Another acrimonious debate; this one mainly about the "soul" and "resurrection".

Five articles follow:
1 Mythteries of a Soulful Mind                                   J H Williams
2 The Bible: Sifted; Substantiated; Sensational     Anonymous
3 Invective Unacceptable                                           J H Williams
4 Soul Surge Squeeze In Sky?                                 J H Williams
5 Invective Not Acceptable                                        Anonymous



      MYTHTERIES OF A SOULFUL MIND

      John H Williams

      (Investigator 114, 2007 May)


Regarding Anonymous' response (in # 112) to my comments in #111, I thought that I'd made myself crystal clear regarding aspects of his contributions, but my words haven't been understood by him, so I need to recap.

I believe that he deliberately misunderstands what I've said, as he's done with other writers who've opposed him, and offered, "Is he telling me not to use scientific evidence?" As he well knows, that's not at issue, so why say it?

He's as indirect and evasive in argument as he's speculative in his 'connections' between the real now and the mythteries of then. I'll try again, with apologies to all other readers for duplication.

The issue is not "scientific evidence", but its application to alleged happenings and characters found in an ancient book in a way that Mr A believes is correct, since he's proved to his own satisfaction that it's all inerrant, thereby, via barely plausible speculation, creating the illusion that the Bible got there first and that science is 'catching up' with the biblical version of history, "having checked and tested its statements using scientific literature". (#112)

In #67 he suggested that "the average monetary cost of, for example, earthquake damage is less than the cost of supplying humankind with shoes. Yet most of us do not rail against God because our shoes wear out." First he makes a hotly – contested assumption that there's a god he and others call "God", then he makes a totally invalid comparison between those who might rail against, say, the Aceh disaster, excluding those who'd died, and those who might rail against the fact that shoes wear out. An earthquake/tsunami "would provide opportunities for cooperation…producing good feelings and friendships, so that earthquakes would be less worrisome than regularly replacing our shoes. Indeed, people might even pray for more earthquakes."

His science on plate tectonics is faultless, but his application of it to what he believes "the Bible teaches" is utterly bizarre!

He and I both read New Scientist, so I'm often familiar with much of what he quotes. Sometimes I anticipate his use of a discovery or revelation, such as "Mitochondrial Eve" and imagine him speculating on an invented biblical character whose behaviour helped 'create' a 'sinful' DNA destiny. That there's a word, sin, much used by moralistic 'god-botherers', is no evidence that such a thing exists: see also unicorn, dragon, heaven, hell, the devil, the fall, purgatory, limbo, angels and all gods.

I've criticised Mr A's method as literal, presumptuous and contrived, to which he's impervious, for he 'explains away' his grossly speculative explanations, using analogies and examples which obfuscate, effectively muddying the waters. No matter how hard I try or how often I re-read, as impertinently advised by him, it remains as clear as Torrens Lake water. Over nearly ten years I've wondered if this 'technique' is deliberate sophistry or whether Mr A is incapable of clear and direct written communication: maybe it's a combination of the two.

Mr A's latest explanation, in responding to Dean Dowling's questions in #111, is 'Resurrection and Other Simple Questions' in #112.

      1 Where is the evidence for life after death?
      2 Where is the evidence for the existence of a soul?
      3 When one dies is one resurrected two to three days after death?
      4 Is all religious belief just wishful thinking?

My answers:

      1 There isn't any (see Harry Edwards' in #113 et al).
      2 There isn't any (see below).
      3 No (see my response to Q1).
      4 One can't help notice that religious thinking tends to be wishful.

Here's Mr A's introductory paragraph, p 37: "To minimise theology and answer Dowling in accord with experience (whose?) and science (?) I'll make "soul" synonymous with mind. Therefore anyone who experiences having a mind also has a soul"!

With extreme economy, employing breathtaking chutzpah, Mr A 'answers' the unanswerable by turning soul into mind, without any rationale for his 'switcheroo', or any attempt to define what Dowling meant by the word!

I'll do what Mr A ought to have done, via the 1995 edition of the Collins Concise (Australian Edition). Of the eleven meanings of soul, only two are applicable to the version I believe that Dowling referred to:

      1 "The spirit or immaterial part of man, the seat of the human personality, intellect, will and emotions, regarded as an entity that survives the body after death" (for this latter part, see "wishful thinking").

      2 This, I believe, is what is understood to be applicable in a religious context:
      "Christianity. The spiritual part of a person, capable of redemption from sin through divine grace". (
      My use of bold)

My Collins gives 24 meanings for mind! The ones closest to soul in those above are (trust me):

      1 "the human faculty to which are ascribed thought, feelings, intention, etc"
      2 "intelligence or intellect, as opposed to feelings or wishes"
      4 "the faculty of original or creative thought: it's all in the mind" (this one is, I submit, particularly appropriate!)

I won't labour the obvious, though Mr A may well dispute it and find a source more in keeping with his sophistry. In just seventeen words he left key terms undefined, having told us that term X is term Y, a bravura sleight of mind!

There's no mention in the definitions of 'mind' of being a soul, an entity which "survives the body after death", and "capable of redemption."

Ergo: soul is NOT synonymous with mind! Au contraire, it is mind that thinks up soul, and since the mind is generally accepted as the bit that 'happens' in the smarter parts of the brain, once a human dies, so too does anything thought up by the grey matter, its circuitry fizzles, the last light is off-switched, saying sayonara to existence, and 'hello' to a state already 'experienced' for what could have seemed like an eternity, or at least 4.6 billion years.

I apply Occam's Razor, in partnership with Cleese's "the bleedin' obvious": there aren't "50, 60 or 70 billion resurrected dead" 'up there' or wherever (Anonymous p37/8 # 112), because all the 'souls' which 'existed' in billions of minds couldn't have gone anywhere, since they and their former brains remain (permanently) dead. That a supposed entity, soul, leaves a brain and somehow transmits itself (how?) to a supposed place (in the sky?) where 'it' 'lives' for ever, is, I submit, absurd and worthy of ridicule.

Before I shuffle off for eternity – the chances of my mind/soul floating 'offshore' being lower than many – I'd like to see just one writer, preferably with the intellect (mind) of a Straughan, Potter or an Edwards, and who, like them, can write lucid, terse and unambiguous prose, confirm that Mr A is right, and why. It's not going to happen, is it?

Mr A may savour all this, see it as yet another challenge, hit the books, one in particular, and attempt to refute, but whatever he writes I will return to my previous policy of not responding to Mr A's voluminous writing. I hope that no-one perceives this re-withdrawal as a 'win' to anyone.

To return to my theme, and my piece in #109:

I expressed an (exaggerated) "shock and discomfort" at finding Mr A and I on the same side regarding ID, since I believed, with some reason, that we were diametrically opposed on almost everything except good science.

I understand that some ID adherents, such as Jerry Bergman, are Young Earth Creationists with a literal acceptance of Genesis, and thus share very similar beliefs to Mr A, though as he pointed out, he 'verifies' his creationism by, in my opinion, misusing science.

Ken Ham, an Australian who changed his former surname to that of 'Mr and Mrs Noah's first son', is a 'successful' fantasist heavily involved in telling YEC lies for God. Both Ham and Mr A share a belief in 'God and the Bible's 'truths'. As an aside, here's a particularly sickening example, in which Ham addresses a group of children at a Christian camp.

      HAM:    Boys and girls, if a teacher mentions evolution, dinosaurs or the Big Bang, put up your hand and say, "Excuse me, were you there?" Can you remember that?

      KIDS:    Yes!

      HAM:    Sometimes people will answer, "No, but you weren't there either." Say, I have a book about the history of the world (waves the Bible). Who's the only one who's always been there?

      KIDS:    God!

      HAM:    Who knows everybody?

      KIDS:    God!

      HAM:    So who should you trust, God or scientists?

      KIDS:    God!

I'll let this shocking and mendacious exchange speak for itself.

That Mr A has apparently 'refuted' x or y and 'proved' it to his own satisfaction is no recommendation: as I said, "self-proof is a contradiction", meaning that those other than Mr A ought to be doing the validation of his unusual beliefs.

When I wrote "normally in any discourse one lets one's ideas speak for themselves", what I meant was obvious: that Mr A apparently found this difficult to grasp reinforces my criticism of his writing and style of argument. I asked that Mr A cease the annoying and tedious mantra found in many of his articles, telling us how many times he's 'proved' or 'refuted' this or that. Assuming a negative response, I requested that the Editor do it.

I admit I was wrong in implying that Mr A is humourless, for at the end of his article he 'advises' Dowling: "If you have further questions why not go to church (which?) and inquire there?" Oh, ha ha!

It's well known that I dislike aspects of Mr A's work, apart from his anonymity (when can we expect him to 'come out'?), in particular his hubris ('I am right because I've proved it to myself'), his moralistic judgements, based on a literal interpretation of The Bible, his voluminous and unclear explanations, examples and analogies – apples frequently becoming oranges – and his capacity to 'misunderstand' critics in a tediously convoluted way.

I too am becoming voluminous, so will end. I'd like to think that all readers will find my opinions unambiguous and unequivocal.
 


      THE BIBLE
      Sifted, Substantiated, Sensational

      Anonymous

      (Investigator 115, 2007 July)


      METHOD – INVESTIGATION

In his "Mythteries" article (#114) Mr Williams accuses me of "sophistry" and of proving to my "own satisfaction" that the Bible is "inerrant".

I do not recall labelling the Bible inerrant but wrote: "For my investigations I rely on mainstream science. I do not assume the Bible to be true but check its statements using scientific literature. I did this with Creationism, Adam and Eve (See #110), and scores of other topics…"


I don't know what Williams wants when he tells me to let "ideas speak for themselves" and "self proof is a contradiction in terms", is he telling me not to use scientific evidence?


If I want to check how fast steel balls will fall I would drop a few and time their descent or consult a book on physics. That's science. I investigate the Bible similarly. (#112)

What I do is investigate Bible statements by consulting textbooks, journals, reports and magazines. Let me illustrate:

      ARCHAEOLOGY

The Bible says that Saul, David and Solomon did battle with the Edomites. (I Samuel 14:47; II Samuel 8:13-14; I Kings 11:14-16) This implies that Edom was a complex society able to field an army.

Many scholars, however, maintain that in David's time Edom was a pastoral society of wandering Bedouins:


Crystal Bennet, Director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, started [in 1971] excavating the site at Buseirah. Her intention, she admits, was to find evidence to confirm the Biblical account that there had been an Edomite city there in the thirteenth century BC: she was looking for Biblical Bozrah…

She found that there had been no city there, no occupation of any kind, before the end of the eighth century BC… (Magnussen 1977)

Archaeological investigations indicate that Edom reached statehood only under Assyrian auspices in the seventh century B.C.E. (Finkelstein & Silberman 2001)

New excavations in 2002 at Khirbat en-Nahas, 50km south of the Dead Sea, revealed a copper smelting industry that commenced about 1200 BC along with a large fort and numerous buildings. This discovery indicates that Edom was:

…a complex society with the ability to construct major buildings, defend itself with strong fortifications and create a technologically sophisticated organization to draw copper from ore and thereafter to manufacture objects with it. If it could do this, there is no reason to doubt that it could also field an army." (Levy & Najjar 2006) 

The previous faulty conclusion came about because archaeologists had mainly worked in Edom's eastern, fertile highlands. Edom's economic power, however, actually lay 1,500 metres lower down, in the semi-arid, western lowlands!  


GENETICS

New Scientist magazine reported:
The sins of the fathers are, indeed, visited on subsequent generations. Nutrition and smoking in early life may influence the health of men's sons and grandsons, a new study has revealed. (Hooper 2006)
 
London geneticist Marcus Pembrey who made this discovery stated: "The Bible says the sins of the fathers are visited upon his children unto the third and fourth generations." (Ibid p. 10)
The Bible verses are Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9.

Sometimes the statement was fulfilled politically (e.g. Genesis 15:16; II Kings 10:30; 15:12). But since the Bible often links obedience to the Scriptures with health and prosperity, it's valid to also interpret the "third and fourth generations" threat medically, genetically and economically.


GEOLOGY

South Australia's newspaper The Advertiser, reported:
      A "sapphire rush" is expected in Australia's multimillion-dollar gemstone industry.

      This follows the discovery that the precious gems come from volcanic rocks.

      An intense $200,000, two-year study by NSW Mineral resources Department scientists has identified the primary source of sapphires...

      The discovery promises to provide a basis for exploration procedures in other areas of Australia…

      Until now, virtually all sapphires mined…came from river floodplain "alluvial" deposits, but the source of the gems had never been identified.

The department's scientists had determined the stones originate from volcanic rocks called tuffs, which rarely are exposed to the surface… (May 2, 1987, p. 2)
The Bible agrees that sapphires originate underground, in places not "exposed to the surface". Job 28:1-4 describes mining shafts and mining activity. After that it says:
      As for the earth, out of it comes bread; but underneath it is turned up as by fire. Its stones are the place of sapphires, and it has dust of gold. (Job 28:5-6)  
Delitzsch (1949, p. 98) interprets verse 5:
…the earth above furnishes nourishment to man…he also digs out its inward parts…since this is turned or tossed about…by mining work, as when fire breaks out in a house, or even as when a volcanic fire rumbles in a mountain…
A possible alternative interpretation is that verse 5 – "turned up as by fire" – refers not to mining but to molten or volcanic conditions "underneath the earth" – but that's speculative.

      TEST WHAT IS TESTABLE

I test in the Bible what is testable to see if it's plausible or false.

Already hundreds of Bible points in at least 15 scientific disciplines – including archaeology, astronomy, oceanography, psychology and zoology – have come up trumps. Often the Bible seemed wrong until newer science refuted previous faulty science.

Some Bible claims, however, are at present not testable or only indirectly testable — for example the Soul:
 

      SOUL

Williams (in #114) criticised my comments about the soul which I made to Dean Dowling who had asked for evidence.

Williams says:

With extreme economy, employing breathtaking chutzpah, Mr A answers the unanswerable by turning soul into mind, without any rationale for his 'switcheroo'…he left key terms undefined, having told us that term X is term Y, a bravura sleight of hand.

Williams claims he found 11 meanings of "soul" and 24 of "mind" and supplied this definition as the relevant one

      "The spirit or immaterial part of man, the seat of the human personality, intellect, will and emotions, regarded as an entity that survives the body after death".
I did not wish to consider various sectarian doctrines of soul or of resurrection. Nor can "The spirit or immaterial" be tested scientifically.
Believers in a soul or in resurrection, however, have this in common: They believe that the post-death experience includes the continuation of one's thoughts and recall of one's past life. The common element of various life-after-death concepts is that the mind survives, with memories intact, and knows itself. The mind, therefore, would have to be an essential component of the "soul".

Therefore a testable approach to the soul was to consider whether the mind could survive death and continue in a different medium detached from the brain.

I cited four lines of research that scientists are already working on by which people may eventually survive death. (#112 pp 37-39) My argument was that if human technology can potentially preserve the mind after the body dies, then for God, if he exists and has the power attributed to him, it would be easy. No "switcheroo" or "sophistry" – but testing the doctrine to the extent possible.

Williams asked the additional question of how the soul "transmits itself to a supposed place in the sky?" Again, think of the more-testable aspect, i.e. the mind:

Science is already investigating teleportation (#112 p. 39) and also considering ways of preserving minds electronically. If that much becomes humanly possible, then transmission of the mind may become as simple as sending e-mail. Again God, if he exists with the powers attributed to Him, could do infinitely better.  

GOD and EVIL

Williams also brought up the theodicy debate (the question of God and evil) of eight years ago where I answered the skeptical claim that the notion of an all-powerful God who loves humans is incompatible with human suffering. Williams presented it thus:
In #67 he suggested that "the average monetary cost of, for example earthquake damage is less than the cost of supplying humankind with shoes. Yet most of us do not rail against God because our shoes wear out." First he made the hotly-contested assumption that there's a god…then he makes a totally invalid comparison between those who might rail against, say, the Aceh disaster and the fact that shoes wear out. (#114 p. 53) 

I explained eight years ago that studying theodicy does not require the "assumption that there's a god". University courses on theodicy do not require that students believe in God. Compare students of English literature who discuss "Why Did Romeo and Juliet Commit Suicide?" The students can consider this question even if Romeo and Juliet are fictitious. Similarly the question of how God and evil could coexist is a logical problem which can be considered even if God is fictitious.
Mr Williams also misrepresented the "shoes" comment. However, it's on the Internet and readers can read for themselves.

      FLAWED SELF IMAGE

Williams says that people "other than Mr A ought to be doing the validation of his unusual beliefs."

Firstly, acceptance of science is hardly "unusual". Secondly, the laboratory and field work is done by other people. I mainly do a paper chase to find their published research or reports about it.

I repeat, what I do is go to science publications to check whether claims in the Bible are correct. Scholars consult textbooks, and judges and juries listen to witnesses. I do much the same. Why does Williams, who is exceptionally intelligent, still not understand this?

Perhaps he overrates himself and therefore reads too superficially? Dunning et al (2005), in Scientific American Mind, wrote about "swelled heads":


Our self-image suffers from poor perspective: we constantly overestimate our skills and overlook flaws… In study after study, researchers have found that self-ratings of aptitude hold only a tenuous to modest relation, at best, with actual performance… As a consequence, the average person claims to be above average in skill – a conclusion that, in aggregate, defies statistical possibility… People…hold inflated views of their expertise, skills and character.

The Bible expresses similar insight:

I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment… (Romans 12:3)

Mr Williams needs to stop assuming he knows it all and do some re-reading. He needs to re-acquaint himself with what we wrote before so that it won't need explanation again.

 

      CONCLUSION

HUNDREDS of testable claims in the Bible are scientifically accurate. If from this finding someone infers that the rest of the Bible is also true and this prompts him into a life of faith, his decision would be rational since it's based on testable evidence.

       
       

      REFERENCES:

      Delitzsch, F. 1949 Biblical Commentary On The Book of Job, Volume 2, Eerdmans.

      Dunning, D. et al. Scientific American Mind Number 4, 2005, pp 20-27.

      Finkelstein, I. & Silberman, N. A. 2001 The Bible Unearthed, p. 68.

      Hooper, R. New Scientist, 7 January, 2006, p. 10.

      Levy, T. E. & Najjar, M. Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2006, pp 24-35.

      Magnussen, M. 1977 The Archaeology of the Bible Lands, pp 73-74.
       



      ANONYMOUS INVECTIVE UNACCEPTABLE

      (Investigator 116, 2007 September)

      John H Williams

Investigator #115, pages 52-53 has an anonymous and thus cowardly personal attack on me and I request that the editor exercise appropriate editorial control in future.
The author's use of direct sarcasm (the lowest form of wit), as well as speculation about whether I have a "swelled head" or "flawed self-image", implies that personal invective is acceptable in this magazine. Such writing lowers the tone of the Investigator.

I don't believe that I've been hubristic, nor have I implied that I know it all. The writer concerned impertinently lectured me, based on his misunderstanding of what I meant by his "unusual beliefs", which refer to his literal interpretation of Genesis myths, original sin 'inherited' from Adam 'n' Eve in a non-existent Middle Eastern allotment, inter alia. Regarding validation, I meant having other Investigator writers expressing agreement and support, which has been sparse.

If someone who'd never met me had the gall to tell me to my face he thought I was "exceptionally intelligent", he'd find himself confronted by me, while those more pacifist than I would treat him with deserved silent scorn.

The anonymous attack was contemptible. I point out the obvious: his invective could equally well apply to himself. The next time he makes personal reference to my alleged shortcomings, I ask that he show some "character" and append his name.

John H Williams


      SOUL SURGE SQUEEZE IN SKY?

      John H Williams

      (Investigator 116, 2007 September)


That supposed in-sky storage depot of departed entities known as souls may be even more crowded than quoted (in #112 p. 37), though one should factor in those billions being rotisseried 'down below'.

The US Population Reference Bureau in 2002 estimated former humans at 106 billion. This figure is clearly a 'best estimate', based on some extrapolation and guesswork.

That number is influenced by the work of Carl Haub and his 2002 United Nations paper, Determinants and Consequences of Population

Trends, and it assumes the first Homo sapiens appeared about 50,000 years ago, a figure open to debate.

Arthur Clarke (in 2001) wrote, "Behind every man now alive stand 30 ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living." It's closer to 16 ghosts (mid-2007), if we accept the 106 billion.

The table below gives lower and upper limits and gives the estimates of several demographers.

 
YEAR POPULATION RANGE (Millions)
10,000 BC 1 - 10
5,000 BC 5 - 20
1 170 - 400
1000 CE 254 - 310
1750  " 629 - 720
1900  " 1,550 - 1,625
1950  " 2,400 - 2,520
2007  " 6,600

 



INVECTIVE NOT ACCEPTABLE

Anonymous

(Investigator 117, 2007 November)

On the Internet biblical issues that could be settled in five or ten pages sometimes go to over 100! Much of the wasted effort consists of recriminations, putdowns, sarcasm and invective.

My reference to Williams' "exceptional intelligence" (#115 p. 52) was no insult. One of my university lecturers so-described his students and explained, "You are among the top 5% of Australians in education."

Williams, from his own description (#115, p. 42) is even more distinguished than the top 5%!

Therefore I wondered why he was repeating objections I answered long ago, requiring me to answer them again. I suggested that despite his "exceptional intelligence" he needs to do some re-reading. I cited Scientific American Mind to show that people, even the smartest, tend to overrate their abilities. "Swelled head" was a phrase used in that magazine – it was not my sum-up of Williams.

The Bible says "Seek peace with all people" and "Blessed are the peacemakers." A peaceful approach to debate saves words by avoiding "invective" and other emotive terms and thereby makes presentation of evidence more concise and its evaluation easier.

I've collected so much evidence for the Bible that I'll only be able to organize and share some of it in my lifetime. Therefore I don't waste the space allotted to me in Investigator with "contemptible…cowardly personal attack".

Anonymous


Hundreds of biblical claims investigated/debated here:


http://users.adam.com.au/bstett/

http://ed5015.tripod.com/