith: We believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, is both God and man. He is God, eternally begotten from the nature of the Father, and he is man, born in time from the nature of his mother, fully God, fully man ..." ("Athanasian Creed," Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod).but if Jesus had "a novel form of coding molecule not found in any other living organism" then He would not have been a man at all, let alone "fully man". So Stenger requires Christianity to be false, before he would accept it as true!
Stenger, like many (if not all) true-believing skeptics pretend they are open to be convinced by the evidence that Christianity is true and therefore that God exists, but their `body language' shows that they are not, because they keep raising the bar ever higher to protect themselves from being touched by Christian evidence and arguments.
Stenger, et al., also make the fundamental mistake in thinking that God would have to provide non-Christians with such overwhelming evidence of his existence such that even the most devout atheist would have no alternative but to believe in Him. But as Blaise Pascal pointed out, God has arranged it such that:
"There is enough light to enlighten the elect and enough obscurity to humiliate them. There is enough obscurity to blind the reprobate and enough light to condemn them and deprive them of excuse." (Pascal, "Pensées," Penguin, 1966, p.73).That is, God has provided enough evidence of His existence such that those who deny it will have no excuse on the Day of Judgment for not believing in Him. But God has not provided so much evidence that would force those who don't want to believe in him to have to do so.