An Appeal to Scientific Consensus Isn’t an Appeal to Authority

Related to my post yesterday, I will occasionally be told that my appeal to the scientific consensus is just an appeal to authority. I want to clear up exactly what I’m saying, and what my statement actually means, when I offer the scientific consensus in my arguments

It’s true that the consensus of scientists is not necessarily a perfect model of reality. It cannot be, because all abstractions necessarily leak. Scientists recognize this, as they accept that all theories in science are provisional, and they can be overturned in the light of new evidence. But here’s the crux of the matter: Scientists in their fields of specialty, are, by far, the best people to examine, understand, and evaluate the evidence. For a non-expert you’re much more likely to make a mistake, and not even know it.

When a healthy majority of scientists, working in a related field, tell us that a particular theory is the best explanation they have, we should accept their authority on this matter, because we non-experts don’t have anything better. If you disagree, what other method do you propose that is even more reliable than the consensus of scientists?

It’s also important to remember that science is self-correcting. If the current consensus position is wrong, there are (or will eventually be) scientists who understand why the current consensus is wrong, and they are probably working very hard to show the rest of the scientific community why they are wrong! Prestige in science isn’t obtained because you agree with the status-quo; rather prestige is gained when the status-quo is overturned. The person who overturned the status-quo is the one who becomes famous, and is often awarded a Nobel prize.

When I claim that the scientific community accepts evolution, I’m telling what the scientific community has been telling all of us: That evolution is the single best tested explanation, that the scientific community has, for the diversity of life on Earth. Nobody has ever presented a better hypothesis that explains all of the evidence, relies on the fewest assumptions, and is not contradicted by any evidence. You and I (as non-experts) have no business contesting the findings of the scientific community.

Now, if you want to contest such findings, then my suggestion is to go out, become an expert by getting a relevant PhD, and then start trying to show the scientific community where they are wrong. Present the evidence to the people who understand the domain better than anyone else. If you’re right, they will listen. If you’re wrong, they will tell you exactly why in terms you should understand. To do anything else is simply denialism.

For Those Who Reject Evolution

If you are somebody who rejects the Theory of Evolution, I have several questions I’d like to ask you. I’m interested in determining several things about your position. I’m also willing to work with other areas of scientific discourse, like Big Bang cosmology, as the questions only need to be tweaked slightly.

What is your scientific background? Have you earned any PhD’s in any field related to biology, and if so, where did you earn these degrees from? Is this institution accredited by any government recognized accreditation agency, like the New England Association of Schools and Colleges? Getting a PhD from a degree mill, like Patriot Bible University, really isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, even if you spent thousands of dollars on it.

Have you ever had any papers published in reputable, peer reviewed, journals on topics related to biology? If so, approximately how many, and when was your last paper published?

If you have a PhD or have published papers

Congratulations. You’re among a very elite group of people in the world that has sufficient background to actually understand the scientific evidence, and the theory, to be able to take a reasonably informed position on evolution. You may be correct in your position regarding evolution, but I have no way to know. As a layman, I do not have the background knowledge to properly evaluate the evidence, so I’m forced to accept the scientific consensus.

The rest of this post isn’t for you. Your job is to go out and convince the rest of the scientific community that the Theory of Evolution is not correct. I probably don’t need to tell you that you have your work cut out for you. Evolution has been an accepted scientific theory for well over 100 years, and doesn’t appear to have been falsified. If you can reverse the consensus of your fellow scientists on Evolution, I’ll gladly come along and accept whatever new theory becomes the consensus.

If you don’t have a PhD and haven’t published papers

If you do not have a PhD in some field of biology, and you have never published any papers related to biology, do you recognize that you are not an expert when it comes to matters of biology? What has convinced you to believe that you have sufficient expertise to evaluate the evidence for the Theory of Evolution?

Do you current accept any other position to explain the diversity of life on Earth, like Intelligent Design? Keep in mind that I do understand that rejecting one theory does not mean that you accept any other.

Have you taken any post-secondary courses that deal with evolution, that try to explain it to non-scientists, or explain why scientists accept the theory?

Do you reject all of science, or is it only particular theories in science that you have trouble accepting? Do you accept the theory of Special Relativity which tells us that time is not absolute, and that “now” is a relative concept?

What would it take to convince you that you, an admitted non-expert, should accept the scientific consensus, in this case, that the Theory of Evolution is the best explanation we currently have for the diversity of life on Earth? Could you ever be convinced to accept the position of expert scientists on this matter, or are you convinced that you know better?

Please feel free to leave your answers in the comment section below!

If Christianity Is True Why Are There So Many Denominations?

One of the puzzling things about Christianity is the fact that there are over 30,000 Christian denominations (and growing), and they most don’t seem to agree on much of anything.  The intersection of belief among all Christian denominations is vanishingly small, if not completely null.

The first problem we have is that Christianity appears to be diverging from truth, as the number of denominations is growing. If Christianity is actually, and objectively, true then we should expect that Christians will converge on that truth of its doctrines, in much the same way that science converges on truth over time. This doesn’t seem to be happening though.

If one was to pick any particular doctrine of Christianity, you almost certainly find that there is some strong disagreement about that doctrine from some group of Christians.  The role of tradition, infant baptism, the trinity, confession, faith and works vs faith alone. You name it and there’s probably some large group that disagrees with a position.

What makes this situation so fundamentally absurd to me is there there is supposed to be an all-knowing, all-powerful, being who already has the answers to these doctrine problems. God could, without any effort, make the answer obvious to every Christian. God had no problem inspiring the Biblical authors, why can’t he inspire every other Christian with the truth?

The fact that Christians can’t agree on what’s true, and that they don’t seem to have any reliable means to determine it, tells me that they probably don’t have good reasons for believing what they do.

Can We Know the Contents of Any Original NT Document?

Here’s a thought experiment for anybody who holds that the original manuscripts of the New Testament were inerrant, and that we have a reliable record of the original manuscripts.

Imaging your favorite book of the New Testament, perhaps one of the epistles, or even the gospels. Now imagine that the author has just produced their first manuscript copy, and now somebody begins to work on a second copy, but during this process several mistakes are made. Perhaps an entire chapter was missed, or some doctrine related error is created. Regardless of what errors are introduced, this second copy is now no longer identical to the first, and may have significant problems.  Remember, none of these books were considered holy scripture until centuries later, so a copyist may not have been concerned with perfect reproduction.

Now the important part of the thought experiment: Imagine that after the second copy is produced that a fire destroys the original text. Now the only copy that we’re left with is this second version that contains some number of errors, and the original manuscripts are lost.

Here’s the challenge to my Christian friends. Under this scenario, how do you know that the copies we have today are actually representative of the original text? How could you recover the original text if something like this happened? Can you be sure that my hypothetical scenario didn’t happen, and if so how? Sure, what I’m presenting is completely speculative, but given the relative darkness around the composition and re-transmission of these works, I really don’t see how we can say that we have an accurate record of the original documents.  What’s worse is that this is far from the only way we lose the original to time.

I’m willing to grant that it’s quite likely that all of the books were copied many multiples of times, and that there was likely a broad tree of copies of copies of copies of copies made, but I have to assume this because nobody actually knows.  If the assumption of copies is false then we really can’t have confidence in the copies we have today. Without either the actual original documents, or a good understanding of the chain of transmission, it really is impossible to actually know what the original documents contained. The best we can say is what is the originals most likely looked like, but it’s a game of probabilities, and assumptions.

 

Pascal’s Wager Isn’t a Good Defense

I’d rather believe in God and be wrong than not believe and be wrong. If I’m wrong, no harm no foul, when I die I’m just dead. But if you’re wrong, what happens when you die? It’s too sad to even think about.”
– A Christian believer

I don’t know if I can tell you how many times I’ve come across this type of defense for the Christian faith. It’s probably in the thousands, and every time I hear it I cringe just a little bit.

There are a number of problems with Pascals wager, and in case you haven’t heard them before I’d like to enumerate some of them:

It’s Not Evidence

It doesn’t present any compelling reason to believe, rather it simply tries to argue that one should believe because the costs of not believing are greater than costs of belief. It completely ignores that beliefs should be true, and instead attempts to make an appeal to emotion, and undesirable consequences. “Remember, if you’re wrong about the Christian God then you risk eternal torture, and you don’t want that, do you?”

God The Mafia Boss

If you’re going to believe things because of threats, and intimidation, then I have to say that you don’t honestly value truth, you value being comfortable. I’d rather have good reasons, and evidence, behind my beliefs, and not be scared into believing things.

If I need to be scared into believing that something is true, as a last resort, then God is more like a mafia boss than an all loving being. Threats don’t work as a reason to believe.

It Assumes There Aren’t Other Possibilities

By far, the strongest reason to discard the wager is that it is, fundamentally, a false dichotomy. The wager assumes that there are only two choices: Christianity, or atheism. It’s entirely possible that God exists, but that there is no afterlife, or that there is an afterlife and different criteria are used for judgement. There are plenty of alternative choices to Christianity, and atheism isn’t the only alternative.

Consider the possibility that Islam is true. If Islam is true then Christianity is necessarily a false religion, and everyone who is not a Muslim faces the possibility of the Islamic Hell. For the Christian, even though they have been faithful Christians, they have spent their entire life believing something false, my be punished for not holding the correct beliefs.

Another possibility is that God exists and actually understands how bad the evidence for its existence actually is. Such a God may value skepticism and reward those who understood that the evidence doesn’t support religious beliefs, or punish those who are too credulous. If this is true, only the non-religious are rewarded, and the religious have wasted their lives believing nonsense once again.

It Assumes Belief Is A Choice

The wager relies on the assumption that someone can just believe whatever they want. It ignores the reality that beliefs are not a choice. I don’t have the power to just believe whatever I want. I have no control over what I think, or what I believe. Those are things that just happen inside my brain. I can no more choose to believe that God exists than I can believe that an invisible giant purple elephant is sleeping in my closet.

It Assumes That False Beliefs Have No Cost

Even if there is no God, it’s not like false beliefs have no cost. If this is actually the only life that we will ever have, do you really want to waste it believing that you’re going to get another life? Think of the plethora of alternatives that you have, and how you could have spent that time instead. If God doesn’t exist, every time you prayed for something you could have been actually doing something about it.

Think of all the time you could have spent with loved ones, and enriched their lives. How much of your precious time are you willing to sacrifice to things that aren’t real? A minute? A day? A year? 20 years? Your entire life? Don’t believe something just because of possible, yet unknowable, consequences. Believe because the evidence really does support an idea, rather than retreat into “I’d rather believe.”

It’s Not Meant For The Skeptic

I’ve become rather convinced, having heard this line of reasoning so many times, that it’s not actually meant to convince the skeptics. The argument is the last bastion of defense for beliefs. Its job is to reassure believers that, regardless how badly they are beaten, they always have a good reason for their Christian beliefs. It’s a safe space that provide a protective cocoon.

If you had good reasons, and compelling evidence, you wouldn’t need to retreat into Pascal’s bomb shelter wager.

The Paradoxes of Atheism?!

Back in 2013 Neil Shenvi wrote an article trying to outline three things that he considers paradoxes of atheism. While the article is quite old, I think it deals directly with why I started this blog. After all, who knew that not believing in the gods could give rise to paradoxes?! It’s unfortunate that nonsense like this exists, and I want to address it. I think the main problem is that theists don’t have enough awareness of alternate explanations, and are always looking for ways to force everything into match their worldview.

According to Shenvi the following are paradoxes if you don’t believe in the gods:

  • truth-seeking
  • moral reflection
  • moral motivation

Truth Seeking

“If a truth-loving God doesn’t exist, then truth-seeking is neither intrinsically good nor morally obligatory. Therefore, paradoxically, the Christian has grounds to urge all people to seek the truth and to claim it is their moral obligation to seek the truth whereas the atheist has no grounds to urge others to seek the truth or to claim it is their moral obligation to do so.”

The first thing to come out of this is to ask the question: Do we have a moral obligation to seek the truth? It’s important to remember that reality itself doesn’t care what we believe, or how we act. Only those who have to deal with the consequences of our actions care about how we act. Since our beliefs inform our actions then what we believe has an impact on how we act. I think we do have a moral obligation to truth in the sense that if somebody wants to live around me, and I’m potentially affected by the beliefs, then I want them to believe true things, and not believe false things. I want the actions of others to be the least harmful to me that they can be.

I think it’s also important to point out that philosophy, literally the love of knowledge, arose sometime around 2600 years ago in ancient Greece. The people who first started exploring philosophy had no concept of a “truth-loving God.” It stands to reason that these first philosophers had reasons, other than their belief in the gods, as their motivation to determine truth. Why Christians think that they have a lock on truth seeking, when there were genuine truth seekers before Jesus, is beyond me. It’s not much different from the Christian who claims that science is an invention of Christianity. Christians developed science not because of their Christianity, but rather it was in spite of it, and I think the same holds true for truth seeking.

Truth seeking is ultimately an exercise in having a good understanding of likely consequences to our actions. This means that I perform actions that are likely to have desirable outcomes, and avoid actions that are likely to have undesirable outcomes. Once I understand outcomes, I can now take my values and try to make decisions that are consistent with those values. Remember, reality doesn’t care about what we think, or how we act, but other humans do, and we have to live with those people. If you don’t care what happens to you, or what the rest of us are going to do about you, then by all means, believe whatever you want.

Moral Reflection

Suffering and evil in the world is so prolific and horrendous that we instinctively avoid thinking about it to preserve our happiness. If Christianity is true, then all suffering and evil will one day be destroyed and healed. If atheism is true, suffering and evil are pointless and will never be rectified. So, paradoxically, a Christian gains the emotional resources to reflect honestly on suffering by reflecting on reality (as he perceives it) while an atheist gains the emotional resources to reflect honestly on suffering only by ignoring reality (as he perceives it).

This is a really poor argument, and I’d contend that it’s not much of an argument at all. If anything it points out the hypocrisy of some atheists who ignore the suffering of others around them, but this says absolutely nothing about the existence of gods. It’s simply an appeal to emotions to try and convince people that the best answer for suffering is wishful thinking, rather than ignoring reality.

There is real suffering in the world, and neither sticking your head in the ground, or any amount of wishful thinking about an afterlife, are going to do anything to reduce the amount of suffering in the world. The best way to deal with suffering is to have the best understanding of reality that we can. This allows us to understand the causes of suffering, and what can be done to stop suffering. Again, understanding and seeking of truth is the best way that we have to make real, and positive, changes in our world.

Do I do enough to reduce suffering in the world? Probably not. Do I claim to be morally perfect, and capable of stopping all suffering in the world? Definitely not. Is God perfectly moral, and capable of stopping all suffering in the world right now? Yes. Does God stop the suffering in the world? Not as far as I can tell. So why appeal to a being that doesn’t do anything to solve problems anyways? How does Christian theism actually deal with the problem of suffering? It simply doesn’t.

Moral Motivation

If Christianity is true, then all of our moral choices have tremendous, eternal significance. If atheism is true, then none of our moral choices have any eternal significance. So, paradoxically, the Christian gains the motivation to act morally by reflecting on reality (as he perceives it) while the atheist gains the motivation to act morally only by ignoring reality (as he perceives it).

This has to be one of the worst arguments for acting morally. The idea that without eternal significance to our actions that our actions are meaningless ignores the fundamental fact that our actions have real consequences now. I don’t know about Christians, but I care about what happens today, and what’s going to happen during the rest of my life. Maybe fantasies about a world of eternal bliss and paradise would be enough to make me stop caring about reality, but I’m not interested in fantasy. I’m interested in what our actions do today, and the consequences they will have for the billions of other humans, and other sentient animals, that we have to share our planet with.

I don’t need to know that my actions will have eternal consequences in order to act (or not act) in certain ways. Even if my actions only have consequences for a few seconds, I still want to act in ways that promote the well being of myself and the well being of others. This is simply a selfish policy because if I don’t give a damn about you, you’re not going to give a damn about me. I want to be alive, and having 8 billion other people not care about me isn’t conducive to me staying alive.

If you cannot understand that your actions will affect others, and their actions will affect you, then I don’t know what else I can tell you. It almost feels like some Christians are only moral beings because they’ve been told that if they don’t behave properly they’re going to be eternally punished. As somebody who’s been outside the Christian fold for decades, the mentality of some people seems completely foreign to me.

Why Christians think that articles, like the one I’m critiquing, are good support for their Christian views may remain a mystery for a long time. At least I will try to counter their points, and try to bring some sense back into reality. I do hope that they can at least see that we’re all connected, in some way, to everyone else, and that we need to live like we are connected if we want to survive.

“If Christ Rose From the Dead, Then, Game Over, Christianity Is True.”

Christian apologist Frank Turek wrote an article about a year ago where he makes the claim that:

If Christ rose from the dead, then, game over, Christianity is true. On the other hand, if he didn’t rise from the dead, then, as a first-century eyewitness by the name of Paul admitted, Christianity is false.

There are a couple of things wrong with this, and I want to take a minute to address them.  There are other problems in the article, but this seems the most serious.

First, Paul may have been an eyewitness to Jesus. We simply don’t know. Paul claims to have met Jesus after his resurrection, but we have no way to confirm that this is true. It seems rather unlikely to me that Paul was an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry, or any other events before his death. I’m willing to grant that Paul probably had some experience, but I simply do not accept that we can call Paul an “eyewitness” to anything about Jesus.

The second point is much more serious. The assertion that “if Christ rose from the dead then Christianity is true” is a non-sequitur. I can’t stress enough:  Even if Jesus did rise from the dead this in itself is not good evidence that Christianity is true, because you don’t know how Jesus rose from the dead. Turek is effectively making an assertion, as Christian apologists do, that Jesus rising from the dead can only be explained by Jesus being God, and I don’t know how one can make such a bold assertion.

I’ve written before about a possible supernatural explanation alternative to the resurrection. I don’t think my supernatural explanation is probable, but it is an alternative, and I don’t think it’s any worse than the Christian explanation. What makes this whole situation a problem is that we have no way to distinguish between which one of these explanations is better (or more likely) than the other. We don’t even have a way to know if either of these explanations are even physically possible!

My short point is that even if Jesus rose from the dead we still have no good reason to believe that it was because Jesus was God, or that any of of the other claims of Christianity are true. To do so is to succumb to superstition and ignorance, and that’s not a reliable pathway to truth.

There Really Is No Evidence for God

Cameron Bertuzzi, of Capturing Christianity, recently posted a video criticizing Hemant Mehta, of The Friendly Atheist, for stating that “there is no evidence for God.” I wish to take this chance to defend Hemant’s assertion, and rebut the charge that there is evidence for God.

Before we get started, I want to point out that I think Bertuzzi does very little to offer the principle of charity to the arguments that he’s addressing. The principle of charity, for those unfamiliar, is the idea that you should try to interpret your opponents position in the best possible light, and fight against the strongest interpretation of what your opponent has said. Typical of Christian apologists, Bertuzzi seems to be looking for the “gotcha” quick hits that he can use. It’s not really relevant to this post, and I’m not pointing this out is not meant to rebut his argument (as this would be an ad hominem fallacy), but I do find it an interesting observation about Christian apologetic responses to counter apologetics. It’s one of the reasons that I find Christian apologists to be so slimy, and dishonest in their approach.

My problem with the claim that there is any “evidence” for God is that none of it is actually evidence for God. If you want to present evidence in support for some particular claim then that evidence has to be something that we would expect to find if that claim was true. For example, if I claim that I own a dog then you should expect to find various bits of evidence that I do actually own a dog. There should be dog food in my house, perhaps a bowl on the floor, dog hairs in the carpet, perhaps a small bed on the floor, a leash, or even testimony of others that they’ve seen a dog living in my house. All of these would be credible evidence that I own a dog. But what if we’re talking about God, a being that is often described as a space-less, timeless, immaterial, all powerful, all knowing, eternal mind that created everything. What exactly would constitute evidence for such a being? What predictions does the existence of God make? It seems rather obvious that there really aren’t any predictions we can make about God. As Christians love to tell me “God’s ways are not our ways.”

At one point in the video Bertuzzi asks the question “what type of thing could create the entire universe?” which he then answers with “God could” after an astoundingly long pause that make him seem like he’s trying to think. I have to ask the question: Why is the existence of the universe evidence for God? What makes you think that God would want to create a universe at all? I fail to understand why the existence of the universe could EVER be considered evidence for some all powerful, all knowing, eternal mind. My personal position is that I think there’s only one thing that might be considered “evidence” for God, specifically a God that supposedly wants to have a relationship with humans (although why such a being would want to have a relationship with us is still unanswered, and not really a prediction of God either) is that of people actually having a relationships with God. The obvious problem is that this kind of “evidence” isn’t something we have any way to verify. My claim that I have a personal relationship with the creator of the cosmos is something that even I cannot verify about myself, so why should I accept that anyone else has a personal relationship with God? Claims are easy to make.

As far as I can tell there is no direct predictions about reality that can be made with regard to the Christian God. This makes God a completely unfalsifiable proposition, and that also means that nothing can really be considered evidence for it. No matter how much Christians try to present evidence for their God, I fail to see how any of it can be connected back to the God they believe exists. Without some specific ability to make concrete predictions about God, all their claims of evidence are extremely hollow. What they claim is evidence is, in fact, nothing of the sort. The Christian God is something that we have no power to investigate, and no rational adult should believe that it does exist. Unfortunately, in the real world, people are not rational in what they believe, and that’s partly why I’m here writing this.

Do Scientists Who Go Against Evolution Risk Their Career?

There’s one particularly silly claim that I hear from the creationist crowd, and I want to take a few moments to point out how wrong it is. The first time I heard this claim was shortly after Ben Stein’s “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” was released, although I’m sure the ID community has been claiming persecution for much longer. The claim is that there are scientists who disagree with the theory of evolution, and once this gets known the scientific community works to get these people fired. The supposed reason for this is the theory of evolution is actually a religion, and those who question the religious dogma must be punished, either by losing status, being denied tenure, or blacklisting them to stop their entire academic career.

What makes this claim all the more silly to me is how much these people seem to lack awareness of the issues around academic freedom, freedom of inquiry, and honest scholarship that happens within private religious universities. The last time I checked there are no secular biology departments that require members to sign any statement of faith, let alone one that they will accept evolution, regardless of the evidence, and promise to never criticize it. Compare this against religious universities, many of which do require faculty, staff, and students, to sign a statement of faith. Institutions such as Biola University, Liberty University, Bob Jones University, and many others, are real places where faculty are not allow to question certain elements of doctrine, lest they risk being fired!

Any time I’ve ever talked with somebody, who works in the secular academic world, I’m told that your value comes from primarily two things:

  1. how many academic papers you publish, which ultimately leads to
  2. how much grant money your work pulls in

The competition is fierce, and there are often more people trying to work in academia than there are positions available, as the United States is turning out somewhere around 60,000 new PhD’s every year (the numbers may be even higher now). If your research does not bring in grant money then universities don’t have much use for you, and will gladly look at somebody else who could. The office space, and other resources, that you use could be better used by somebody else who will be more productive. Frankly, biology departments aren’t interested in people who work on pseudoscience, and this probably extends to other areas of science.

The problem isn’t so much that there people risk being fired for espousing creationism. These people are usually fired because they aren’t publishing, because real academic journals don’t accept pseudo-scientific nonsense. Attempts to publish work on ID simply doesn’t get past the peer review step, unless you submit to a pay-to-publish journal, or one of the creationist journals (like the “Answers Research Journal”.) Peer review is difficult, and junk gets stopped, because it’s supposed to be. It’s a quality control step that helps to ensure that real science is being published, and pseudoscience is weeded out. Those who don’t get published, and who don’t get grants, don’t tend to stay employed for very long, or earn tenure, at a serious academic oriented university.

If anybody was actually doing real science, and could get their work past peer review, that would overturn evolution, they would be lauded by the scientific community for overturning the 150 year old consensus. Science moves huge steps forward not by everyone holding the consensus, but by those who challenge and overturn the consensus.

What’s even more incredible about this entire claim is that good scientists actually want to be shown to be wrong! Every good scientist works hard to falsify their theories. Finding out that your work is wrong, while a blow to personal ego, means that science is correcting itself. The whole idea that science wants to prop up a particular idea, because religious conservatives doesn’t like it, is little more than delusional fantasy. Good scientists care about what’s true.

Now, I can’t stop people from believing that there’s a giant conspiracy to make sure that evolution is taught to students, and that academics love to make an example of those who oppose the status quo. The problem is that the facts really don’t support this persecution claim. Scientists are (for the most part) honest about the evidence and what the best conclusions are that can be drawn from that evidence. If you’re a scientist, and you’re getting shot down by the scientific community, it’s most likely because the case you’re trying to make is not a good one. The status quo is hard to overturn by design, but it can be overturned.  Science doesn’t get overturned because you say so.

Why Does Christianity Have Apologists?

One thing that seems abundantly clear is that there are a multitude of people out there who work very hard at defending the Christian faith. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of professional apologists who have the sole job of defending Christian beliefs. What I find fascinating about this is that I can only think of one other aspect of human activity where we need professionals whose only job is defend on particular idea. In both cases these people do little to contribute to humanity.

Some may claim that science has apologists, but this is just wrong. Science doesn’t have apologists, although it does have popularizers. Nobody is claiming that science is coming from omniscience, omnipotent, beings who deeply care about every single person, and there’s an awful lot of ignorance out there related to science. Science has popularizers because science is difficult, and sometimes difficult to understand. Every single day there are new, and quite frankly amazing, discoveries being made in every field of science, and those discoveries are published in peer reviewed academic journals. The vast majority of the scientists who have ever lived are alive today, and the progress of science is incredible. Science popularizers are not apologists for science.

The closest field I can think of that I can relate apologists to is that of marketers. Marketers have the job of convincing people that some brand is worthy of your time and energy. That you should be willing to spend your hard earned money on an idea, regardless of what that idea is. They often attempt to appeal to emotions, and manipulate your feelings in order to get you to buy what they’re selling. Christian apologists are, effectively, marketers for the Jesus brand.

So the question that frequently bothers me is the question of why Christianity needs apologists at all? I’ve puzzled on this question for several years now, and I still cannot come up with a reason why God, who supposedly cares deeply for every human being, is supposed to be omnipotent and omniscient, and who supposedly became one of us to die for our sins, yet all the evidence that we have for this claim is an collection of old books. Worse than that though, these old books are written by mostly anonymous authors, decades after the events in question, none of which we have originals for, and we cannot even interview the people who made the claims. Simply put, the best evidence we have that Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead, is the say-so first century Christian authors. This piss poor evidence is the reason that the field of Christian apologetics exist at all!

What seems to make this problem even worse for me is that it’s not like Christianity is the only game in town. There are thousands of religions, and humans have invented millions of other gods. Christian happens to be the most popular religion today, but I doubt it will hold onto that position for very long, So effectively the claims of Christian apologists is that God has the most important message of all time, and you need to believe that Jesus died for your sins or you risk losing out on eternal life (whatever this exactly entails is not of interest for this post.) In an area with intense competition for your beliefs, why would God leave it up to fallible, stupid, ignorant, humans to convince us that he came to die for our sins? Is this really the most effective way that God has to tell us what he wants from us?

The story that we get from the Bible is that Jesus dies, comes back from the dead, and then goes and meets his friends. He stays with them for some amount of time (the exact amount is unclear because the stories contradict) and then flies back to heaven. We have a claim from Paul that 500 people saw Jesus after his death, but Paul doesn’t tell us anything about who these people were, or even what they witnessed. It’s simply his claim that this happened.  At some point the disciples then start preaching that Jesus rose from the dead, and Christianity (at least some prototype) is born.

So here’s a question I’d love a sensible answer for: Why isn’t God, or Jesus, defending this claim? Why do humans have to defend this absurd idea when God, being God, should be able do it very easily and convincingly? It would be a hell of a lot more convincing if Jesus was here defending the idea that he’s the Son of God than somebody far removed from Jesus defending the claim. It seems to me that if God really did care about us, and wants us to believe that he’s real, and that Jesus died for our sins, God could do a much better job of providing convincing evidence.

The fact that Christianity needs apologists at all seems to be a very strong indication that it’s just another human made religion, like every other religion out there. If God doesn’t have the time to convince me that he’s real, why should I take the time to worship him?