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October 1, 2022

Added the fifty-ninth Freethinker Podcast YouTube Interview with Jonathan Sheffield on the Reliability of the Bible (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Join host Edouard Tahmizian for over an hour with Anglican and Christian apologist Jonathan Sheffield as Jonathan overviews his case for the reliability of both the Old […]

Interview with Jonathan Sheffield on the Reliability of the Bible

Join host Edouard Tahmizian for over an hour with Anglican and Christian apologist Jonathan Sheffield as Jonathan overviews his case for the reliability of both the Old and New Testaments and Edouard questions that case. The interlocutors canvass the chain-of-custody evidence for the traditional (or attributed) authorship of the four Gospels, which books of the Bible were allegedly inspired by God given the differences between the Catholic and Protestant Old Testament canons (where Catholics recognize seven more "inspired" or Deuterocanonical books than Protestants do), how Sheffield accounts for claimed historical errors noted by Protestants in the Deuteronomical Book of Judith, why the Gospel Jesus never makes reference to the Deuterocanonical books, the understanding of the Deuterocanonical books within the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) or official works of the Jewish synagogues, whether we should take Jesus to have a divine will and/or human will, and much more! Check out this in-depth interview with a seasoned apologist on this long-debated topic!

September 30, 2022

Added A Response to Clement Dore’s Soul-Making Theodicy (2022) by Leslie Allan to the Evidential Arguments from Evil page under Arguments for Atheism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library. The soul-making theodicy seeks to explain how belief in the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good God is compatible with […]

A Response to Clement Dore’s Soul-Making Theodicy

The soul-making theodicy seeks to explain how belief in the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good God is compatible with the evil, pain, and suffering that we experience in our world. The theodicy purports to meet nontheists' arguments from evil by articulating a divine plan in which the occurrence of evil is necessary for enabling the greater good of the character-building of free moral agents. Many philosophers of religion have leveled strong objections against this theodicy, and theistic philosopher Clement Dore has responded to them. In this essay, Leslie Allan questions the effectiveness of Dore's counterarguments to two key objections to the soul-making theodicy.

The Demon, Matrix, Material World, and Dream Possibilities

René Descartes searched for certain knowledge, a goal that was long ago abandoned by most philosophers. But a lack of certainty does little to undercut the need for sufficient evidence before accepting a proposition about the nature of our experience in this world. All we need to do is think inductively rather than deductively, think exclusively in terms of probabilities, and understand that when speaking of sufficient evidence what is meant is evidence plus reasoning based on that evidence. I know as sure as I can know anything that there is a material world and that I can reasonably trust my senses. I conclude that the scientific method is our only sure way for assessing truth claims.

September 23, 2022

Added the fifty-eighth Freethinker Podcast YouTube Interview with Robyn Faith Walsh & Dennis R. MacDonald on their Differences (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Tune in with Edouard Tahmizian in this over one-hour interview with New Testament scholars Robyn Faith Walsh and Dennis R. MacDonald for a novel first-of-its-kind […]

Interview with Robyn Faith Walsh & Dennis R. MacDonald on their Differences

Tune in with Edouard Tahmizian in this over one-hour interview with New Testament scholars Robyn Faith Walsh and Dennis R. MacDonald for a novel first-of-its-kind conversation on the literary imitation of ancient Greek poetry and philosophy in the canonical Gospels. Does Mark imitate Virgil (who in turn imitates Homer)? Or is there a stronger case for imitation of Virgil in Luke-Acts? How do Mark and Paul deploy ideas in similar ways? In what ways do Achilles—and especially Hector—find their parallels in the Gospels? These and other questions are addressed before the discussion turns to the bigger-picture view of literary networks and mimetic chains where authors imitate other imitations. Given the common background agreement between Walsh and MacDonald about the 'game' that the ancients were playing in their writings, where do their perspectives diverge on Q source material? One must separate the question of whether there ever existed a Q document from the question of whether such a document, assuming that it did exist, can ever be reconstructed into a meaningfully readable document today (especially since there are several plausible reconstructions of Q). Can Q reasonably be viewed as a collection of the sayings of John the Baptist? And what should we make of Jesus mythicism? Do Jesus mythicists selectively cherry-pick the historical evidence, or not? Does it even matter whether a historical Jesus existed since the Gospel Jesus is clearly not the historical Jesus anyway? Check out this fantastic interview with world-class philologians finally getting together to discuss the interpretation of literature while highlighting their areas of interest and respectful disagreement!

September 8, 2022

Added the fifty-seventh Freethinker Podcast YouTube third interview with Keith Augustine on Afterlife Research (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this 45-minute interview with Keith Augustine as they canvass Augustine’s recent exchange with prominent psychical researchers in the Journal of Scientific Exploration (JSE). On […]

Interview with Keith Augustine on Afterlife Research

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this 45-minute interview with Keith Augustine as they canvass Augustine's recent exchange with prominent psychical researchers in the Journal of Scientific Exploration (JSE). On Thanksgiving 2021, the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies (BICS) published 29 essays that it had deemed provided "hard evidence 'beyond a reasonable doubt'" for the survival of human consciousness after death. In the Summer 2022 JSE, Augustine critiqued the best of the lot, with the selected authors defending their contest-winning essays against Augustine's critique, and Augustine in turn responding to their defense before participating in a collaboration to design a preregistered experimental design that might advance the scientific debate if implemented. In this interview, Augustine delves into scientific versus legal standards of evidence and how they amount to the same thing for the purposes of this competition, what simple historical tests of survival after death have found, how researchers have used proxy sittings to make it more difficult for mediums to read cues from sitters (séance participants), how one might test paranormal powers scientifically in general, and the neuroscientific case against life after death. Tune in for a discussion that moves these issues outside of the parapsychological echo chamber and into the wider world for everyone to contemplate!

August 31, 2022

Added Can Naturalism Make Room for Reincarnation? (2022) by R. N. Carmona to the Conceptual Arguments section of the Life after Death/Immortality page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library. When one normally thinks of reincarnation, one has in mind a caricature, an oversimplification. Modern-day science can be marshaled in to lend […]

Can Naturalism Make Room for Reincarnation?

When one normally thinks of reincarnation, one has in mind a caricature, an oversimplification. Modern-day science can be marshaled in to lend support to a kind of reincarnation. The combination of traits that make you you, no matter how multifarious, are finite. This implies that given a long enough time, some sentient being, whether Homo sapiens sapiens or something very similar to our own species, will come to believe in the same you that you believe constitutes you. This, to my mind, is how naturalism makes room for "reincarnation." Thus naturalists should shun the habit of dismissing an idea because it is religious or apparently supernatural. However, while such a naturalistic conception of reincarnation is logically coherent, it still exceedingly unlikely, and that fact should count for something. Ultimately, reincarnation is incompatible with naturalism, but not because it is too mystical—but rather because even the strongest "steel man" notion of reincarnation considered here is undermined by the simple fact that one's full set of experiences is very unlikely to recur in the life of another person no matter how long the universe goes on.

August 23, 2022

Added the fifty-sixth Freethinker Podcast YouTube third interview with Robert M. Price on Mythicism as Scholarship (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. In a June 2022 interview with Edouard Tahmizian, New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald admonished Richard Carrier for misappropriating his work in the service of Jesus mythicism. […]

Interview with Robert M. Price on Mythicism as Scholarship

In a June 2022 interview with Edouard Tahmizian, New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald admonished Richard Carrier for misappropriating his work in the service of Jesus mythicism. In a responding interview on August 1, Carrier disputed MacDonald's characterization, and published a longer missive titled "Dennis MacDonald's Change of Position" on his website on August 23. In this 40-minute interview with esteemed biblical scholar Robert M. Price on the same day, Price argues that while MacDonald himself is certainly no mythicist, nevertheless MacDonald's work is not merely compatible with Jesus mythicism, but suggestive of it. The discussion then turns to whether Jesus' disciples really had any understanding that Jesus would be resurrected from the dead on the third day, and if not, whether there could be any historicity to the account of guards being stationed to look after Jesus' tomb (as argued by D. A. Carson). Further issues concern the evolution of the understanding of whether Jesus is said to have had a spiritual or physical resurrection, how mythicists explain 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 (in part by interpreting to the archons of this age to refer to spiritual entities, not human leaders), and what central point Justin Martyr is trying to drive home, among other things. Tune in for this wide-ranging interview with a scholar of scholars!

August 15, 2022

New in the Kiosk: Psychology is Not a Science—But Fear Not (2022) by Justin Ykema In this article, Justin Ykema argues that psychology fails to meet the criteria necessary to qualify as an empirical science. Particularly problematic is how psychology could ever fulfill those criteria centered around the concepts of testability and reproducibility. However, this […]

Psychology is Not a Science—But Fear Not

In this article, Justin Ykema argues that psychology fails to meet the criteria necessary to qualify as an empirical science. Particularly problematic is how psychology could ever fulfill those criteria centered around the concepts of testability and reproducibility. However, this controversial conclusion should not be taken to imply that psychology has nothing to offer that is worthy of study. On the contrary, Ykema argues, psychology can thrive as a discipline centered on the statistical analysis of the data collected by psychologists, but as more of a mathematical pursuit than a scientific one.

Interview with Jason Thibodeau on Biblical Determinism

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this over one-hour interview with Cypress College philosophy professor Jason Thibodeau as they deconstruct John Kearney’s defense of Adam’s accountability for the first sin (rather than God’s). Kearney’s defense centers around the idea that although Adam was not born with an ingrained disposition to sin, he nevertheless developed such a disposition when tempted by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. For according to Kearney, God was under no obligation to create creatures for which committing sin was impossible, and indeed it would be better for them to have to earn moral righteousness by being tempted to sin and not succumb to that temptation. Kearney provides little in the way of an actual argument for this claim, and regardless, the interlocutors show that this maneuver would entail that God had actually created Adam with a positive inclination to sin, bringing us back to the question of why in the world a morally perfect God would ever do that. Check out this in-depth analysis of another failed attempt to resolve an irresolvable theological contradiction!

August 9, 2022

Added the fifty-fourth Freethinker Podcast YouTube third interview with Dennis R. MacDonald on Mimesis, Richard Carrier, and Jesus (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this 45-minute interview with New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald on his September 2022 3-volume reference work Synopses of Epic […]

Interview with Dennis R. MacDonald on Mimesis and More

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this 45-minute interview with New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald on his September 2022 3-volume reference work Synopses of Epic Tragedy in the Gospels on the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John, and the narratives of the Acts of the Apostles. The interlocutors go on to discuss a central theme of that upcoming verse-by-verse commentary, mimesis (literary imitation), not only of Old Testament themes, but even more so of ancient Greek poetry and philosophy. Their discussion then turns to how the forced arguments of Jesus mythicists unscientifically retrofit the historical data to suit their pre-existing views in the same way as conspiracy theorists, and how the Jewish authorities' response to the empty tomb story supports the existence of a historical Jesus (regardless of the validity of the empty tomb story itself). They then turn to the plausibility of John Dominic Crossan's thesis that Mark is simply an extended parable, which MacDonald believes makes little sense since we need mimesis to understand how Mark rewrites the earlier Q document to be a modest biography infused by Mark with Greek mythology to render it more of an epic than a parable. Finally, MacDonald explains his view of a historical Jesus as a radical Jewish reformer who paid the price for trying to make Jewish law more humane. Check out this intriguing interview with the author of the most important book ever written on the Gospels!

August 1, 2022

Added the fifty-third Freethinker Podcast YouTube fourth interview with Richard Carrier on Jesus mythicism (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Join Freethinker Podcast host Edouard Tahmizian in this nearly 40-minute interview with historian and freethinker Richard C. Carrier as Carrier responds to New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald’s statement […]

Interview with Richard Carrier on Jesus Mythicism

Join Freethinker Podcast host Edouard Tahmizian in this nearly 40-minute interview with historian and freethinker Richard C. Carrier as Carrier responds to New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald's statement that fellow atheists like Carrier have misappropriated his work, MacDonald's forthcoming definitive reference on the metahistory on the mythologized Gospels, the scholarship of Robyn Faith Walsh on mythologizing Jesus, the penal substitution model of atonement (where Jesus 'sits in' to brutally bear the punishment for our sins), how to square Paul the Apostle's words with a mythicist picture of Jesus as just another mythologized iteration of dying and rising gods, whether the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas is early or late compared to the canonical Gospels, and how Jesus Seminarian John Dominic Crossan's take on that issue compares to that of Mark Goodacre. Check out this fascinating interview with a historian as he shows his wide-ranging command of the historical record!

July 30, 2022

Added In Defense of a Subjective Condition on Proving Religious Miracles (2022) by Alberto G. Urquidez to the Argument from Miracles page under Arguments for the Existence of a God in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library. The argument from miracles is typically held to motivate not only the conclusion that God […]

Interview with Bill Gaede on the Train Paradox and Counterespionage

Join Freethinker Podcast host Edouard Tahmizian in this 40-minute interview with Rational Science podcaster Bill Gaede about what Albert Einstein's train paradox reveals (or doesn't reveal) about the nature of time and the measurement of it, how the standard physical concept of spacetime (e.g., in concepts like simultaneity, time dilation, time travel, and warping spacetime) reifies time, and how the mathematization of physics is divorced from physical reality. In the final three-quarters of the interview, Gaede turns to how his counterintelligence work against Cuba created a spy-versus-spy dynamic that the Cuban government unsuccessfully tried to exploit. Tune-in for any always-fascinating interview with a contender for the most interesting man in the world (with or without the Dos Equis)!

Did Jesus of Nazareth Rise from the Dead?

The resurrection of Jesus is a fundamental belief to Christians. But nonbelievers have to reconcile the fact that any resurrection occurrence would break the laws of biology with the fact that very early Christians had unshakeable beliefs that Jesus had risen from the dead. Two possibilities exist for those with a naturalistic worldview. Was the Resurrection a hoax to which they all subscribed, or did they genuinely believe in its reality? In this essay, Robert Shaw addresses this question with his characteristic sagacity.

In Defense of a Subjective Condition on Proving Religious Miracles

The argument from miracles is typically held to motivate not only the conclusion that God exists, but also that one should believe 'in' God. In other words, if God exists, so the argument goes, then we must also adopt whatever religious precepts and practices God happens to command. In this essay, Alberto G. Urquidez challenges that presumption. Even if successful—as dubious as that supposition is—an argument from miracles does not entail religious belief in God. Such belief requires further subjective ascription of strong religious significance. A religious miracle obligates religious conversion, which goes beyond rational assent to religious propositions. Since arguments from miracles are descriptive rather than normative, they are insufficient to obligate religious conversion. Once the the necessary conditions for establishing a religious miracle are laid bare, Urquidez shows that they render it impossible to objectively establish a miracle so as to be a just foundation for a religion.

July 16, 2022

Added the fifty-first Freethinker Podcast YouTube second interview with Bill Gaede on 4-dimensional cubes and his former life as a spy (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Join Freethinker Podcast host Edouard Tahmizian in this 45-minute interview with Rational Science podcaster Bill Gaede about the conceivability of 4-dimensional spatial […]

Interview with Bill Gaede on 4-D Cubes and Tradecraft

Join Freethinker Podcast host Edouard Tahmizian in this 45-minute interview with Rational Science podcaster Bill Gaede about the conceivability of 4-dimensional spatial cubes—hypercubes or tesseracts—and his fascinating former life as a Cuban spy. After noting his intellectual "falling out" with Carl Sagan over his atheism, his reliance on mathematical physics and the modern conception of the scientific method, and his Polyannish vision of humanity's future, Gaede explains how the mathematical concept of dimensions differs from the physicist's concept of them. Sagan, for example, conceptualizes a 2-D square as a shadow of a 3-D cube, and goes on to conceptualize a tesseract as the 3-D shadow of a 4-D hypercube. But is such a hypothetical entity physically conceivable? If time is conceived of as the fourth dimension that connects the perpendicular lines in our visual representations of a tesseract, then the tesseract actually involves nested times (when rotated or moving), such that you really have two dimensions of time added (for 5 dimensions, not 4), rendering it conceptually impossible. In the second half of the interview, Gaede talks about his life in Argentina before he worked as a manager for Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) in California, passing trade secrets on to the Cuban government from the mid-1960s until 1979, before turning himself in to the CIA in 1992 and then doing counterintelligence as a double agent for the FBI at Intel, passing on disinformation back to the Cubans thereafter. Gaede recounts the fascinating story of how AMD's discovery of his betrayal ultimately led to his cover being blown. Check out this fascinating dive into the conceivability of purely mathematical concepts that dovetails into the perils of life as an industrial spy!

July 8, 2022

Added the fifty-first Freethinker Podcast YouTube third interview with Jason Thibodeau on 4-dimensional cubes (2022) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web. Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this about 30-minute interview with returning Cypress College philosophy professor Jason Thibodeau as they outline the fascinating properties of a 4-dimensional spatial cube, or […]

Interview with Jason Thibodeau on 4-D Cubes

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this about 30-minute interview with returning Cypress College philosophy professor Jason Thibodeau as they outline the fascinating properties of a 4-dimensional spatial cube, or tesseract, by first considering how a creature living in Flatland, a 2-dimensional universe consisting of only length and width, would react to an intersection with that universe by a 3rd-dimensional object or entity. With this analogy to higher-dimensional space in mind, the interlocutors consider how we 3-Drs would react to the intervention of an 4-D being into our 3-D universe. Carl Sagan had suggested that although a Flatlander would not be able to perceive the 3-dimensional height of a 3-D creature, Flatlanders might be able to perceive its 2-dimensional shadow. The discussion turns to whether or not Sagan was right about this: would a 2-D creature actually be able to perceive anything from a 3-D object or entity? If so, what would it be able to perceive? Would it even be conceptually possible for a 3-Dr to exist in a 2-D space, or for a 4-Dr to exist in a 3-D space? If not a 4th spatial dimension, what is it that massive objects curve when they curve spacetime, according to Einstein's theory of general relativity Check out this mind-blowing discussion of modality, conceivability, and possibility!

July 1, 2022

Added the Secularism symposium of the Biblical Studies Carnival to the Secular Frontier blog. Thanks to the tireless efforts Internet Infidels President John MacDonald, the Secular Frontier hosted the Biblical Studies Carnival for the month of June, posted on their site on July 1. John aims for a future where secularists confront both the religious […]

Interview with Richard Schoenig on Original Sin

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this 40-minute interview with Richard Schoenig, a retired philosophy professor at San Antonio College who's published unique contributions to the philosophy of religion on original sin, the unfairness of Heaven, the objectivity of ethics in a naturalistic universe, and arguments from evil against the existence of God. In the first half of the interview, the interlocutors tackle whether God is the origin of evil per Edouard's "God is Either the Efficient or Final Cause of Evil" (and why—a là French Enlightenment encyclopedist Denis Diderot—God seems to care more about his apples than his children). Then the interlocutors turn to how the Garden of Eden story (and the original sin moral of it) is the edifice of Christianity since without it, salvation from Hell is not necessary in the first place (i.e., Christianity posits the disease so that it can sell you the cure). Finally, Schoenig canvasses the many human beings who, according to Western monotheism, were unable to achieve salvation through no fault of their own—such as those who died in utero, before the age of accountability, with mental handicaps, before Jesus (or other human messengers who delivered the purported requirements of salvation) even existed, or without ever having heard those requirements—whom Schoenig points out constitute the vast majority of human beings that have ever existed. Schoenig notes that attempts to ensure the fairness of salvation by loosening the requirements for the otherwise "unabled" to obtain it simply shift the unfairness of salvation on to the "abled." Unorthodox alternatives like universalism and postmortem-opportunity proposals raise their own vexing problems. Check out this in-depth interview on a fascinating "big picture" critique of Western monotheism!